If you have individual support needs, it is an ideal opportunity to understand what support is available and to make contact with those who are responsible for putting it in place.
Don’t forget that many universities offer virtual open days as well, so if you can’t visit in person, you don’t have to miss out.
To get the most out of your day, it is worth doing some preparation in advance, and planning your visit – we’ve put together a checklist to help you get started.
Before you go
- Check the available dates here and sign up to attend – spaces fill up quickly. The university or college will send you more information about attending.
- Contact the disability support team or student services to make any access arrangements (e.g. Blue Badge parking, a sign language interpreter, or audio loops).
- Make an appointment to meet the disability support team or mental health adviser to discuss your support needs and make a list of questions to ask in advance – this can also be done online. Check our guide to speaking to the disability support team or mental health adviser.
- Make an appointment to speak to the course tutor if you would like to talk about teaching and assessment methods and facilities, and to discuss how your support needs might be accommodated.
- Download or print a map of the campus, familiarise yourself with the location of the important facilities, and make a note of what you want to visit – many universities provide accessibility maps, so check their website. Remember: if the university or college has more than one campus, check which you need to go to.
- If you are planning to use public transport, check where the railway station or bus stop is in relation to the campus to help you work out how to complete your journey. Some providers operate a ‘park and ride’ system for open days.
- Check the schedule for campus and accommodation tours, subject talks and tours, and financial talks – these usually run several times throughout the day but you may need to register in advance. If required, speak to the disability support team to arrange communication aids and ensure the tour routes are accessible.
On the day
- Wear something comfortable – you will be outside as well as inside. You will not be expected to dress formally.
- Make notes and take photos as a memory aid later on.
- Take a bag – there are often giveaways and leaflets.
- Lunch is usually available to purchase on campus; most providers cater to a variety of tastes and dietary requirements – or feel free to bring your own.
- Don’t forget to speak to the student ambassadors about their experiences. If you are particularly keen to speak to a disabled student, speak to the disability support team who will be happy to make arrangements. You can also speak to students after the event on UniBuddy.
- Attend relevant talks and tours of the academic department or faculty for the course you are interested in to get a feel for the environment and facilities.
- Visit the different accommodation options if you are planning to live on campus, and consider the facilities available, such as catered options and accessibility.
- Make sure you visit the library – it’s going to be an important part of your life. There will be a wealth of resources and study support options, so try to speak to a librarian if they are available.
- Get information about clubs and societies from the students' union. Check if there is a disabled students’ representative or someone who assists with student mental health issues – they may be available to talk to you.
- If you have time at the end of the day, visit the town or city and consider what local facilities are available. You can do this online if you don’t have time, or speak to current students on UniBuddy.
Don't be afraid to ask the awkward questions
I arrived at UCLAN’s open day with my sister. We flashed my blue badge at the parking attendant and he removed a cone from a disabled bay and waved us in. That struck me as a good sign: they obviously took disability seriously. Every question I asked that day got a positive response. The team could accommodate me and my dog, nothing was a problem. I had asked the same questions at a different university and the staff sucked their teeth and looked uncomfortable. That’s definitely a warning flag!"
Juan's top five tips for open days
- Don’t be afraid to ask awkward questions. The answers will help you work out if the university is willing to go that extra mile to support you.
- Go with somebody who knows you. It’s good to get a second opinion.
- Seek out useful people – disability services, student services, accommodation services – and say hello. If they know your face, it’s easier to ask for help when you start term.
- Talk to student ambassadors. The staff won’t know how noisy halls can be at 03:00, but the students will!
- Go with your gut feeling. I felt like UCLAN wanted me there and I was right. It’s a university, but it feels like home.