Short of going on a whistle-stop tour, your best option for getting a feel for your new uni life is online
by Antonia Windsor
With an online tour, you can explore virtually, ‘climbing’ stairs to lecture theatres.
You’ve found some courses you like the sound of in clearing and need to create a shortlist, but you need to act quickly and trekking around the country to check out the universities in person is obviously out. This is where virtual open days and online videos of student life, facilities and accommodation come into their own – because websites and prospectuses give you loads of information, but they don’t really give you the atmosphere of a place.
Some virtual open days, such as the one on Southampton University’s website, rely on the street view function of Google Maps to give you an idea of the distance between places, such as your departmental building and your accommodation, or the lecture theatre and the sports centre. Other universities have interactive features that tailor the virtual open day to your particular interests.
At the University of Westminster’s website you select up to three subjects you are interested in – and can also tick options to find out about fees and funding, accommodation, sport and fitness, or life in London. You’re then taken to the campuses you would be studying on, and can explore virtually, climbing up stairs and entering lecture theatres. You also get videos about the subjects you are interested in, which include soundbites from students and lecturers and links to further information.
If you want to get a feel for a large number of different places, head to the Ucas website where there’s a handy list of virtual tours that you can click your way through, listed in alphabetical order of institution. And once you’ve secured your place through clearing, most universities hold clearing open days in August, so you will get a chance to check out your chosen place out in person before starting in the autumn. You may even be able to sign up for an online presentation, such as those offered at the University of Hertfordshire, where you attend talks in a virtual classroom, type in questions and get live responses.
Once you’ve confirmed your place at university, you’ll probably want to head straight to your favourite social media channel to share the news with friends.
But as well as celebrating with old friends, now is the time to find new ones. Facebook is perhaps the best channel for virtually meeting people at your new university, as there will probably be pre-established groups or pages. Know where you will be living? Look for a group for your halls of residence. Interested in joining the drama society? Find the Facebook page and see what plays they have planned for the autumn.
Emerson Gaudin, who left Jersey a few years ago to study digital games at Falmouth University, found a general freshers page and a course-specific page before he went: a course page for talking informally to tutors and meeting people studying the same subject, and a general freshers’ page. “A few of us met up in the Student Union bar early in freshers’ week,” he says.
And if you can’t find a group, consider setting one up, with a name other students might search for: Cardiff University Geology students 2017-2020, for example.
Find fellow students by searching for your subject and the Twitter or Instagram handle of your institution after results day.
As always, remember to stay safe online. Don’t give out personal data and remember that people may present a false image of themselves online.
Articles by Antonia Windsor