Please note this post has been updated for 2019 and includes some new information!
Our eldest child is in his last year of secondary school and he wants to go to uni. He attended many Open Days last year and while he was not necessarily jumping for joy about attending them he did get a lot out of them.
I am positive that there are kids out there who love University Open Days, know when they are on and sort themselves out completely to attend them all.
Our eldest wasn’t like that. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go, it was just that the pull to sleep in on the weekend or do something entertaining was very strong compared to the thought of planning and attending Uni Open Days.
As parent I really try to stick to the philosophy of getting kids to do what they are capable of for themselves. Our son was completely capable of sorting out the Uni Open Days, but it just wasn’t happening.
At this stage he really didn’t know what he wanted to do at uni, so I weighed up and felt the best approach was for me to give him a push in the right direction and help him plan and organise attending the Open Uni Days. This is what we did.
Find out when the Uni Open Days are
There are a huge number of Uni Open Days. VTAC has a comprehensive list of Uni Open Days all around Victoria.
This is the Uni Open Day season for Victoria in 2016:
Often there are more than one on any given day, so you need to make a choice about whether you will do both or not. I think this is a key reason to encourage kids to attend Uni Open Days in Year 11 and Year 12.
Last year Monash and Swinburne had their Uni Open Days on the same day. Our son went to Swinburne last year, so will go to Monash this year.
He decided which Uni Open Days he wanted to attend and then it was on to planning what he would do when he went.
Use the online planners
The online planners provided by the universities are an excellent tool and really allow you to focus on key areas of interest. There is so much on at Uni Open Days that it can be overwhelming to work out what sessions to attend.
The Monash planner for example lets you enter key interest areas and the types of activities they are interested in:
Once they have chosen the sessions they want to attend, they can add them to a plan and then it creates a schedule for their Uni Open Day visit.
Before our son attended the Uni Open Days last year, he had a super vague idea of what he might like to do. This of course makes choosing sessions to attend a little trickier.
When working on the plan for the days, I suggested to him to try a mix of things. For one open day we ended up choosing three sessions all roughly in the Info tech area, but they were all quite different. He hated one of them, felt one of them was too techy and really liked the other. By choosing a range of sessions it actually helped narrow down his area of interest.
We did do an even broader version of this for another Uni Open Day, with a session outside his area of interest completely but he ended not attending that – you can only try!
Decide if you need to be there
With our eldest child, he was not keen on us going with him but to remove any barrier to going, we agreed that we would take him and pick him up when possible from the Uni Open Days. He gets public transport to school every day and is very capable of navigating the public transport system, but to show our support and encouragement for attending we felt this worked best for us.
Once he knew where he was and where he had to go, we let him do the sessions on his own.
2019 edit: For our second child, I have gone along to a number of open days with him last year and will do at least one this year. He is still unsure about what he would like to do next year, so some additional support with where to go and what questions to ask is needed.
Encourage them to get an overall feel for the Uni
There is much more to Uni than just classes, so we encouraged him to get an overall feel for the places he attended. We gave him money to buy some lunch and made sure there was time between sessions so he could take in everything else that was going on. Doing this at one particular uni meant he came home and said he couldn’t see himself going there – further narrowing down his choices!
Uni Open Days can really help students narrow down their area of interests and determine the type of courses and campuses that will suit them. For those kids who aren’t keen, assisting them with the planning component can help get them out of the house and onto campus.
VCE and Careers Expo
This year I attended the VCE and Careers Expo with our second child. We went later in the day and spent about 75 minutes there and found it to be hugely beneficial.
If your child has no idea what they want to do after school then I would recommend attending this first before open days. It is usually held early May each year at Caulfield Racecourse.
Every uni and higher learning institution is there along with other vocational institutions that may be of interest to kids at secondary school age.
We had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions from 4 – 5 different places and this has helped us focus what Uni Open Days we will attend this year.
This format allows you to take a top level of view of institutions, the courses they offer and the requirements they have set. You can then find out more by going to the Uni Open Days that are most relevant to your child.
As noted above I think kids do need to get a feel for the Uni they are thinking of attending, so it is important that they do visit it, but the VCE and Careers Expo can help them narrow down their choices if they are unsure.