For students in their last year of high school or those looking to upgrade their academic qualifications, this is a busy time of year. We're well into the pointy end of the year when it comes to preparing for exams. But it's also the time of year when universities and other learning institutions open their doors and show off what they have to offer to prospective students. So, how do you get the most from a university open day?
Think in terms of outcomes
Universities offer a massive array of different degrees these days. In the past, there wasn't much more than science, arts, law, medicine and engineering. All the subjects were conveniently shunted into one of those buckets.
My son and I explored the open day at Swinburne University yesterday and, just in the technology faculty, there were several different options for IT-related degrees.
Adding to the complexity, you could choose elective subjects from almost any other faculty when constructing a course of study.
So, rather than thinking about doing a specific degree because the title sounds right - think about what skills you want at the end and look for options that deliver those.
In my son's case, he's keen on a career in cybersecurity. So, he at least needs some programming, network engineering and behavioural science. Those subjects can come from a number of degree areas.
The name of the degree is just a starting point.
Take a two-phase approach
When you first arrive at an open day, there is a lot to take in. There are demonstrations, presentations, displays, food, music and lots of other stimuli.
Do a lap of the main area you'll focus on, collect a few relevant brochures, and then find somewhere to sit. Look through the material you've collected and then plan where you'll focus your second sortie.
Write down the questions you have and think about which demonstrators and presenters will be most likely to answer your questions. Then patiently wait your turn to talk to the people you most want to discuss options with.
Remember to keep notes so you can compare what you learn with other universities and TAFEs you visit.
Listen to student presentations
As I walked through Swinburne yesterday, I was particularly interested in presentations given by students about their work and university experience.
Swinburne has a very strong focus on industry-based learning and even offers degrees that have no exams with all the learning conducted on the job.
Listening to what that was like for students was fascinating and gave a real insight into what students did when they were on industry placements.
Don't forget there's more to uni than studying
Take some time to explore the social side of student life. There will be displays from many of the on-campus student clubs covering everything from cultural groups, faith-based activities, games, sports and almost any other activity that can be shared by a group.
Visit the stands and chat to people, just to get a feel for what sorts of things happen on campus.