Going to College: More than just a day off, the open day gives you a chance to explore your future
While in some schools students are encouraged to attend open days during fifth year, most students will still wish to attend at least a small number of open days during Leaving Cert year. Students may have discovered a course of interest more recently, or will wish to revisit a campus to be very sure that they want to apply for a course in a given college. Open days are very useful in deciding if a college and course are right for you, and gaining understanding of the atmosphere and culture of the institution.
Leaving Cert students need to walk a fine line between attending learning opportunities outside school and keeping good school attendance so they do not miss any work. With this in mind most institutions will hold their open days on a Friday and Saturday. If it is possible, students should attend on a Saturday.
Open days can also be crowded, noisy and overwhelming experiences and students often leave such events feeling they have not learnt a huge amount. It is very important to prepare properly in order to have the most valuable learning experience possible.
Visit the college website at least a week or two before an open day. Be aware of the courses the college offers and read up on any for which you may be interested in applying.
Students should highlight elements of the courses they particularly like or are unsure of, as well as taking note of any questions they may have. Having specific questions will give focus to the day.
Most colleges and events will have a dedicated event webpage where you can print maps of the campus or information about the event. Print this off as soon as possible and plan your day carefully.
Take note of the location and times of talks and decide which you would like to attend. Then see what exhibition stands are close by and how you will spend your time in between.
If you will have to live away from home to attend this institution find out if there is any campus accommodation and whether it will be possible to visit it.
Don't forget to spend time looking into the non-academic facilities the institution offers. It is often such things that influence a student's choice when there are two very similar courses in different colleges.
Students should ensure they are prepared to take notes as they speak to different people in the college. No matter how attentive one is, there will be a lot of information which can be confused later. There is an excellent worksheet available through qualifax.ie, which is helpful when preparing for an open day. This has been tweeted by the institute of guidance counsellors for convenient access (@instgc).
Discuss the day with a parent or guidance counsellor. This allows students to process their findings and assists in good decision making.
A full list of the years careers' events is available on qualifax.ie.
Events this week: September 11: Open Evening University of Ulster, Jordanstown. September 12: Oscail Open Evening DCU. September 12-13: Open Days Queens University Belfast. September 17: HPAT evening NUI Galway. September 17-18: Open Days St Mary's University College Belfast. September 17: Open Evening DBS. September 17: Open Evening Independent Colleges.