Information, advice and guidance

Supporting your students to get the most out of HE/UCAS fairs and undergraduate open days

Choosing which path to pursue after sixth form or college can be a stressful time for students. As the cliché goes, “the world is your oyster” however sometimes the breadth of options available to students can feel a little overwhelming. Some students may have clear ideas of what subject they want to study and where they would like to study it. Other students sat in your classroom may, when faced with the dreaded “what are your plans for after college” question, feel lost and undecided on a definite plan. HE and UCAS fairs can be a great way for students to start their research and talk to university representatives from Higher Educations Institutions across the country. Open days are also invaluable for allowing students the opportunity to envisage themselves studying at that particular university. There are many ways you, as key influencers, can support your students to make the most of these events.

Key questions students could ask at HE/UCAS fairs:

> The first thing students should be asking about is the course itself. Students should try to look beyond the course name and not assume that every course is the same. It’s essential that students look into the different modules offered to see which university’s course sounds the most interesting to them. It’s important to highlight to students that courses which have the same course name and UCAS code could differ greatly between institutions.

> It’s really important for students to ask universities about what qualifications they need to apply for their chosen course. Universities will want to know about their Level 3 qualifications such as A-levels and BTECs etc. but will also be interested in students’ GCSE’s. The majority of university courses will require a 4/C in English Language and Maths and some courses, such as Medicine, will have more specific GCSE requirements. GCSE entry requirements can differ between universities so it’s important for students to check them for their chosen course.

> Students should also be asking about how many contact hours they will have on their chosen course. Students may not have previously realised how different studying at university is compared to school or college – independent study is important at university.

> Students who may want to study abroad as part of their degree, either as a year or semester abroad, will find it useful to ask reps about the different options available to them. The way some degrees are structured means that study abroad is not an option so enquiring early will avoid disappointment!

> In the same way, students may not know that they can do work placements and a year in industry as part of their degree. These can be really beneficial to a student’s career prospects after university, so encouraging your students to ask about these opportunities can help them to make an informed decision about what they want to pursue.

> Students who wish to study healthcare related degrees should be asking about any work experience they might need so that they can include this in their personal statement. Knowing this early can help students to organise their time early between studying, volunteering and their social life.

> Aside from academia, students will want to know about the all-important student life at university! Encourage students to ask about all the exciting things they can get involved in; societies, sports clubs and language exchanges are just a few examples of how students can be part of their university community, meet new people and make friends.

Open days – top tips:

Before your students head off on their trips to visit universities it’s reassuring for them to know that it’s impossible to see everything that the university has to offer in one open day and that’s ok! It can be overwhelming, so making a list of the talks and places they want to visit can be helpful to prioritise the things that are most important to them. Encourage students to speak to as many people as possible at Open Days as there will be staff from all over the university, including student ambassadors, available to answer questions and show visitors around.

Final top tips to remind students:

> Bring a pen and notebook to jot down their favourite café in the Students’ Union and where the best seat in library is in addition to course information and answers to questions! It’s also a good idea to bring a bag to put any literature they pick up in.

> As part of Open Day visits, a lot of students want to visit student accommodation. Whilst it’s a really good idea to visit university accommodation, if your students are local to a university they wish to look at it’s worth booking onto a separate accommodation tour another day, as it tends to be very busy on open day. This will give your students more time to attend talks, do campus tours and find out more about their course.

> At HE Fairs and UCAS fairs, often the representatives that students will speak to on the stand are representing the university as a whole and therefore aren’t experts on every university course.  Even if the representative on the stand doesn’t know the exact answer to some questions your students might have, they’ll be able to signpost students to people who do.

> Reminding students to have a think about different subjects they might be interested in before they attend an event can really help them to focus their questions and get more out of the event. Having specific questions they want to ask also makes students feel more confident! As teachers and advisors, it may help to prepare a list of suggested questions in advance for your students to look at ahead of attending an event.

> Finally, it’s really important to reassure students that there is no pressure to follow a particular path and that university isn’t the only option. Apprenticeships, jobs, volunteering, travelling… the list goes on. There is no right answer to what a student should choose to do after sixth form or college so attending as many HE Fairs and UCAS fairs as possible will help them to get the information they need in order to make an informed decision.


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