How to approach open days

Accompany your child on open days at the universities of their choice – it gives them a different perspective

If you want to help your children choose the right university, sign up for open days – at least two, preferably three or four. Universities vary so much that you do need to go to see them, says Mary Hughes, director of enrolment and management at the University of Kent.

Forget your own university experience – or lack of it; read the prospectus critically, then see what it is really like. As Ian Parkinson, father of four – two students and twins on their gap year – says: “Open days seem to be full of parents saying: ‘It wasn’t like this in my day.’ Until you get there, and get a sense of what the lecturers are like, it is very difficult to make an informed decision.” Since the time and expense can easily mount up, though, the trips need careful planning.

There are two kinds of visit: open days and applicant visit days. Open days are for those in year 12 considering their choices. They are large, visited by thousands, often run at weekends and can be confusing. Prepare for scheduled tours of accommodation and facilities, with timed presentations by lecturers and financial advisers.

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