Students must keep an open mind at college open days – November is the busiest month of the year for open days, with many of the larger universities and institutes of technology holding events to attract potential students.Open days are a hugely important part of making good choices when preparing to move to third level. Unfortunately, they are busy events and often students can find them overwhelming, especially if they are ill-prepared. With the right research and some careful consideration, open days can help create certainty for students as well as generating new ideas.

Preparation for such events is key, but many students do not complete enough research before attending open days. Often students may have seen one course in which they are interested in a particular institution and have read only about this course.

If students are going to an open day they should familiarise themselves with a range of courses in that institution (at the very least, carefully reading about the other courses within the same department). Next, they should make a list of all the courses in which they are interested. They should be aiming to find as many ‘maybe’ courses as possible at this stage, rather than just focusing on their first choice. Students should then jot down a list of questions they would like answered or things they would like to find out about. This will help them keep focused and give purpose to the day.

Finally, they should carefully examine the institution’s website. They will often have a map of the campus, a list of talks and other events. Students should take note of the time and locations of the different events they would like to attend and plan their day accordingly. There is a worksheet available on, which can help with this preparation.

Many institutions hold their open day on Fridays and Saturdays. The decision whether or not to attend an open day on a Friday or Saturday may be dictated by personal circumstances or distance to travel. However, whenever possible, students should avoid missing school to attend. When attending an open day, students should ensure they arrive early.

It is important to leave time to enjoy the events and atmosphere of the institution. Often, after doing a lot of research, a student’s decision on how to prioritise two similar courses in different institutions on the CAO form can come down to the vibe they get from the college. This is as legitimate a reason as any other, especially as the student will be spending at least the next four years in the college. The colleges’ clubs and societies often put on a great show and have fun events during open days. Taking time to enjoy these is all part of the experience.

Students should also take time to check out facilities such as student accommodation, sport facilities, scholarship opportunities etc. especially if a student has a particular talent or interest. This may help make the final decisions when considering their order of course preference on the CAO list.

Throughout the research process, it is important that students keep records of what they discover, as well as their thoughts and reflections. It is easy to get courses and colleges confused, and such records will help when it comes to deciding on the order of preference for CAO.

This article was first published here …

Ready for the Open Day