UCAS exhibitions are great – the ball is in your court as it’s your chance to quiz the universities that take your interest, so why don’t enough of us make the most of it?

I must admit that I am guilty of not using the exhibitions to their full potential. I remember I went with the idea that I wanted to study journalism – shamefully unaware of the variety of courses available, Broadcast, Multimedia, Public Relations – the list goes on!

Don’t think of it as an easy day out to escape the classroom – think of it as an important step towards making the right decision for your future. I’ve made a list of the things I wish I’d known before attending an exhibition, so check it out to make sure you’re 101% prepared.

What to expect

UCAS exhibitions are usually held in big, spacious places – the one I attended was held at ExCel London. Plenty of room means there’s plenty of opportunity for universities from far and wide to pay a visit. You can expect to be at an exhibition for a good few hours – if not most of the day, so it’s a good idea to bring a packed lunch to save yourself from having to splash out on buying food.

Often there are group talks that happen during the exhibition, these aren’t compulsory but it’s a good idea to attend one if you get the chance! Use this time to sit down and pick up a few extra tips on student finance and the process of applying for university.

Get Googling

Research! Even if you’re not researching a particular university, just have a look at what courses are out there – if any take your interest, write them down.

If you can identify a specific area you want to go into (for me, it turned out to be broadcast journalism) note down a few questions about what facilities they have to offer that will support your studies. Even just the smallest base of knowledge could be the big deciding factor for your future.

Remember that no question is a stupid question – ask anything that springs to mind!

Never heard of it? Now’s the chance

Don’t just focus on the universities you’ve heard of. You may discover a hidden gem just by being open minded and having a chat (even just a short one!). Trust me, I had never heard of the University of Salford – it doesn’t bear thinking about that I could have missed it!

It’s also important to mention that you shouldn’t be thinking about distance – Manchester’s caught your eye but you’re from Brighton? Doesn’t matter. Whether you want to move away from home or not, at least give yourself the option in case you change your mind.

This isn’t Instagram, it’s real life

Don’t be a follower. Future you won’t care what universities your best mates were looking at – you have to be independent. By all means go around the stalls together, but make sure you get time to chat to the ones that catch your eye!

There’s no rush – support each other!

Prepare to be dazzled

Every university will want your attention, your time and your details. They want you. The stalls will most likely be a strong 10/10 for presentation, and will be readily geared up to tell you about why you should study with them. Don’t be phased – quiz them on everything you want to know. It’s not all about appearance after all.

Oh and just a quick tip – be prepared to come back with a new supply of pens, a lifetime supply of pocket-sized highlighters and whatever else you can put a university’s name on. Pack light, trust me.

Don’t do this just to be polite

Ever taken a leaflet out of someone’s hand on the street because it was there?

Did it go straight in the trash?

Most likely.

This is the same with prospectuses – you don’t have to collect them all. If you are really invested in a university, then yes! Pick one up, it’s worth the weight. But trust me – you do not want to be carrying around 10kg of books all day. I mean, unless you really really want to, but I’d much rather check the website.

How to get ahead of the game

Accommodation and student life didn’t cross my mind until I’d accepted my offer. Now as an experienced second-year student, I know that the more prepared and informed you are on these things the better. Get a head start, know which halls are the best for first years, how good the shopping is and what the location has to offer. Think about the WHOLE experience.

Remember, even if you’re unsure on whether you want to move away from home or not, it’s a great idea to ask these things anyway – you never know!

Spam? Sign me up!

Signing up to a university’s mailing list is a great idea. It’s the most useful spam you will ever receive. It’s a great way to stay involved, in contact and up to date with the application process. Social media is also a fantastic way to gain an insight into university life – whether this be a simple follow on Instagram or joining a group on Facebook. I can’t think of a university that doesn’t have its own social platforms!

UCAS exhibitions are important, they are worthwhile and SO helpful. Use this blog as a guide to get you started – get jotting some questions down and prepare to do some investigating.

If you have a university related question for me, leave a comment below! Good luck!