Six steps to getting the most out of college/sixth form open days
If your son/daughter/young person in your care is in year 11 (or even year 10 or earlier!) and you are helping them research post-16 options, read our latest blog post to find out how to get the most out of school/college open days/evenings.
Whether you choose to go along with them, or they prefer to visit on their own, here are six steps to success:
1 - Don’t delay
Go along to open days/evenings as soon as possible, as they can really help with decisions about which college or sixth form to apply to. Next September (or event this September) may seem a long way away to many teenagers, but schools and colleges tend to hold open evenings in the autumn and spring terms ready for courses starting that same year or the following year.
Individual school or college websites should have details of available dates. Bear in mind that larger schools and colleges may have more than one date depending on the campuses/subject areas/apprenticeships they offer.
2 - Do your research
Have a good look round the website or a course guide/prospectus beforehand if possible, so you can prepare a few questions for the day.
On arrival at the event, read the open day flyer/guide if available – it can be tempting to pop the information you’re given straight into a bag and head on in, but many schools or colleges will provide a schedule and it’s good to have a quick read through before ploughing on. It will ensure you get the most out of the visit.
3 - Get involved!
If there are ‘have a go’ activities, talks, tours or information sessions, do encourage your son or daughter to get involved. They may be shy at this stage, but it’s a great way for both you and them to get a well-rounded view of what’s on offer and to give you ideas for questions to ask staff.
While you’re there, ask if there are any other opportunities to find out about courses in more detail. For example, they may offer taster sessions/mini lectures/workshops where potential students can attend during the day to see what college life is really like.
4 - Talk to us!
The staff at open events have a wealth of knowledge about their subject areas and will be very happy to answer your questions. Often there will be specialist advisers to talk about finance, student support, apprenticeships and more, so feel free to bring that list of questions we mentioned along with you!
Where possible, encourage your son or daughter to chat directly to staff. If there are any more complex questions that can’t be answered immediately, they’ll be sure to give you information on what to do next.
At some events you’ll also get chance to meet current students – the insight they can give is priceless! Even if there isn’t someone on the specific course your son or daughter is interested in, they’ll give a good idea of what life at college or sixth form is really like and can make school leavers feel at home before they’ve even applied. They can also explain what the style of learning is like and how it’s different to school.
5 - Keep your eyes peeled
If you take a formal tour or are invited to have a walk around, have a look at the type of classrooms/workshops/labs available. Depending on the provider, it could be very different to school!
For example, at Central we have a professional-standard studio for photography, a working commercial garage for automotive, spacious, practical workshops for a wide range of courses including construction and engineering, hair and beauty salons, and even an aircraft cabin for travel and tourism students!
While you’re there, have a look at or ask about what else is on offer. Is there a café or canteen, what are the library and computer facilities like, do they offer sports clubs/a students’ union? It’s all part of the student experience!
6 - After the event
Aim to have a chat about how it went and discuss next steps while it’s still fresh in your minds. What options were available, e.g. what types of courses and are they full-time, part-time, apprenticeships? It’s a good idea to get booked onto any taster sessions/further events as soon as possible if they need more information before making a decision. Or, contact the school or college direct. Now is the time to apply if they’ve made a decision.
At this stage if your son or daughter still isn’t sure what to do, they can also speak to their school or contact an organisation such as Futures. Futures are jointly owned by Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council. They are a not-for-profit provider of jobs and skills advice, training, apprenticeships and support to young people and adults who need help preparing for work or training: