An open day is an opportunity to show your prospects what student life is like at your university. It’s a chance to show off your campus, let prospects meet faculty members and encourage them to imagine what it would be like to study on one of your programmes.
A 2015 study by University of Derby found that 28% of students wish they’d done more research before choosing a university. Students entering higher education clearly want access to practical information about a university before choosing which to apply to.
By encouraging prospects to learn about your university first hand, you can provide a vivid and detailed depiction of student life at your university and stenghten a prospect's connection to your institution.
Here are four tips for organising an informative open day that inspires prospects to apply to your university.
Track registrations and attendance
Once you have a date for your open day, publicise it online by creating a landing page on your website. Include a form by which prospects can register their interest – this allows you to capture their name and email address. With this data, you can them send reminder emails and content in the lead up to the open day.
A good registration form will make the open day itself easier as well. Load your form onto a tablet and ask attendees to enter their details as they arrive on campus. This allows you to accurately keep track of who attended the event and helps you monitor prospects' engagement levels.
Send useful content
Once prospects let you know they’re interested in attending your open day, send them some practical content in the lead up to the event. Send a PDF map of your campus they can view online or print for reference. Break attendees down into groups according to their location and send each group recommended travel routes.
You want your prospects to get the most of out the day, so some send them tips explaining how they can do so. For inspiration, see our blog post students: how to make the most of an open day.
There’s a danger that your open day presents an unbalanced or even unrealistic version of your institution by bigging up the positives and glossing over everything else. As a precautionary tale, take this quote from The Guardian: “universities on open days are like Photoshopped celebrities: cleaner, prettier versions of reality where the ugly bits are all hidden from view.”
Put your best foot forward but don’t give visitors unrealistic expectations. Don’t pretend that campus doesn’t get noisy on a Friday night or design a tour route which skips the out-dated facilities you’re less proud of. Prospects are likely to want to explore the campus themselves at some point during the day anyway. Prospects appreciate honesty, so it’s best to present an authentic overview of your university.
Provide a range of perspectives
Most university open days feature a talk from or a meet-and-greet with a member of faculty. This asserts your institution’s academic credentials and allows your prospects to learn about your programmes in finer detail.
However, it’s important to not just provide an academic perspective. Prospects will want to hear what student life is like from existing students themselves. Make sure visitors get a chance to do so by involving existing students as tour guides or speakers.
It’s a good idea to involve alumni as well. Prospects will appreciate meeting an engaged member of your alumni community who can provide an informed insight into student life and speak about how they transitioned from work to employment.
Offer a digital alternative
Not all prospects will be able to attend your open day, whether due to their distance from your campus, the cost of travel or their being otherwise engaged on the date of your event. Consider holding a webinar covering the sort of topics you will address during the physical event.
Webinars are cost-effective and accessible anywhere that has an internet connection. Although webinar attendees may not meet your team members in person, Q&A sessions at the end of a digital session allow participants to have their queries answered and ensure an interactive element.
For a more high-tech approach, you could design a virtual campus tour by using 3D or virtual reality. Oxford Brookes became the first UK university to offer a virtual reality campus tour in October 2016. 3D and VR offer an exciting way to engage with prospective students and particularly suit tech-focused institutions and courses specialising in emerging technologies.
To learn more about how FULL FABRIC can help your university organise more efficient events with a greater ROI, schedule a free consultation with one of our team members.