Planning your day | University of Oxford
Student ambassador helping a visitor
Student ambassador helping a visitor

Planning your day

Top 10 Open Day tips

We know that many of you will be travelling long distances and taking time off school or work to come to our Open Days and we want to help you make the most of your time in Oxford. The tips below answer any questions you might have about attending!

1.      Try to spend a whole day in Oxford

There is so much to see and do on Open Days that we recommend you arrive early (first events start from 08:00) and be prepared to spend a full day in Oxford (last events end at 18:00). Remember, there is no central campus in Oxford so you’ll need time to walk between venues.

2.     Plan your journey or overnight stay

Our Open Days attract lots of visitors so you need to allow plenty of time to travel– we recommend adding up to one hour to the usual journey time. As some events fill up quickly, we’d encourage you to arrive early. Please read our travel advice for more information. 

Help with the cost of travelling to an Open Day

It can be expensive to get to Oxford so some colleges are now offering to help with the cost:

Terms and conditions apply. Further travel assistance schemes may become available and details will be announced on this page.

If you are travelling far, you might be able to stay the night at an Oxford college. This is often free of charge. Details about accommodation are available here. Unfortunately colleges are usually unable to accommodate parents - the Conference Oxford or Experience Oxfordshire websites may help you find somewhere else to stay.

3.     Sign up to our newsletter

Whether you need guidance on choosing which colleges to visit or tips on how to pick a course, our newsletters provide you with everything you need to make the most of an Open Day. A sign-up form for 2020 will be available shortly.

4.     Do some research before you come

We’d recommend reading about the Oxford application process before you come to Oxford. This will enable you to know which questions you haven’t been able to find an answer to. We hope you find all the information you need at the departments and colleges, but if you have any more questions, the admissions staff at the Open Day Information Centre will be more than happy to chat.

5.     On the day, visit subject departments first

Choosing a course is a really important decision and as departments are not normally open to visitors, we’d recommend focusing on this first. A good idea is to read about the courses you’re interested in before you come to Oxford and then work out which events to attend at which department. Most sessions don’t need booking but make sure you turn up early as they can get very busy.

6.     Then visit some colleges

The most popular question on Open Days is ‘which college should I visit?’  Visiting any of the colleges will give you a good idea how the college system in Oxford works and you won’t have time to visit them all! We’d recommend drawing up a shortlist before you come: first check which colleges offer your course and then use our advice on how to choose a college.

7.      Ask about financial support

Oxford offers generous financial support, with 1 in 4 Home/EU students in receipt of a bursary. You can pick up information about these scholarships and bursaries at most colleges and departments. If you have specific questions, the Fees and Funding staff will be at the Open Day Information Centre on the High Street, and the Information Points in Radcliffe Square and the Science Area.

8.     Ask about careers

Lots of students apply to a course with a career in mind, but it’s important to realise careers are not always linked to the degrees you would expect. Why not ask staff about what former students are doing now; or ask students about their future plans? If you have a specific question about the support we offer, you can visit the Careers Service staff at the Open Day Information Centre on the High Street, or at the Careers Service on Banbury Road.

9.     Open Days are for everyone:

Lots of prospective students come to Open Days with their family, friends or in school groups. If you’re visiting with your friends or school, be aware you will need to split up unless you are interested in the same course. If events are particularly busy, family members may be asked to give up their place for prospective students. However, there are many events specifically tailored to parents and carers.

10. What to bring 

  • Your plan for the day - write this down (including a shortlist of colleges)
  • Confirmation of any events you have booked to attend
  • A copy of the Open Days Guide which includes a map
  • A bag to carry all your papers
  • A raincoat, sun cream or both!
  • Comfortable shoes

Don’t bring

  • The car, if you can avoid it. Parking in Oxford isn’t easy... especially on Open Days.

24 hours in Oxford

If you are lucky enough to stay in Oxford the night before the Open Days (maybe even in an Oxford college), make the most of it by sampling student life with a visit to G&Ds for waffles or maybe catching a show at the Oxford Playhouse. Don't stay out too late though, because being first in the city means you can get ahead of the crowds.

8:30Start your day with an early-bird college tour at St Anne's, St Hilda's or Pembroke. Be sure to leave enough time to find your next destination.
9:00 or 10:00Arrive early (these get busy!) for your course talk. These are not always repeated later and you should allow at least 15 minutes to walk there.
12:15The lunch time slot between 12:15-14:00 is the ideal time to visit some colleges. All of them are open for tours at this time and some even offer lunch. See our map for more lunch suggestions.
14:00

Some departments re-run course talks after lunch, so check to see if there's anything else that interests you.

The Open Day Information Centre (ODIC) in the High Street is open all day, so once you've finished exploring the departments, come along to ask any questions you still have. There is a talk about Student Finance and Careers at 14:30 and a range of exhibition stands to visit.

15:00Visit another college or two to learn more about your course by talking to students and tutors. Allow an hour per college and narrow down your choices in advance. Visiting just one or two will give you a good idea how the college system works and you can use our 360° virtual tours online to look at other colleges when you get home.
17:00End the day at one of the colleges staying open until late - Lady Margaret Hall, Pembroke, St Catherine's or St Hugh's - and enjoy a well-earned drink and relaxed chat with tutors before making your way back home.

12 hours in Oxford

7:30If you can arrive really early, stop off for breakfast at one of our favourite spots - Queen's Lane Coffee House or Gail's Bakery - while you get all your questions ready for the day. 
8:00Make sure you've arrived by now (be at a Park & Ride by 8:00, or Oxford station by 8:30) to give yourself enough time to get into town and find your way to your first destination.
9:00 or 10:00 Spend the morning find out all you can about the courses you are interested in by attending the talks offered at departments. 
12:15 This is the ideal time to visit some colleges. Plan to spend about an hour at each - remember that you will meet students and tutors at colleges, so you can keep asking questions about your course.
14:00 

 After lunch, if you realise you would like to know more about another course, you may still be able to catch a repeated course talk in a department. Otherwise, continue with your college visits or call into the Open Day Information Centre (ODIC) where you can attend talks and pick up information about the admissions process, student finance and careers, international student services and student societies.

15:00 Once you've finished exploring the departments, spend the rest of the afternoon visiting another college or two - make sure it offers your course.
17:00If you don't have to rush off to get a bus or a train, end the day at Lady Margaret Hall, Pembroke, St Catherine's or St Hugh's and enjoy a well-earned drink and relaxed chat with tutors before making your way back home. 

6 hours in Oxford

If you really can't manage to spend a whole day in Oxford, we encourage you to prioritise learning all you can about your course.

9:00 or 10:00Head straight to the department that offers your course and attend any talks or sample lectures on offer. Most departments will have students and tutors available for you to talk to before or after the main talks so make the most of this opportunity by having your questions ready in advance.
12:15Once you've finished exploring the departments, spend the rest of the afternoon visiting another college or two - make sure it offers your course.
15:00Once you get home, follow up on what you've seen with the virtual tours available on our website.