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Everything you need to know about university open days

From key questions to ask, to what you should expect on the day, this is Whatuni's full guide to university open days.

Eleanor Foulds
by Eleanor Foulds
Last Updated:
05 Sep 2023

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You’ve probably heard from your teachers, friends or parents about university open days and campus tours. But what exactly are they, and what can you get out of them?


What’s a university open day?

An open day is when a university opens its doors to prospective students, letting you take a good look at the learning facilities, accommodation and social spaces. You get to speak to lecturers and student ambassadors to get a better idea about your potential degree programme and life on campus. It’s a great way to help you decide if a certain uni is the right fit for you.

What's the difference between a campus tour and an open day?

Campus tours are usually guided by current students and show you specific parts of the university that's important to be aware of. You'll normally be able to have a look at accommodation too. Open days tend to be more general where you can also attend talks and lectures for specific subjects. This is where you can also talk to lecturers and current students, ask questions and have a wander around by yourself.

Why should you attend university open days?

Open days and campus tours are a great opportunity to learn more about where you'll spend the next three or more years of your life. Those years could end up being some of your most important, so you want to make sure you've made the most informed choice possible.

Open days are also a chance to meet some of the lecturers and other people who’ll shape your experience while exploring the campus facilities and surrounding area at your own leisure.

10 reasons why you should go to a university open day.

What can you expect on an open day?

Each university’s open day is different but more often than not, you can expect it to run from about 10 am to 3 pm or 4 pm. However, some unis do hold open days that start in the afternoon and run until the early evening. Make sure you know the start/end times, especially if your open day is happening virtually.

Most universities will host tours of the campus, specific subject talks and talks on things like student life and finance. They’ll usually publish a timetable in advance so make sure you check it out and plan which parts of the day you want to get involved in.

You can find and sign up for upcoming open day events (both online and in-person) right here on our website.

There’s usually no dress code at uni open days but it pays to look presentable. It’s not an interview though, so you can leave the suit at home!

How should you plan your university open day visit?

Planning is key to getting the best out of the day.

Picking the right universities to visit is the start of this process, so first, make sure each uni offers a course that interests you.

Don’t base your decision on where your boyfriend/girlfriend or mates are going. Although it’s natural to worry about missing them, uni is a very personal journey – a chance to experience new things, socially and academically, and put yourself in a good position to find a job after you graduate.

League tables are a great resource to help you see which unis are the best for your chosen subject.

How to get the most out of university open days.

How do you book a place on an open day or campus tour?

Once you’ve made your decision, you can check out all the upcoming open days listed on our website. You can then save open days and campus tours to your calendar on your Whatuni account, which you can access when logged in.

Open days are free to attend, but places must be booked. Do this as soon as possible because spaces fill up quickly. If you can’t make the specified dates, don’t panic and dismiss the university as a possibility since many also offer private tours. In some ways, these can be more eye-opening, as the university generally isn’t on its best behaviour!

Once you’ve registered your place, you’ll then need to think about your journey there. If you’re travelling by train, make sure to book tickets in advance and spend some time looking at other areas around the university you’d like to explore. 

Who should you take to a university open day?

You may not want to go with anyone to an open day or campus tour but it never hurts to get a second opinion. 

It’s very common to take your parents with you on these visits. Not only does it make them feel included, but it’s also handy to have someone asking questions you may not think of at that moment. Parents see things through a different lens to students and may even give you points to think about, which you can discuss over lunch or on the journey back. 

If you have a friend who’s also interested in the same uni, then it makes for a fun day trip. Just be sure to make a list of places to see, people to speak to and questions to ask. You can easily forget important points when you’re caught up in the excitement of potentially going to the same uni together.

Who should you take to an open day?

What questions should you ask at a university open day?

As part of your planning, you should put together a list of questions you want the answers to, and ask them throughout the day. Some of the topics you'll need to cover include:

  • The course
  • The facilities
  • The accommodation
  • The local area
  • The Students' Union

10 questions to ask at a university open day.

How many open days should you go to?

There's not an easy answer to this one, because it depends how much you already know about what you want from a uni, as well as how many it's possible for you to get to. Of course, the more the merrier we say, because it's always good to understand what you don't want as well as what you do. We'd recommend going to some open days near you to get an understanding of what you're looking for in a uni even if you're planning to move away from home. However, if travelling is tricky for you, or if you feel very confident you know what you're looking for (maybe you got dragged to open days an older sibling was attending), then it might be worth just going to a couple.

What should you consider before going on an open day?

Think about the course

Make sure the university you’re visiting offers a degree programme that supports your career aspirations. There’s no point in going to an open day if you’re not excited about what you’ll be studying. Think about these things when talking about your potential course:

  • Core modules and module variety
  • Opportunities for joint honours
  • Course resources
  • Contact hours
  • How you'll be assessed 

Think about the campus

Your degree programme is important, but so is the environment you live and study in. Make sure you’re happy with what’s on offer on campus and around the town or city you’ll be located in. Don’t forget to:

  • Check how far apart the necessities are from where you're living
  • See what the students union is like
  • Explore the study areas (can you see yourself revising and completing assignments there?)
  • Check food prices on campus
  • Ask about student support and what the uni offers
  • Think about part-time work opportunities

What should you do after your open day or campus tour visit?

Getting the most out of these visits is as much about what you do after the day as before and during it.

Set up a list of the pros and cons – so that you can easily compare with other universities you visit; talk to the people you went with to get their opinions and look over all the reading material you picked up during the day.

If you're still unsure about the uni, you can always arrange a second viewing during term-time or a direct call with one of your potential lecturers to help you make a final decision.

Remember: Open days are not real life

This is probably the most important thing to know about university open days.

Universities need students in order to survive financially with open days and campus tours being a prime way for them to sell themselves to prospective students.

They'll do everything they can to show themselves in the best light. Everything will have been cleaned and polished and everyone will be on their best behaviour.

While that’s all great, it’s not a real reflection of what everyday life will be like at university, which will ultimately never be all rosy. As long as you keep that in mind though and try to be realistic, you won’t be in for a nasty shock come enrolment time.

If you want to get a more realistic look at what a university is like, many universities will be happy to let you come and look around and speak to staff/students during term time (just make sure you book in advance).


Now you have an idea about what to expect and do on open days, it’s time to see what events are coming up. Check out all upcoming open days and events and get yourself registered now.



Search for upcoming open days

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