For me, going to an open day not only confirmed that I wanted to study in Plymouth, but that I wanted to go to university in the first place. I believe open and applicant days are a fundamental part of the application process, as it provides an opportunity to break down that barrier of unfamiliarity with the location, the course, and the idea of being a student. As a subject ambassador, I have been on both sides of the process.
Overall I believe the distinction between open and applicant days is simple: open days give you the chance to hear an overview of the course, often directly from your prospective lecturers, and familiarise yourself with the university environment both academically and geographically. Applicant days offer the chance to focus more on the course you’re interested in, and gain an understanding of what life will be like as a subject-specific student. They also offer a chance to see accommodation, which will be a fundamental part of your university experience. Crucially though, you should never be dissuaded from attending either session, as open days and applicant days are constructed to accommodate the newcomers and returning applicants alike.
Meeting the academics who will become your lecturers can be an invaluable experience, as the course is often a result of their own specialisms. This means that if you’re interested in the course, then you’ll be interested by them. They can inform you on the methods of assessment, the expectations upon you, and hopefully you will recognise that your relationship with these academics will go beyond the traditional student-teacher dynamic you may be familiar with. At degree level, they are as much your academic peers as your tutors. On applicant days, this process can be especially helpful in showing you how to academically prepare for your time as a student.
Talking to current students can be such an informative, often comforting, component of the application process – it certainly was for me. One of the most memorable part of my applicant day was talking to a third-year student who studied the English with History joint honours degree, a somewhat uncommon choice. I was able to ask him such a variety of questions that may have otherwise remained unanswered, because while the lecturers can answer a wealth of questions on the content of the course and university, they cannot give an account of the student life anywhere near as well as a current student.
As an ambassador, the queries I’ve addressed are incredibly broad: the student nightlife, ease of transport (around and leaving the city), price of accommodation, cost of living – the information that is important to know before becoming a student. For me, that conversation with a student ambassador answered so many questions I had, and even some I hadn’t considered; in fact, my experience on the open and applicant days is the primary reason I opted to become a student ambassador, because I know how influential those exchanges can be.
If you have the opportunity, my advice would absolutely be to attend both the open and applicant days; if attending both is not an option, however, don’t let that dissuade you. They are, to me, the bridge between applying to university and becoming a student. Open and applicant days persuaded me to come to university, and subsequently Plymouth, and they could be the deciding factor for you too.