Virtual University Open Days | How to get the most out of them

by Anita Naik

University open days aren't what they used to be. This year instead of a face-to-face campus experience, all open days will be virtual. If you're worried you won't get the full experience before you have to apply, here's how to get the most out of them.

Virtual university days aim to do as much as an in person-days. So while you don't get to experience the general ambience of a place, you should be able to get a strong feel for courses and the campus. It is the next best thing to seeing how the university campus is set out, and how courses will be delivered in the COVID-era, so be prepared to get the most out of it.

Before you join a virtual day, think about the following:

1. Admissions. Grades, funding, preferred subjects, whether there is an interview, and tips for your personal statement.

2. Course content. Courses are different at each university so ask about the modules, assessment and the teaching style.

3. Opportunities. University is much more than just sitting in a classroom, so make sure you think of questions about other options that may be available to you. Study abroad, work placements.

4. Support. Speak to the staff so that you are confident that your support needs will be met.

If you've missed the September and October virtual days, or can't make the November and December ones, the good news is many can be streamed or watched on-demand.

At Imperial College London you can watch on-demand videos, access live events and chat with a student. While at Manchester University you can stream talks with course leaders, speak to students and lecturers and see virtual tours of the city. Bristol University has a virtual open week with subject sessions and an insight into what student life is really like with a section to get questions answered, live sessions, on-demand videos, and resources.

All in all, an excellent virtual open day should contain:

1. A student panel.2. A virtual tour of halls.3. Course leader talks.4. Student talks.5. A city tour.6. Information on how to fund your studies.7. A guide to student clubs and societies.8. On-demand videos where you watch the presentations and webinars about all aspects of student life.9. Maybe even a phone call to have your questions answered by a member of our Admissions Enquiries Team.10. Live sessions even if the actual virtual day has passed.

Key questions to ask on a virtual day:

* What kind of student support is available around mental health, especially in another possible lockdown?

* What help is there for funding?

* How COVID-safe is the environment in halls and lecture halls?

* What percentage of the learning will be online, and how will this be delivered?

* Do you need to be on campus to do the course?

* Are there a good variety of student groups?

* How much self-study do I need to do outside of lectures?

* How does your course differ from other universities in subject areas and delivery?

* How much tutor support will I receive each term, especially if lectures are online?

* How is the course assessed - exams and course work?

If I don't meet the A-level grades, is there still a chance I could be offered a place·

What careers support is there for undergraduates?

Once you have participated in several open days, work on comparing and contrasting the offerings when you apply. Don't be afraid to go by your gut feeling but if you aren't sure ask for input from teachers, tutors and friends that are students. This way, you should be able to build up a clear picture of your preferences and apply accordingly.