Shona McQuillan

Shona McQuillan

Shona McQuillan is a senior adviser and manager of the Course Enquiries Team at Birmingham City University. Shona has experience of over 15 years in Higher Education and has advised thousands of prospective students about course options and applying to university.

Open Days are an increasingly important part of the decision-making process for prospective students and provide a great opportunity to explore study options in more depth beyond universities’ course literature, prospectuses and websites. It’s another means of giving yourself the best chance of being in a position to make an informed decision when the time comes to applying for a course.

Before attending an Open Day, there are a few things to consider to help you make the most out of your visit and to ensure the day runs as smoothly as possible for you:

Be savvy about what information you want to take away from the Open Day

If you can, take the time to research courses and entry requirements before you attend so that you can use the Open Day to build on the knowledge you already have and receive more detailed advice and information relevant to you. You may have further questions about aspects of the content of the course, the qualifications and experience you have, the nature of the equipment and facilities used by students on a particular course, the organisations students may go on work placements with, etc.

Think about how you can use the opportunity of speaking with course tutors to help you gain a competitive advantage when it comes to applying. Find out what the admissions tutor is looking for in a good application. For example, you may want to ask about:

  • What information can you include in your personal statement that best demonstrates your suitability for the course you are applying for?
  • What personal skills and attributes are they looking for?
  • What kind of work or extra-curricular experience could help to support your subject choice?
  • If there is anything else you can do between now and applying which can make your application stronger?

If you’re undecided about what you want to apply for, think about your reasons for wanting to go to university – perhaps you have a particular career you want to aim for, want to change direction, build on existing qualifications or professional experience or just have an interest in a subject but aren’t sure about what it could lead on to. Whatever your reasons, they are all a starting point for the sort of questions you will want to ask to help you be able to make the right choice.

Top tip: Jot down any key questions you want to ask beforehand and bring them with you and bring something with you to make notes with. It’s useful to be able to refer back to these when comparing different universities you have visited.

Make the Open Day visit relevant to your needs – plan and prioritise your activities before you arrive

There are a whole host of activities for prospective students to engage with at Open Days, so trying to fit as many activities which are relevant to your interests into your visit can be a challenge. Consider what’s on offer at the Open Day that can help you obtain the most useful information to aid with your eventual decisions about which courses to apply for, and where, such as:

  • Course-specific activities – are there particular talks, tours or activities which are focused on the course, or courses, you are interested in? Are there any opportunities for you to participate in a mock lecture, a workshop or a simulated activity and get a hands-on taste of course itself?
  • Having the opportunity to speak on a one-to-one basis with academic and support staff and current students – don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions as staff and students are a potential goldmine of information!
  • Viewing accommodation (if applicable) – if you’re going to be living away from home, having the opportunity to see the type of living accommodation available is very important.
  • Touring the campus and facilities – get a feel for where you will be studying and what facilities are available on site to students.

These are just a few examples, as each prospective student will have their own perspective on what’s important to them.

Top tip: Check the Open Day programme and look at the schedule for the day to help you plan your day in advance.

Make sure you know exactly where you’re travelling to and what travel arrangements you will need to make

It might sound obvious, but if you’re travelling to an unfamiliar city where there may be multiple universities or different campuses for an institution, or even if you are familiar with the city and think you know where you need to go, please double check that you’re going to arrive at the right location. If the Open Day event encourages you to register in advance, we would recommend that you do register as this often means that you will receive tailored information relevant to your particular event booking to help you plan your visit and travel arrangements.

Refer to the Open Day event information provided to you by the institution you are visiting and pay attention to any special instructions regarding travel or how to find your way there. As Birmingham City University is a multi-campus university, it’s especially important to check the location details of where the Open Day you have registered for is taking place. For our main University Open Day taking place on Saturday 15 November 2014, we have published information about the venue location for the different subject areas being represented on the day.

Top tip: If you’re travelling to Birmingham City University this autumn, double check the event location details for your subject and event date and make sure you print the relevant details off so you have them to hand on the day.

If you need advice and assistance about travelling to Birmingham City University Open Days and the various event locations, or need any other information relating to our courses and Open Days, please contact us at the Course Enquiries Team on 0121 331 5595. We hope to meet you soon!

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Shona McQuillan

Senior adviser and manager of the Course Enquiries Team at Birmingham City University.

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