Published 9 October 2023
There are still more than three months until the January deadline, and many university applicants will be using this decision-making time to choose between a few similar options.
Open days will play a part in their thinking – with those few hours on campus leaving a lasting impression, for better or worse.
At the end of September, we ran a poll on The Student Room asking year 13s if they planned on visiting any open days.
Of the 268 votes, just under half (48%) said they will attend an open day – and 37% of those said they already have a few lined up.
So, in these crucial few months, how can you make sure potential applicants are getting what they want when they visit your university?
In this blog, we’ll reveal the most important things 2024-entry undergraduates told us they wanted to find out from your open days – according to our research last month.
The atmosphere or vibe of the university
We gave potential students a list of nine things they might want from an on-campus open day and asked them to select all that apply. On average, each student chose 5.6 options from the list.
74% of respondents voted for experiencing the atmosphere or vibe of a university – making it the most popular answer.
While it’s not essential to visit a campus, it does help you understand how it feels to be at the university. These quotes from The Student Room forums make it clear how important that experience can be.
“I believe the price of a train ticket is small compared to what you will learn about the colleges’ atmosphere” – beautifulworld posting on The Student Room
“I loved the course and faculty but the actual atmosphere just felt off, especially compared to other unis i had visited” – charves14 posting on The Student Room
“I enjoyed the atmosphere at UCL more after visiting the open days” – ohauh posting on The Student Room
Of course, universities put a huge amount of effort into curating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere at open days, with plenty of well-informed staff and relevant students from the course giving honest advice.
But ultimately it’s up to attendees to work out if your university is the right fit for them – you can’t guarantee that someone will leave your campus with the impression you’d like them to have.
What the campus or accommodation is like
“It is possible for Leeds to be a firm because I absolutely love the campus” – post on The Student Room
Exploring a university’s campus and accommodation was important to 68% of 2024-entry respondents.
Giving tours of both of these areas can help potential applicants imagine themselves living and studying there. These buildings could become a part of their daily life, so they’ll want to see what they’re all about.
What a typical day would look like
So accommodation and campus tours are important because they could potentially play a big part in an applicant’s day-to-day life. But what will a typical day look like at your university?
According to 68% of potential 2024 undergraduates, hearing about a normal day at university is an important part of attending an open day.
A good way to do this would be by showing examples of current student timetables and giving a breakdown of how the time is spent.
What the facilities for the course or department are like
Again, 68% of the students we spoke to said that looking at facilities for the course or department would be an important part of their university visit.
As well as telling open day attendees about timetables, showing them examples of what they’ll be working on – and where – can help bring that timetable to life.
A glimpse at a department’s state-of-the-art technology or industry-standard equipment could even be a deciding factor when choosing between similar universities.
Specific detail about the course
Hearing about timetables and looking at facilities provides a general insight into a university, but giving specific details about the course gives potential applicants a better idea of what they could be signing up for.
In fact, 66% of respondents said getting course details – like information about modules – was key for an open day.
A lot of degrees at different universities have similar titles, so you can highlight the course’s main areas of focus by detailing the modules on offer.
Whether the course is the right choice
Digging deeper into a course is crucial for an open day. 63% said they want to come away knowing if the course would be the right choice for them.
How do you make it easy for them to figure this out? By following the sections above; describe a typical day, show facilities and provide specific details about the course.
Whether they would fit in, chatting to current students and meeting lecturers
“I fell in love with the campus on the open day and during the day I met some lovely people who will potentially be joining me on the course!” – gankaku posting on The Student Room
“I had a talk with one of the lecturers on opening day last year and she was really nice, answered so many of my questions.” – GTT21 posting on The Student Room
Some other options were less commonly rated as important, but were still voted for by around half of respondents.
While visiting an open day, 55% of respondents said they’d want to find out if they would fit in at university. Exactly half (50%) said it would be important to speak to current students or other offer holders and 49% would want to meet lecturers.
How a potential applicant feels about fitting in will likely come from a combination of the factors listed above – including if they like the atmosphere, would feel comfortable in the accommodation and if the modules suit their interests.
And chatting to current students, other offer holders or lecturers at an open day will likely be remembered when it comes to applying – these conversations could help visitors decide whether the university would be a good fit for them.
More information on the survey findings can be found in our student sentiment update for September 2023.
Get in touch:
Contact your account manager at The Student Room. They can advise on how to promote your autumn open days to our student community and talk you through our pre-app packages which include open day promotional inventory.