How to make the most of school and college open days

How to make the most of school and college open days

School Open Days are a fantastic resource for parents and students. They offer prospective students the opportunity to gain a comprehensive overview of the institution as well as meeting senior members of staff to ask any questions and discuss your requirements.

This article will look at:

What is an Open Day?

An Open Day is a time when schools and colleges open for visits by prospective parents and students who are researching institutions and deciding where to apply. As part of an Open Day, visitors will receive a guided tour of the facilities and be able to form an impression about the atmosphere and ethos of an institution, which is particularly true if it is possible to see any lessons in progress. An overview will also usually be given about an institution including information such as the courses offered, the extra-curricular options available, the approach to teaching and pastoral care and an explanation of the admissions procedure.

Who is an Open Day for?

Open Days are aimed at any parent or student who is considering an application to that particular school or college. As Open Days fulfil fact-finding exercises they are not suitable for existing parents or students, who should have a contact within the school or college (for example a form tutor or Director of Studies) with whom to discuss any queries and review progress.

Many institutions offer admissions meetings as part of the enrolment process and at MPW these will be focussed on learning more about the student and their requirements. A school Open Day is the opposite of this: the school is ‘on show’ and the day is organised to allow students to learn more about an institution rather than vice versa.

What are the benefits of attending an Open Day?

Attending a school Open Day is the most thorough way of learning more about an institution. The purpose of these events is to enable students and parents to see a school from an insider’s perspective and staff will therefore be willing to spend time in conversation with prospective parents and students. Visiting a school outside of an Open Day makes this more difficult as staff will of course be primarily engaged in their usual jobs, so although it may be possible to observe part of a lesson, it will be less straightforward to subsequently meet with Heads of Department and teaching staff if students wish to discuss their subject further and ask more about the syllabus, examination style or how teaching is organised.

It is usually possible to meet current students at a school Open Day. There is no-one better placed to provide information about an education provider than the students themselves and the chance to talk with them is one of the best ways to learn about the strength of the teaching, the kind of pastoral care they are receiving and perhaps most fundamentally whether they enjoy being a member of that institution. This can in turn help prospective students decide whether their impression of a school or college aligns with their expectations and requirements.

How can Open Days help in deciding where to apply?

Open Days give prospective parents and students a large amount of information about a school or college. It should be possible at an Open Day to quickly absorb details about the teaching style, the atmosphere, a typical student at that institution, the results and subsequent destinations of the students, and any further details. For this reason, Open Days are very helpful in assisting the decision-making process. It is also often possible to tailor the event towards specific areas of interest, for example someone who would like to know more about academic progression might be able to meet with a Head of Careers, a Director of Studies or the Registrar. Someone more concerned about support might spend more time in conversation with the Head of SEN (Special Educational Needs) and the welfare or pastoral team. 

As well as being a good way to quickly learn a lot of information about a school or college, Open Days allow parents and students to visit an institution relatively anonymously. Students who are nervous about the spotlight of a meeting with an admissions tutor to discuss more about a college will be able to absorb that same information quietly at the back of a room and can then consider their opinions about an institution and whether they would like to make an application in their own time.

What should you do at an Open Day?

Behaving proactively is the most effective way to get the most out of an Open Day. Staff at the event will be available to assist parents and students and will usually be more than happy to introduce the relevant authority to answer any questions. As a matter of course, not every visitor will meet every member of staff so being clear about any particular requirements and interests from the outset will facilitate meetings with the most relevant people.

Asking questions is a crucial part of Open Day attendance. Staff and students will usually provide an overview of the school or college and a general sense of student life. However, they will not be able to go into excessive detail about every single area of college life and will only do this when prompted. For example, if a football team has not been explicitly mentioned, this is not necessarily because one does not exist so do take the trouble to find out whether this is the case if this is something that matters to you. It is a good idea in advance of an Open Day to consider any specific areas of personal interest or importance and consider any questions. However, following an Open Day if additional questions arise upon reflection then do feel free to make contact with the school or college to discuss these. The contact details of the Admissions Officer or Registrar will usually be provided at the event in anticipation of this.

How are MPW’s Open Days organised?

There are three MPW colleges, based in London, Birmingham and Cambridge, and each organises its Open Days slightly differently to cater to local demand. If you are interested in attending an Open Day, it is advisable to book this in advance as far as possible because places are limited and availability may become restricted as the event approaches.

Open Day dates for academic year 2016/2017 are as follows:


Tuesday 22nd November 2016
Saturday 3rd December 2016
Tuesday 7th February 2017
Tuesday 25th April 2017


Saturday 18th March 2017
Saturday 25th March 2017


Thursday 20 October 2016
Thursday 9 February 2017
Thursday 1 June 2017

How can I book an Open Day?

If you are interested in attending an Open Day, contact the relevant college directly to learn more about the timings and organisation of the event and to reserve your place.