Attending an open day at a number of different universities is an excellent chance to see what that institution has to offer. Opendays.com is a useful tool where you can search for open days by university name or by looking on their calender.
During your visit, you should look for the following:
The course structure – ask questions about the course and what units/modules you will be studying.
The enthusiasm of the staff – if the teaching staff seem to be enthusiastic about their subject area then this is a good indication that they will provide you with an exciting, varied and stimulating teaching and learning experience.
The enthusiasm of the staff (again!) – if the staff make an effort to meet prospective students and to talk to them about their interests and what the institution has to offer then that is a good indication that the institution places a high priority on the teaching and learning experience that is offered to students.
The teaching and learning facilities – make sure that you are happy with the facilities that are available. Are the computing facilities of a high quality? Are the teaching rooms suitable to offer a good learning environment? Is there a well stocked and modern library? Is the department in a location that helps students to feel integrated into the student population?
Additional facilities – remember that university is not only about learning your subject, it is also somewhere that you will spend the next 3 years of your life so you need to be happy there. If you have specific interests make sure these are catered for, i.e. facilities for sports, music, arts, drama, etc
Consider the layout of the university – if you are a person who likes living in a city then you might be well suited to a university that has buildings located at various points around the city. Alternatively you might prefer the greater intimacy of a campus based environment. Attending an open day gives you a chance to see the different options and decide where you feel most comfortable.
Research profile of staff – ask questions about the research conducted by the staff in the department. This is important as institutions that place a strong emphasis on research tend to ensure that their research informs their teaching which will provide you with a more relevant and up-to-date learning experience.
Assessment – Ask questions about the methods of assessment employed. Different students learn in different ways and you want to ensure that the institution offers a variety of different assessment methods so that you are not disadvantaged.
Student Support – Ask questions about the level of student support offered. Students experience a whole range of problems – from academic to personal – throughout their 3 years at university and you want to make sure that you are choosing an institution that will offer you a high level of support no matter what problems arise. Main areas to focus on include financial advice, counselling services, language support (if English is not your first language), disability support, accommodation advice, academic support (i.e. personal tutors, student mentoring, academic tutors, etc.) and study skills support.
Contact Time – Research and ask about the amount of contact time you will be given during your studies. Make sure you ask for all years of study as some may offer you large amounts of contact time during your first year and then only fundamental lectures in your remaining years. Having more contact time allows you to ask more questions during your study, whilst still requiring you to be an independent learner, you will not be left entirely on your own.