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Choosing a university is a big deal, and travelling the length and breadth of the country for open days has always been a key part of the process. So, what do you do when social distancing puts a stop to open days and campuses are closed to visitors? Virtual open days! Visiting universities virtually is a new experience for most people so we’ve put together a few tips to help you get the most out of the experience.

Preparation is key!

Before you start visiting universities from the comfort of your sofa, have a think about what’s important to you in a university. Do you think a campus or city university will suit you best? Do you want a course with a lot of structure or do you prefer self-study? Do you want self-catered halls or would you like meals included?

It’s also important to find out how the virtual open day will work. All universities will do things slightly differently but with a bit of forward-planning, you can make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the key events of the day. Some sessions and Q&As will run throughout the day on a drop-in basis, others will only happen at certain times. A lot of universities will ask you to complete a profile when you register and it’s a good idea to do this so that your experience can be tailored to your individual needs and interests.

Ask questions

You should have the chance to chat to academic staff, support staff, and current students, so jot down a few key questions before the day begins so you don’t forget them. Remember that there’s no such thing as a silly question so don’t be afraid to ask about anything that’s important to you, whether it’s about your course, student life, finance or whether you can get 24-hour access to the library. Remember that everyone else is in the same position as you and they’ll probably be glad that you asked the question they want to know the answer to!

Accommodation

Most virtual open days will include a tour of some of the university’s halls of residence but we know it’s not the same as seeing it in real life. However impressive the virtual accommodation tour is, make sure you find out the key information; how much it costs and what’s included in the price. We recommend talking to current students about their own accommodation experiences. At University Centre Shrewsbury, you can ask current students through our website, and other universities will have similar opportunities for you to chat to students.

Location

This is probably the trickiest thing to get a feel for on a virtual open day. You can ask current students what they think about the city and campus and they’ll give you an honest opinion but remember that what suits one person may not suit another. Google Maps and Google Street View can help you get an idea of distances between facilities and campuses, as well as what the area looks like. Google Maps can also help you decide if a university is just too far away from home (or maybe not far enough!) but remember that public transport information is unlikely to be accurate at the moment, so check out train and coach company websites for normal timetable information.

Benefits of a virtual open day

Virtual is the only way for universities to open up to prospective students at the moment, but we think that this is a trend that will stick around post-COVID-19. For a start, there are no travel restrictions; you can “visit” universities that might otherwise have not made your shortlist because you couldn’t justify the train ticket for an open day (although at the University Centre Shrewsbury, our travel bursary has always been popular!) and if two of your favourite universities have their open days on the same day, it’s no longer a problem.

You can also take your time at a virtual open day. There’s no rushing from the Finance Talk to your subject session, and you can even enjoy a leisurely lunch without worrying about missing the tour of Students’ Union.

Don’t panic – there’ll be other chances to visit.

You’ll never have to accept a place without visiting in person first! If you’re applying for 2021 and you receive an offer, you’ll be invited to attend a Visit Day (also called Applicant Days). These usually take place in the spring after you make your application so things should be back to normal by then. Visit Days are more specific to your course but you’ll still have the opportunity to view the campus facilities and have a tour of all those places you saw on your virtual open day.

Find out more about University Centre Shrewsbury at the University of Chester Virtual Open Day. Book your place here.

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