Physical vs virtual Uni Open Days: What’s the diff?

University Open Day
Uni Open Days usually have programs dedicated to STEM fields, where you can visit the facilities and talk to current students, lecturers and careers advisors. Image: Shutterstock

If you’re in Year 12 university open days are a great way to check out specific courses and campuses. And this year, loads of them are virtual

If you’re in Year 12 and have 2021 on your mind, heading along to a University Open Day could equip you with the clarity needed to narrow down your pathway options.

Sitting in on lectures, chatting to course co-ordinators and meeting real-life undergraduates are some of the intro activities that generally go down, although this year, a lot of them are offering virtual university tours (or even a mix of the two).

Here we and answer your most common Open Day questions with both formats in mind – and yep, they’re both just as comprehensive at giving you an insight into undergraduate pathway and extra-curricular opportunities.

Can I have a look around the campus?

Physical Open Days: On Uni Open Days campuses are generally buzzing with tours, information sessions, games, competitions, student performances and yep – even barbecues. Make sure you swing by the hubs for the courses you’re interested in so you can get a good feel for the resources that are available to students (think: library and computer lab capacity). Oh, and don’t forget to hit up the student union for info about study/career/mental health support services, sporting clubs and societies dedicated to social events! Campuses are often pretty huge so see if there’s an app available to help you navigate so you don’t get too lost.

Uni Open Day
Get your hands on an itinerary so you can tick off everything you want to do, but leave some time to wander around so you can stumble across something cool (yep, like giant bean bags). Image: Shutterstock

Virtual Open Days: OK, so your Uni isn’t doing the IRL Open Day thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a stroll down the main walkway and get a feel for the atmosphere of the campus. Loads have pre-recorded tours that you can log into online – while others are using VR capabilities to offer live 360-degree sessions with actual student tour guides. Sure, you won’t be able to take advantage of any exciting food stalls, but being able to chill at home and log in in-between Netflix episodes should make up for it.

How do I get more info on specific courses?

Physical Open Days: During a real life University Open Day you’ll get a chance to chat to course co-ordinators and lecturers, so come prepped with any questions you might have about the content and majors. Don’t know what to ask? You’ll probably want to suss the contact hours per week, the types of assessment and the balance between theory and practice. Check Uni websites to see whether you need to book in these informal chats online – otherwise it could be a rock up and pop your name down-type set up.

Virtual Open Days: For the Universities doing the virtual thing, many have the very cool offering of live chatting with course co-ordinators. Again, check in with your Uni if this is a pre-booked arrangement. Popping a list of questions together – and keeping them nearby – is a great way to make sure you get all the info you need out of the chat. Make a note of any extra-curricular programs that seem like your vibe too – competitions, industry internships and exchange programs are always pretty cool perks.

Will I get a chance to suss out student clubs and societies?

Physical Open Days: One of the best ways to enrich your uni experience is to join a student society, and during a University Open Day their members are generally out in full force. Look out for students advertising their clubs – signing up members, sharing upcoming events and giving away freebies. You never know – you could even make your first friend before you’re even enrolled.

Virtual Open Days: Most Universities have a list of clubs and societies on their websites, with some of the bigger student-run groups set-up with their own sophisticated social accounts. No physical event? No worries! Make sure you start following your faves, and turn notifications on for updates on meet-ups, events and how to sign up.  Engineering, science, maths, CS, Women in Tech/STEM societies tend to attract lots of students looking for pathway and career support, as well as parties and study groups.


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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