Planning an open day is a fantastic way to give potential university students an insight into what to expect if they opt to enrol in the following academic year. Not only are teenagers given a chance to research subjects that strike their interest, but also browse around the campus to decide whether this is an environment where they could envision themselves living for the next three or more years.
With over one hundred different universities around the UK, all promising different prospects and opportunities, it can often be tricky to know how to stand out from the crowd. We have devised a list of our top ten tips on how to plan a successful university open day event.
10 Tips For Planning A University Open Day Event
One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to attracting new applicants to your university is having the ability to build a connection with them personally. Creating a personal experience means that they will put their trust into you to see them through their degree, provide support when needed and keep them safe throughout their stay.
It is never too early to start planning next year’s open day event. The more preparation and consideration that is put into each factor of the day, the more likely you will become an applicant’s number one choice.
1. Pick Effective Dates
For the majority of university courses, the UCAS application deadline is mid-January; however, some can be as early as October. This means that all open days will need to be scheduled before the Winter months to ensure that you gain as much exposure and attendees as possible.
Aim to schedule the majority of your dates between July and October as these are the most popular months for a high attendance. End of year exams will be out of the way, so students will have plenty of free time to book their slot at various different open days and will be able to take a day out to travel further afield.
Although Summer is the most effective time to plan the majority of your open days, there are events running all year round meaning that it is worth scattering additional dates during less popular times of the year. We suggest planning two open days between July and October and possibly another two throughout the year. Always avoid only planning just one open day as many dates clash with other universities and you do not want any students to miss out.
2. Establish A Budget
The great factor about planning a university open day over any other event is that you will not have to worry about the need to track down and book a venue, which is often the biggest expense. The aim of an open day is for students to see the campus for themselves physically, so it is more about making the premises look as appealing and exciting as possible.
Before putting any plan into action or delegating tasks to team members, it is firstly important to establish a budget. How much are you willing to spend on expenses such as adverts, leaflets and freebies? Will you provide catering to guests or stick to tea and coffee?
Once a budget is put into place, you are then able to start planning tasks around costs. Always ensure that you remain on track of each spend and leave a little extra budget to one side in the case of an emergency.
3. Create Publicity
For students to attend your open day, they need to know that it is happening, so it is vital to promote your event and get the word out. The UCAS website itself lists all universities along with their open day dates and times; however, there are various other free online tools such as Open Days and What Uni? which serve the same purpose. Ensure that all of your pre-planned events are submitted onto these sites along with information such as date, time and location.
It is also a useful idea to send leaflets or posters to local secondary schools and colleges, which can be displayed to all students in their social area. Again, to get the word out and encourage as many people as possible to book their slot.
4. Plan Subject Specific Presentations
Subject-specific presentations are a crucial part of any university open day and must be a high priority when planning. Many people go to open days because they are unsure on the best degree course for them as many strive to study a subject that is unlikely to be taught in school, which means informative presentations are vital.
Rather than taking a ‘selly selly’ approach to presentations, provide attendees with the details they can come to the event for such as what different units will entail, how units will be examined and ultimately, the type of person who has the perfect qualities to take on the degree.
Delegate around half an hour of additional time after each presentation for a Q&A session with the subject’s professor to give people the opportunity to solve any queries they may have.
5. Arrange Campus Tours
It is true that you cannot gain a real feel of a university until you have had a full tour of lecture theatres, student accommodation and campus facilities. Many people are attracted to a particular university due to their high-quality facilities and become excited to use them during their stay.
Throughout the day, during each open event, arrange several different campus tours within short intervals and encourage existing students to hold the tours. Existing students will have the best knowledge on the campus, help potential applicants feel comfortable and highlight the most sought-after facilities teenagers will love.
6. Highlight The Fun Aspects Of Uni
Biting the bullet and submitting a university application is a huge milestone and can often be an incredibly daunting task. The start of university is regularly seen as a new chapter, so although it is important to highlight the hard work and determination a degree will entail, it’s also important to mention the fun aspects.
Of course, one of the biggest selling points of universities is the nightlife and complete independence, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to meet new people you may not have met without university who become friends for life. Always make sure that you mention the host of different fun and exciting experiences students will have during their time at uni, some key points to include are the following:
- Freshers Week
- End Of Year and Graduation Balls
- Celebrity Appearances
- Student Union Location
- Committees and Societies
- Local Bars and Clubs
- Social Events
7. Transport Options
Many applicants will attend open days with their family, which means a huge percentage will travel by car. Consider whether you have enough parking on-site to cater to a large number of attendees and if not, is there additional parking that you can suggest? Taking some time to research into local free or cheap parking options and sharing the information on your website is incredibly beneficial. On the day of your open days, it is also highly recommended to have parking attendants on hand who can direct visitors to free spaces.
Not everyone drives, which means that, alternatively, many visitors may travel by train, bus or other forms of transport. This is another useful set of information to place onto your university websites such as the closest train station or bus stop.
8. Consider Parents
Many students are heavily influenced by their parents, and of course, all parents want to know that their child will be attending the best fitting university for them, that can not only provide them with the highest level of education, but are also able to keep them safe.
When planning content for presentations and campus tours, do not forget to target parents as well as students. Inform them on statistics such as pass rates and average grades for the specific course, along with job opportunities and prospects post-degree. It may also be worth adding a page on your website specifically for parents and promoting the use of this resource during the open day.
9. Create Information Packs
Information packs are so important and are the one source of guidance that applicants will look back on when making their final decision. Many universities provide all attendees with a generic welcome pack on arrival to the open day which includes information such as the history of the university, degree course options and student benefits.
It is a great idea to opt for a folder-like layout for information packs or even put leaflets into a small bag as it means that visitors are able to collect all leaflets they are interested in throughout the day and store them together.
10. Consider Freebies
Everyone loves a freebie and as materialistic as it may sound, it will help your university to create a memorable experience for applicants. They will remember your open day through the handy freebies they took home with them.
The most popular options for freebies to give away at open days is branded stationary such as pens, notepads and rulers – believe it or not, they will always be used. In more recent years, for those with a larger budget, branded USB memory sticks have started to rise in popularity, as again, they are super handy especially for students. There are many different online companies such as Everything Branded and Vistaprint, which make it a quick and easy task to purchase a bulk order of branded objects.
Freebies do not just have to come in the form of useful objects; they can also be things such discount codes or vouchers. A great option is to form a partnership with a local cafe, restaurant or even cinema who can give you a small card with a discount such as ‘10% off your next meal’ or ‘A sweet treat with every hot drink’.
If you are looking for a giveaway option that is a little more unique and will help your university to stand out from the crowd, why not consider inflatable photo booth hire? Social photo booths give all visitors the chance to take a fun snap in the booth with a range of different props and then take home a free instant printout. To ensure that your university gets the most exposure from your photo booth, all printouts can be customised to have the university name and emblem on.
Plan A Successful University Open Day
Planning a successful university open day is often a more straightforward task than first assumed. It is important to always take into consideration the aim of the event and your key selling points. What can you provide students with that they may not receive anywhere else? How will your choices help them to strive in their career? And most importantly, why should applicants choose your course over another university?