If you’re applying to study engineering at university, then you’ll know that there are a lot of degrees courses out there, covering a broad range of engineering disciplines. But researching potential degree courses needs to go further than just scrolling through the UCAS course directory.
It’s important that, when you get to the point of honing your final shortlist of potential engineering courses, you make sure you gain an appreciation of the day-to-day realities of studying engineering at university. You’ll also likely have outstanding questions about what you personally can gain from your chosen course of study that you may not be able to get from a course description on a website.
That’s why you need to make open days and campus tours a central part of your decision making. There are a number of reasons why an open day can help you choose the right engineering degree.
- You can see the campus where you’ll be studying and decide whether it’s right for you.
- You can meet engineering faculty members and ask questions about your chosen course.
- You might be able to meet current students who are taking your chosen degree and find out about the realities of studying this degree.
In this article, we’re going to discuss how you should plan and strategise your university open day visits, and how to get the most out of them when you eventually do visit.
Planning your university open days
Planning and organising your university open days is essential. You’ll need to be honest with yourself about how many you can fit in (especially when taking into account days away from school/college) and how you will make the most out of your visits – after all, the UK is a big place!
Most university’s engineering faculties will offer some kind of open day or will host faculty visits. Once you have an idea of which universities are on your final UCAS shortlist, you should check out the websites of your chosen university to see which faculties offer visits/open days.
Here are just a few examples of some university faculties and the kind of open days/visits they offer.
The University of Nottingham Faculty of Engineering
University of Birmingham School of Engineering
University of Leeds School of Mechanical Engineering
But you need to make sure you plan your engineering open days wisely. Here are a number of useful questions to ask yourself as you do.
How many universities will you visit?
The number of universities you visit will depend on how you can fit them into your school/college schedule and, perhaps equally importantly, geography. For example, if you’re reading this and you live in Bristol, then a visit to St Andrews in Scotland will require more careful consideration.
Can you do the whole visit in one day?
Whilst you might only think you’re going to see a faculty or single school, you may discover that getting a feel for the whole campus and the local area could be hard to fit in one day. It ultimately depends on what you’re hoping to get from a university open day, but you need to plan them carefully to ensure you see and do everything you need to.
This is slightly linked to something we discussed in relation to the last question – after all, if you’re travelling a long way to visit an engineering faculty, then it makes sense to make a trip out of it, and perhaps stay in your chosen university town/city overnight, so you can really get a feel for the local area.
What questions will you ask when you get there?
We’ll get to some of the questions you should ask in the next section. But before you attend an open day, note down which questions you want to ask, and who you’re going to approach – as we’ve already discussed, you can’t afford to waste time.
In the next section, we’ll look at some of the questions you should ask when you attend your engineering open day, ensuring that you’re able to evaluate if it’s the right course for you.
The questions you need to ask at an open day
If you ask the right questions, you can learn a lot at an open day. This will, in turn, inform decisions that may affect the next few years of your life. Here are some of the questions that might come in handy.
How will you be taught?
Many engineering courses are heavily lecture-based, especially in the earlier years. However it’s worth asking how you’ll be taught, be it in larger lectures or smaller tutorials/seminars. Will you spend a lot of time a lab, or doing group work? What works best for you?
What’s the balance of theory/practical work?
Some courses will be more theory based and you may be taught more in the classroom. Others will be more practical in nature and may require more laboratory work. Asking this question can help you to better understand what skills and competencies you’ll learn during the course of your degree.
How will you be assessed?
This is a question that will help you to determine your workload and will help you to align the degree course with how you like to learn. Is the degree mainly assessed through exams, or is there more coursework/written assessments? Or a fairly even mix of both? Will you be expected to complete a dissertation or extended written assessment?
What qualification will you graduate with?
You’ll hopefully know the answer to this question before you go to an open day – but just in case you haven’t, it’s definitely worth asking. Some engineering degree courses are four years long, and you will come out with a Masters of Engineering (MEng). Others will see you graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng).
Even if the degree is four years in length, it’s worth finding out what grades you will need to proceed to that fourth Masters year – if your marks aren’t high enough, you’ll only be awarded a Bachelor’s degree.
Will you be a chartered engineer at the end of my degree?
As well as a university degree, some engineering courses will also lead you to achieving Chartered Engineer status through a relevant professional body. This can be a real boost to your career, and it’s worth asking if the degree will lead to you achieving chartered status, and the criteria you will need to meet in order to get there.
What opportunities are there for further study?
You may already be thinking that you want to go on to study a more specialised engineering-based masters degree after your undergraduate course. You may even want to move into research and study towards a PhD. If this is relevant to you, then don’t forget to make some enquiries!
What are the graduate outcomes for this degree?
Or, to put it another way, will I get a good job after my degree is over? It’s worth asking what the employment prospects are for previous undergraduates. Has the faculty got any stats about how many graduates of this degree were employed after one year, or what their average starting salary was?
What career support will you get whilst studying?
You’ll want support in finding a good job whilst you’re still at university too. So it’s worth asking what careers advice you can access during the course of your engineering degree. Is there a careers office at the university that will be able to help you with, for example, organising relevant work placements or internships while you study?
How will your placement/year in industry be organised?
Some university degrees (for example, vocational degrees) will include an industrial placement or a year in industry. If you’re applying for one of these degrees, ensure you ask questions about the faculty’s connections with industry. Is your placement organised for you, or will you have to organise it yourself?
What do current undergraduates have to say about the course?
Don’t forget to ask current undergraduates what their experience of the course, and the university is like. This is a valuable opportunity to get the perspective of people who are your peers. Remember that university faculties are trying to market themselves to you, so current students can give you more of a rounded perspective of life on campus.
And don’t forget to ask some extra-curricular questions too!
You’re not just there to ask questions about the course. Remember that a university open day is your chance to find out if the campus is somewhere you can see yourself spending the next three/four years of your life. As much as the course may be an academic fit, are you going to be happy studying there? Some useful questions to ask include:
- What societies/clubs can you join?
- What’s the accommodation on campus like?
- What pastoral support will you receive from your Student Union?
- Can you take a look at the halls of residence? Will catered or self-catered be the best option for you?
An open day can be an invaluable research tool. Studying an engineering degree will go from being something you read about in a university prospectus or on a website, to a real, tangible possibility. It can give you a valuable insight into the everyday reality of being an engineering undergraduate.
It’s an opportunity you can’t afford to pass up.