University Open Days – Make the most of your opportunity
Open days should be a real insight into the culture and vitality of the place, reflecting the environment as much as the people and the day-to- day difference of being part of the university or space. Whilst many universities run a tight ship in terms of what they already provide for open day attendees, we figured we’d put together some of the best tips and tricks we have learned from being part of five years worth of university open days in Australia.
Put your best foot forward:
When holding your open day, the first point of contact will be the staff. These staff are your entire impression of the culture: their attitude, knowledge and enthusiasm is the make or break connection that determines whether there will be a rapport with pupils, parents and prospective students.
From our experience in the sector, we recruit staff that know the university either as a student or staff member. That way, our staff can answer most questions that crop up, and be familiar with navigating around campus. We take time to organise teams so that at least one person in a pair will be a student or alumnus.
Include a variety of events:
The second major aspect of open days is a glimpse of life at university. Here are some ideas from events that we have worked with:
– Sample lectures: give pupils a taste of what it means to be a university student by holding some popular lectures that they can attend.
– Tours of campus: this is where alumni and students come in handy as your staff at open days. They know alternative routes and can add their own flair to the tour.
– Tours of residential colleges: some colleges allow you have lunch with the college for a real “taste” of college life.
– Academic advice: Showing students how to tailor their degree to suit their goals is one personalised service that shouldn’t be overlooked.
– Career advice: Pupils will relish the advice that they get telling them what matters for their future career path (and what does not).
– Activities: sausage sizzles, volleyball, scavenger hunts and showcasing th clubs/societies on offer. When I sampled a variety of pupils to find out what aspects they remembered about the open day, most could recite all of the clubs and societies that interested them immediately but forgot about lectures that they attended. Don’t underestimate the importance of the wrap-around campus experience.
A campus really looks like a ghost town when there are no students. Holding the open day during term time gives a true sense of what the vibrancy of campus is like.
Some universities do free pens, lanyards, mini bears. Whilst all of this is neat, it is only as useful as the experience granted around the collateral. Did the person have to work to achieve the freebie, for instance did they have to correctly answer a question in a lecture? Making each marketing item a memory adds extra incentive for the student to consider your university.
I’ve even seen some universities advertise free pizza vouchers to be used on the day that exam results come out as a prize for signing up to the enrolment portal.
Make it easily accessible:
If you host your open day on a Thursday or Friday, people who travel from out of town can consider staying for longer in the city. Better yet, consider scholarship trips for top pupils from further afield to be part of the open day. Showcase your individuality and what makes your unique
Your university might be ranked number 1 for research or be well known for medicine. These are crucial points to put across. However, the major deciding factor for attendees and their family will ultimately be the unique difference that your university provides in the experience that the potential student will get when at your university. Everything that makes your university distinctively different is essential to put across.
Do you have a great tip to add? Feel free to add them in the comments to open up a discussion!
Otherwise, let me know if I can be of service in bringing the best people on as staff for your open day as we do for Australia’s leading institutes. firstname.lastname@example.org is me!