It’s really important that you make time to visit different universities to get an understanding of where you will be living and working for three or four years. Some universities are located in cities, and the accommodation can be very expensive. Other universities offer accommodation to students for their first year and after that you may have to take up private rented accommodation. When you visit the university make sure you find out about:
- the subject you are thinking of applying for there may be sample lectures or presentations by the professors
- whether it will be the professors who teach you or will it be post graduate students
- how many hours lecture you will need to attend; whether the course is coursework based or examination based
- opportunities for short internships, placements abroad or locally, and job opportunities
- size of lecture or tutorial groups
- how you will receive feedback on your work/progress
- university accommodation and how to fund your stay (are meals included in the price of the accommodation; do you need to pay a deposit at the beginning of the year; are there laundry facilities close by; are there any amenities (shops, learning support, library) available at the weekend and late into the evening
- the campus/city – can you imagine yourself living in that place
- current students’ views. What is the mix of international and local students; when do the lectures take place; do you have lectures and tutorials; whether the workload is realistic; what happens if you become ill and miss a deadline
- sports facilities and costs involved/clubs you may join
This could well be your chance to speak directly to the admissions tutor. Make sure you ask any questions the university website doesn’t answer.
- What grades do you need – and can you still get a place if you don’t quite get the grades?
- Which qualifications and combinations of qualifications do they accept / prefer?
- If they use the UCAS tariff, will they count all your qualifications?
- Is it worth applying for more than one course at the same university?
- How do they select which candidates to make offers to?
- What do they look for in your application and personal statement?
- Can they recommend any reading or activities to inform your personal statement?
- Do they hold interviews or is selection based on your UCAS application?
- How do they feel about a gap year and deferred entry applications?
- Is it an advantage to get your application in early?
Questions to ask about your career prospects
Knowing what the degree course can offer you in the long-term is an important part of deciding if a course is right for you – now’s the chance to hear about real-life examples of what could come next.
- How will the course make you more employable? Do they offer or arrange placements?
- What have previous students gone on to do after graduating?
- What proportion go on to postgraduate study? Do you need to a postgraduate course to get a job?
- Do they know what past students are doing two or three years later?
- What careers guidance facilities are there?
- Do they run job fairs?
Questions to ask about the accommodation
A lot of open days let you look around typical halls of residence. The likelihood is you’ll probably be touring the best on offer, but it’s a great time to do some fact-finding.
- Is a place in Halls guaranteed? What accommodation is available off-campus?
- Would a place still be guaranteed if you made the uni your insurance choice?
- What does it cost – and what’s included in that cost?
- Will you have to move in and out each term?
- What are the pros and cons of catered versus self-catered?
- How big are the rooms – are some bigger than others?
- How quiet are they?
- Can you put stuff on the walls?
- How secure is it?
- Do most students stay on campus at weekends?
- What happens in years two and three?
- How far will you have to travel to get into uni and around town? Can you bring a car?
Questions to ask current students
Don’t be afraid to ask student ambassadors some probing questions, or politely approach a student on campus for a real-life student view of the uni and course. Swap notes with other visiting students.
- What are the best and worst things about uni in your opinion?
- How have you found the course so far – what are the teaching / facilities / support / field trips like?
- Are some halls of residence better or worse than others?
- What’s the town / city like?
Questions to ask about societies and things on campus
A big part of the university experience is the activities you’ll get involved with outside the classroom – what’s on offer here that will develop your employability skills, contribute to uni life or the wider community or extend your social network?
It’s also good to get a feel for other day-to-day facilities available nearby – such as libraries, academic support, language centre, shops, banks, sport, cultural, creative, religious, recreational and entertainment facilities or whatever else you need. How close are these to where you’ll be living?
Questions to ask about your everyday costs
This is another good area to ask current students already managing their finances
How do the costs actually break down? How much money will you need to survive?
- To what extent will you need / be able to find part-time work?
- What bursaries, scholarships or fee waivers are there and how do you apply?
- How do placements or a year abroad or a year in industry affect your costs or tuition fees?
- What’s on offer in terms of cheap student deals / nights out / places to eat?