Planning an open day is a fantastic way to give potential students an insight into what to expect from your university, should they opt for enrolling 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 successfully organising an open day for university students.
The Ultimate Guide To Organising An Open Day For University Students
One of the biggest hurdles when attracting new university applicants is understanding how to build a connection with them personally. Creating a personal experience from the get-go 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. This means that not only should open days be informative of the course available, but also able to create a welcoming environment, where students are excited to begin their next chapter.
With this in mind, it is never too early to start planning next year’s open day events. 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. So, to give you inspiration on where to begin, we have devised a step-by-step guide on how to guarantee success from your open days. Here we will run through the following ten tips:
- 1. Pick Effective Dates
- 2. Establish A Budget
- 3. Spread The Word
- 4. Plan Subject-Specific Presentations
- 5. Arrange Campus Tours
- 6. Highlight The Fun Aspects On Uni
- 7. Make Transport Easy
- 8. Involve Parents & Loves Ones
- 9. Create Information Packs
- 10. Stock Up On Freebies
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, as well as early the following year, to ensure that you gain as much exposure as possible.
Aim to schedule the majority of your dates between July and October as these are the most popular months for 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 several different open days. Particularly if you plan at least one date during half term, potential applicants will also be able to take the day out to travel further afield. Parents and family members are also more likely to be off work, meaning that they can travel with them to visit different cities that strike their interest.
Although Summer is the best 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.
Unlike any other event type, the beauty of planning a university open day is that you will not have to worry about tracking down and booking a venue, which is often the most significant 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. Therefore, the majority of your budget will be allocated to displays, presentations and overall university decor.
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? Do you need to hire any staff for the day or will current students be happy to volunteer?
Once a budget has been determined, you are then able to start planning tasks around each cost. We suggest storing all of your budgeting data in an easy-to-read spreadsheet, which can be updated throughout the planning process. Smartsheet has a host of great budgeting templates which can be downloaded and used for free. When submitting your data, don’t forget to set aside a contingency budget. A contingency budget is a small percentage of money, which has been set aside to use in the event of an emergency. It means that you will never have to worry about going overbudget down to unexpected fees.
For students to attend your open day, they need to know that 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 accompanied by their 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 in reception and social areas. Again, these are ideal for spreading the word about your upcoming open days, giving potential applicants plenty of time to book their slot.
Subject-specific presentations are a crucial part of any university open day and must be a high priority when planning. The majority of students, while they have a vague idea, go to open days because they are unsure of the best degree course for them. Many strive to study a subject that is unlikely to be taught in school, which means that informative yet engaging presentations are vital.
Rather than taking a ‘selly selly’ approach to presentations, instead, opt for providing attendees with vital course information that will aid their decision. This includes details 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.
When scheduling presentation timetables, always delegate around half an hour of additional time after each presentation for a Q&A session with the subject’s professor. This will give students the opportunity to solve any queries that they may have regarding the course. You want every attendee to leave feeling inspired, and one step closer to choosing their ideal university – presentations will most definitely help to make this happen.
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, arrange several different campus tours within short intervals of one another. Existing university students are always perfect for running campus tours, particularly those in their final year, as they would have spent years enjoying the hotspots of the university. Enlisting students for tours will help potential applicants to feel comfortable, giving them the chance to ask any questions that they may have.
Biting the bullet and submitting a university application is a huge milestone and can often be an incredibly daunting task. The first day of university, on the hand, comes alongside a completely new level of nerves. With this in mind, 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. Most students make friends for life at university, people that they would never have had a chance to socialise with unless they were put together in the same accommodation or lecture. So, 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
Many applicants will attend open days with their family, which means a considerable 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. You could also put links to handy parking resources on your website, such as Parkopedia and Just Park, which will allow drivers to search for nearby car parks during their visit. 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, particularly if students are travelling alone, which means that you should also list alternative methods of transport. Add information on the closest train station, bus links and taxi numbers to your website to make travelling to your open day as straightforward as possible.
For many students, the universities that they apply for are heavily influenced by their parents and loved ones. Of course, all parents want to have peace of mind that their child will go to 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. So, 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.
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. When designing your information packs, we suggest opting for a folder-like layout, making it easy for attendees to store any leaflets that they pick up throughout the day, all in one place. If you have the budget, you could even go the extra mile and give away tote bags printed with your university logo.
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 stationery 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, 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 as 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 photobooth hire in London and the surrounding areas? Our marketing photo booth hire gives all visitors the chance to take a fun snap in the booth with a range of different props. They can then take home a free instant printout to remember the day. 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.
Make An Impression On Every Applicant!
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?