Why Open Days?

Why go to an Open Day?

You can read the prospectus from cover to cover and do plenty of research online but an open day is the only chance that you will have to look around the place where you could be spending the next few years of your life. There’s a lot to pack in during your Open Day and you won’t be able to do or see everything in just one day so it is essential to plan ahead and target what is most important to you.

It may be your only chance to visit the College before becoming a student. So make sure to take advantage of the day.

A particular university, college or course might sound brilliant or otherwise on paper, but speaking to a lecturer or student already doing the course or feeling completely at home on the college campus could change your thinking completely.

Bear in mind that on open days, Colleges are trying to be as attractive as possible to you.  Be aware of this and try to look below the surface – talk to current students !

A visit also gives you the chance to talk to students, faculty, and admission staff. You can get answers to questions, but you must have the questions prepared beforehand. Remember if you go without questions you will come home without answers. The Secret of getting the most out of any Career event –
Preparation + Preparation = Questions = List of Answers

Your Preparation

Open Days are about filling in the gaps in your knowledge about the College and your chosen course.

Where are the gaps in your knowledge?

Open Days or Career Event Questions – when attending college open days, it is important to have a list of questions that you may want to ask. You will only have a few hours so planning in advance is essential.

Before the Open Day

(This is work you need to do in advance of travelling)

  1. Check the Calendar of Career Events in Qualifax. Identify the ones that are relevant to you and list them in your diary.
  2. Look at Courses on Colleges Website or in Qualifax
  3. Get the days plan – usually on the College site. Colleges may have a timetable of talks or demonstrations planned. It is important not to miss out on the one you want.
  4. Get a map of the Campus and find the locations you need before you travel.
  5. What courses are you interested in? You can’t see everything on the day, so plan to see those areas that interest you.

Questions on the day

(This list is just a suggestion – you may have many questions of your own)

  1. What is the average weekly timetable? This can vary hugely between Arts with 12 hours contact to Sciences with over 20.
  2. Of the students that have completed this course where have they progressed? Colleges will be glad to provide this information if you ask.
  3. What qualification will I get when I finish the course?
  4. How will the course be assessed? There is a wide variation in assessment methods, even in the one College. Mostly assessment is not just an end of year exam but will consist of a mixture of continuous assessment. There may be a requirement to produce essays on sections of work, projects and in term exams. Ask about this.
  5. How many students will be on the course?
  6. What careers have recent graduates gone on to?
  7. Is there opportunity to take a placement? If so, will the university organise this?
  8. What does a placement/year abroad mean and what does it do?
  9. What is the entry for mature students? (Remember everyone over 23 years of age is considered a mature student. This will mean that you don’t need your Leaving Certificate Course to get a place in college)
  10. What sort of student support provision is in place? If I am having problems with the course – where can I get help? What kind of support is available from the library and student services to help with study skills?
  11. What are the advantages and disadvantages of living on or off campus?
  12. What sports and societies are available here?
  13. How much time will I spend in lectures as opposed to self-directed study?
  14. Does the university provide accommodation for all first-year students? Can you see the accommodation? What is the cost of accommodation?
The Dates
Virtual Open Days

Preparation for Virtual Open Days

For the last several decades it has been the norm that students would visit a college before signing up for a course. Great efforts had been made by colleges to ensure that visiting students would get a valid feel for life and study in their campuses. For students and guidance counsellors the availability of open days helped confirm choices and reduce the risk of later drop out because of wrong choice.

The arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020 brought all this to a sudden end.

Overnight we were introduced to a new element in the careers field – the Virtual Open Day.

Following campus closures and event cancellations, Colleges are now facing serious challenges when trying to engage and build relationships with prospective students. It seems that we have entered a new chapter in the history of education, with instructors and students being pushed to integrate technology more than ever.

What to expect on Virtual Open Days

Before the event – what you need to do

Plan ahead – Look up the Calendar of Career Events on the school notice board to find out when something of interest to you will happen. Refer to the events section in Qualifax for any last-minute changes to dates. Notices of changes are always part of the Careers news service, the easiest way to avail of this is to sign up for the daily newsletter and get the notices on your phone.

Preparation – as with conventional Open Days advance preparation is essential. Apart from details of the course that interests you, there are many issues that require investigation before going to the college.

Make sure you understand the format – Virtual open days can include anything from online seminars, video virtual tours, to chats with existing students or lecturers. The college website should explain how it will work. It really pays to understand the ones you are interested in, so you can make sure you’re prepared and get the most out of the experience.

Registration – this is usually required if you plan to attend a Virtual Open Day. Check the Colleges website for detail in advance.

Research – for detailed information on the actual course go to Qualifax and the colleges own website. The colleges site has lots of information other that course details that you need to investigate. Look at college facilities, campus location and layout, accommodation and several other areas that might affect your time there. If you have specific questions to ask, find out if you can use an online chat or do you have to wait for the open day.

On the day.

You will be simply watching this on your computer screen and have little interaction. Mobile screens are too small for this. If possible, use a projector so several students can watch it at the same time. This is better that just looking at it on your own. Others may have comments or questions that did not occur to you and this can make it a better learning experience.

Tours of the campus – Complete a virtual tour of the university and its surroundings, including inside buildings and accommodation. This will be filmed in advance and usually have a commentary.

Student support sessions – Talk to current students one-to-one about their course and life at the university using live chat tools. Here you will have to choose which one to go to and refer to any unanswered questions.

Subject specific talks and webinars – Academics will talk about your subject, the course content and assessment method in a live webinar and may offer you the chance to ask your own questions.

Make notes – always a good idea when getting into new material.

Follow up

  • A class or small group review of the experience is unbelievably valuable.
  • Discuss the event with your guidance counsellor.
  • What was covered well?
  • What do you still need to know?
  • Does the College have another open day planned?
  • Is there a recorded version of the open day available?