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Ultimate Guide to Oxford and Cambridge Open Days

What are the Oxford and Cambridge Open Days? 

Open Days are one of the best ways to find out whether a university is for you. They are especially important if you are thinking of applying for either Oxford or Cambridge, as both universities are utterly unique and worth seeing for yourself. During Open Days, the universities welcome prospective students to look around different faculties and colleges, which run various talks, Q&A sessions, and tours. 

Oxford University – Friday, 16th September 2022​
Cambridge University – 15th Sept. & 16th Sept, 2022​

How do I make the most of my Open Days Visit?

Don't be afraid to ask
Decide on a virtual or in person visit

This year, Cambridge Open Days are retaining the online format that many universities adopted during the pandemic and is offering a hybrid programme of events that can be attended either online or in-person at its Open Days. The virtual option is great if you live further afield, but nothing really compares to experiencing the city first-hand. Oxford has discontinued its online Open Days.
Think about cost

Oxford offers a lot of support to prospective students that may struggle to attend otherwise, because of either financial pressures or issues of distance. KebleMagdalen, Christ Church, and Merton all have college travel schemes to help cover the cost of getting to Oxford for an Open Day, and several more let prospective students who have travelled from afar stay overnight. 
Book ahead if needed

University of Cambridge Open Days require booking, and timetables detailing the different events available at faculties and colleges are only available via email to those who have signed up in advance. 

Oxford’s timetables are available on their website and booking for the Open Days isn’t mandatory, but certain popular events do get booked up fast. 
Check faculty locations

If you want to check out more than one faculty, be sure to make enough time for everything. For those interested in applying for a Joint Honours course, it’s worth checking the timetables for each of the faculties that run the course and where they are in relation to each other. The English faculty is on the opposite side of Oxford from the History one, so getting from one to the other might require a bit more planning! 

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Do course oriented events

Whether you intend to visit more than one faculty or not, it’s worth prioritising course-oriented events above college ones. The colleges tend to be easier to visit on non-Open days. 
Check out all of the colleges

Open Days are, however, still a good opportunity to explore what sort of college might be the right fit for you, so try to fit a couple in. Maybe choose one that seems to tick all your boxes and one that you’ve never heard of before – you might be pleasantly surprised!
Visit on non-Open Days too

 It’s worth bearing in mind that if you are unable to make any of the Open Day dates or would rather have the opportunity to explore the cities and universities at your own pace, you can always choose to visit on a different day. Almost all of the colleges are happy to let prospective students look around and most will have prospectuses available in the Porter’s Lodge. This option does mean, however, that you won’t have the chance to attend the seminars and Q&As that are held on the Open Days, and you will probably struggle to have a look inside faculty buildings.
Revisit colleges if you can

What To Bring to Oxford and Cambridge Open Days

  • Dress appropriately: the weather in both cities can be unpredictable, so be sure to check the forecast beforehand and figure out whether suncream and a sunhat or a raincoat and umbrella is most appropriate. 
  • Comfortable shoes: you’ll be walking a lot and, in Oxford especially, the cobbled historic centre can be tough on the feet.
  •  A good supply of snacks: cafes and restaurants tend to get very busy, especially on Open Days, and you won’t necessarily have the time in your schedule to find food.
  • Companions: a parent or guardian is always a wise choice, but it can also be fun to go with friends, especially if there are people at your school who are interested in applying for the same course. Look out for the Optimal Oxbridge crew who will be around, giving you more information about the Optimizer and are available to give you directions and advice about the cities, faculties and colleges.
  • List of questions for students and tutors: perhaps most important of all is preparing what you want to ask of the students and tutors that you will meet at the Open Day. There’s no point in asking questions with answers that are already easily available online, so do a bit of a research to ensure that what you ask is really going to be valuable to your application.

Getting There

  • By Car: Neither city is remotely car-friendly, and if you are driving, it’s recommended that you use one of the park-and-ride schemes (£4 in Oxford and £3 in Cambridge), rather than try to find parking in the centre. 
  • By Coach: Coaches run to Oxford from Birmingham and London, as well as from most major airports in the South-East, and to Cambridge from London and Heathrow. This mode of transport tends to be more affordable than rail – the Oxford Tube, which runs from London Victoria, has £16 open returns for under-26s – but bear in mind that it takes a bit longer and is more susceptible to traffic delays! 
  • By Train: If you book train tickets well in advance, these can be surprisingly cheap, depending on your point of departure. Chiltern Railways, which runs from London Marylebone, tends to be much cheaper than GWR, which runs from Paddington, with tickets starting at just £5.40, and both are much cheaper if you book in advance – although the costs of tickets will rise during peak hours. Both universities have well-served train stations, which are about a fifteen-minute walk or ten-minute bus ride from the centre – although it’s definitely worth checking how long the travel time is from the station to the venue of your first talk.

Good luck and enjoy the Oxford and Cambridge Open Days! We hope they inspire you to apply to one of these beautiful universities.

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