Blog post

Parents’ guide to open days

Your child is facing one of the biggest decisions of their life so far – if and where to go to university. It can be a tense time for us parents too, particularly if your loved one has never been away from home before.

By Heather Turley - 27 May 2022

Open days are a great way for all of you to get to know the universities your child is considering. You don’t have to attend with them – some young people prefer to visit with friends or siblings – but, if you do, you’ll share an important part of their journey with them.

Having a plan makes a big difference. Here are our tips on how to get the most out of attending an open day with your child.

Decide where to go

Draw up a list of the universities your child is interested in. Double-check the course details to make sure they match what your child is looking for. Encourage them to book a place and add to your family calendar so that the date is clear in everyone’s mind.

Plan the journey

Make sure you know how far it is, and the best way to travel. Is there free parking at the campus? Do you need to book accommodation? Does the university provide a list of places to stay nearby?

Don’t overdo it

An open day is exhausting. There’s a lot of information to take in and, depending on the layout of the university, you can end up racking up that step count. Some families try to cover more than one open day if there are universities nearby holding them on the same day. It might seem an efficient use of time, but can be overwhelming and often result in a lot of rushing around. 


Decide on the most important things that you all want to cover in the day. Subject sessions are usually top of the list, followed by accommodation if your child is planning to live away from home. It’s hugely reassuring for parents to have a look at where their child might be living, so make time for this if you can. Are they into sport? Make sure they take a look at the facilities.

Two parents using a map at an Open Day

Be practical

Think about the practical questions your child might not have considered yet. Do you need to know key dates? If you’ve got family plans over the summer and early autumn, it’s worth checking when term is likely to start. Will they need student parking? Do they have specific needs, and how can you find out about support for those?

Chat to staff

It’s always worth taking time to chat to staff, and not just the academic team. Many of the staff members working an open day have been through the experience with their own family, and are usually happy to share advice.

Don’t take over

You know your child best and will know if they need you to take the lead. But be mindful that this is their day and their opportunity to make an important, life-changing decision. So encourage them to speak up if they can and make sure they have all the information they need.

Make time for breaks

You’ll be tempted to pack in as much as possible, but do take time out occasionally. Stop for a drink and schedule a proper lunch break. You’ll have more stamina to keep going. 

Bring a pen and paper

It may be low-tech, but having somewhere to jot down some notes as you go is surprisingly helpful. You’ll need a few reminders as open days can all blend into one after a while. You might also want to bring a bag for all the freebies you’ll end up carrying – although many universities will offer you a snazzy tote bag.

A student and guests being shown around an Open Day


Have a chat as soon as you can afterwards, perhaps on the journey home or when you get back. Get their first impressions, and share yours. You could draw up a pros and cons list to help guide your thinking. Use any notes you made during the day to guide you.

You can always come back

You’re on a mission to get as much information as possible, but if you haven’t managed to pack it all in, you can always come back. Obviously this depends on how far you’ve travelled and whether that’s practical for you as a family. But there are alternatives to visiting for those extra questions – universities are usually happy to answer questions by email, or there may be an online chat function you or your child can use. And in our digital world, there’s a wealth of resources for you, including virtual tours, vlogs and blogs.

Enjoy the day – open days are great fun for everyone involved, and you’ll meet enthusiastic staff and students who are proud of their university.

Kedleston Road, Derby Campus entrance

Undergraduate Open Days

The best way to find out if studying at Derby is right for you is to experience an Open Day. Get a feel for the city and campus, tour our first-class facilities and see where you could be living.

Book your undergraduate Open DayBook your undergraduate Open Day

About the author

Heather Turley smiling

Heather Turley
Production Editor

Heather is the Production Editor at the University of Derby, and the parent of one Derby graduate and one current Derby student.