Picking a postsecondary school is hard. Picking a school when your decision relies on your experience at a virtual open day seems almost impossible. Gone are the days when students could walk the campus of their prospective schools, take in the atmosphere, and ask tour guides questions face-to-face.

In fact, even current university students aren’t present on campus. As of June 2020, 97% of US college students switched to online learning. Further reinforced by the fact that schools are investing in more remote learning tools, we can assume the trend of connecting with current and prospective students virtually is a trend that’s here to stay.

Cue the walk-on music for Virtual Open Days.

Blackboard and laptop

What Is A Virtual Open Day?

Virtual open days are events put on by college and university campuses to attract new students to their schools. In the past, open days consisted of campus tours, exhibits where students could learn about various programs, opportunities for students to meet recruiters and staff face-to-face, ask questions, and more. The point of any open day is to inform students and get them excited about a particular school. 

Virtual Open Days existed before 2020, but they have boomed in the past year. Due to COVID-19, many schools are offering virtual channels to continue connecting with prospective students. A quick online search for ‘virtual open days’ will yield tons of results and upcoming events. These virtual events offer a lot of similar capabilities an event on campus would offer. These include virtual campus tours, networking opportunities, and presentations and exhibits about programs and departments. 

Just as schools need to be prepared to engage students in new ways, students need to be prepared for these events in order to make the most of them, and to make sure they feel confident in choosing a school. 

If you’re a student thinking of attending some virtual open days, here’s how to make the most of it.

Person writing on notebook

1. Choose an area of interest. 

The first step is figuring out what programs or faculties you want to learn more about.

2. Research which schools offer what you want.

Understand the programs offered, admissions requirements, locations, and other information about schools that have faculties in your area of interest. You can use this online school ranking tool to see what the best schools are based on your criteria. 

3. Make a shortlist of schools you want to learn more about.

Try to attend open days for each school on your list. Remember, you don’t have to attend every single open day for every single school!

4. Register early.

Event organizers tend to send communications leading up to the open day, so don’t miss out on some valuable information and sneak peeks.

Desk calendar and laptop

5. Mark your calendar.

Registering early helps you keep track of what events are happening on which days so you don’t overbook yourself. 

6. Set goals.

Make the most of your experience by setting some goals for yourself. Write down a list of questions you plan to have answered by the end of your virtual open day.

List of goals

7. Set up your space.

Find a quiet, brightly lit space where you can focus. Set up your computer, test the wifi, and make sure you have everything you need nearby such as water and snacks.

8. Reduce distractions.

Make sure you’re in a quiet, tidy space. Be sure your browser is clean as well. Mute your messages, close social media, and don’t keep any other tabs open so that you can focus better.

Male watching desktop screen

9. Attend an info session.

Hear from faculty, staff, or even students through interactive info sessions. Live presentations will give you the chance to listen and ask questions in real time, and most pre-recorded options also host a chatroom where students and parents interact with school representatives.

10. Visit info booths.

Schools usually host exhibits that help students learn about various programs, campus culture, housing, and financial aid options. You can speak with a live representative, review admissions requirements, and download reference materials to review later — all within the virtual booth!

11. Network.

Speak with other students, faculty, staff, and current students through an event chat board. You can start a 1-on-1 private chat, audio call, or video call, and there could also be the option to schedule a meeting with a specific representative so they can help answer the questions you’ve prepared.

Texting on a phone

12. Collect contact info.

Make sure to get information from any key contacts that may be able to answer more questions once the open day has ended.

13. Review your materials.

Once you’ve saved exhibit documents to your virtual swag bag, make sure to email them to yourself to review after the virtual open day. These will serve as important reference documents as you make your decision about which school to attend.

Technology knowhow

14. Follow up.

Even if you get all the info you can, you still may have some questions that come up after the event. Use your new connections to help you discover more about the school. After all, they’re there to help you! 

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