Getting the best out of college Open Days:
Students must keep an open mind There is a college and a course for every student. Finding the best fit course and college requires serious thought and engagement. Open Day experiences can provide an ideal opportunity to help you make informed choices about the study path ahead.
Be your own driver: Open Days are all about you, not your friends, parents or teachers. This is your journey.
Establish your interests: What subjects do you enjoy? These might be in school or outside school. Eliminate what you dislike. Look at the courses around your area of interest. Even if you are sure about what you want to study, you will need to find out more about your course.
Prepare: Develop a list of questions. This list will and should change over time.
Research: The Internet is your first port of call. You will be surprised at the level of detail that you will find there. Refine your list of questions following each course search.
Observe: When you get to the Open Day, look around you and listen to others. Be discerning when you attend the various talks. Take notes and refine your questions.
Ask: You need to get answers to your questions. The stands will have students, lecturers, admission staff and often graduates in attendance. They are there to help you but you must ask. Be selfish in your search for information about your course.
Check out the facilities: Does this college meet your needs? Have you thought about the location, student numbers, course content, teaching methods, academic supports, college services, opportunities abroad, internships, college societies and sports clubs?
Talk: While you are there, seek out as many opinions as you can and draw your own conclusions. You must find students from the course you are interested in. You will need to broaden your network outside of Open Day to find out more about study paths. This could be within your own school, family, friends and community. Look for graduates. They will be more than willing to share their experiences with you.
Invest: You need to invest serious time and effort into this exercise for all your courses of interest and all Open Days you attend. It will repay itself in gold.
Visit as many places on the college campus as you can. Get a good feel for the location and its environment. Remember, once you choose, you will be there for three or four years.
Evaluate: Look back on each Open Day experience and what you have gained from it. Refine your set of questions and follow up afterwards. Colleges (and the individual courses) are open to your enquiries all through the year.
Given the competitive nature of college entry, you will need to have a wide range of choices available to you in your area of interest. For all courses you plan to list on your CAO application, ask
yourself one question, ‘How would I feel if I were offered this course in August next?’. Your answer speaks for itself.
©Catherine O’Connor MA (Ed) Education Consultant at Trinity College Dublin and Author of Cracking the College Code, A practical guide to making the most of the first year college experience.
Published by C J Fallon and available at bookshops for €12.99 and online at www.crackingthecollegecode.ie