Prepare for Events: Open Days / Career Events

A College Open Day is a major opportunity to get a first hand view of a college. Remember a college prospectus or website can only show so much. To really get a feel for the place, it is necessary to go to an Open Day and walk around, ask lots of questions, sit in on a class, even visit the canteen.  Such an event requires preparation if you are to get the most out of the day.  Click here to download a worksheet to help you to prepare.


Apart from college open days, many other types of career events are organized internally within schools and colleges e.g. workshops, information sessions, visiting guest speakers, mature student career events etc.

Other career events take place externally in various locations around the country. One of the biggest events is the Higher Options Conference which is held in September in the RDS, Dublin. Similar exhibitions on a smaller scale are organized throughout Ireland by regional branches of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.  The gradireland Graduate Careers Fair is Ireland’s biggest careers fair. Specifically for students and graduates, this event is your chance to meet over 120 employers, course providers, careers advisers and more and to find out about the opportunities theyhave for you.

Career fairs can seem quite daunting and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of people on the day, but you can minimise the anxiety with some basic preparation, such as reading the fair guide and researching the employers beforehand. Also it is an ideal opportunity to make yourself memorable with employers for the right reasons, by asking sensible, insightful questions. Don’t treat the fair as an end in itself. Take time to synthesise all the information and then take action, whether it’s applying for work experience, refining your CV or researching other options. Throughout the academic year, most colleges also offer employers an opportunity to connect with students on campus with a view to  promoting their graduate employment opportunities. 

Click here to view the Calendar of Career Events on Qualifax.

Getting the most out of college open days

Students must keep an open mind at college open days – November is the busiest month of the year for open days, with many of the larger universities and institutes of technology holding events to attract potential students . Open days are a hugely important part of making good choices when preparing to move to third level. Unfortunately, they are busy events and often students can find them overwhelming, especially if they are ill-prepared. With the right research and some careful consideration, open days can help create certainty for students as well as generating new ideas.

Preparation for such events is key, but many students do not complete enough research before attending open days. Often students may have seen one course in which they are interested in a particular institution and have read only about this course.

If students are going to an open day they should familiarise themselves with a range of courses in that institution (at the very least, carefully reading about the other courses within the same department). Next, they should make a list of all the courses in which they are interested. They should be aiming to find as many ‘maybe’ courses as possible at this stage, rather than just focusing on their first choice. Students should then jot down a list of questions they would like answered or things they would like to find out about. This will help them keep focused and give purpose to the day.

Finally, they should carefully examine the institution’s website. They will often have a map of the campus, a list of talks and other events. Students should take note of the time and locations of the different events they would like to attend and plan their day accordingly. There is a worksheet available on, which can help with this preparation.

Many institutions hold their open day on Fridays and Saturdays. The decision whether or not to attend an open day on a Friday or Saturday may be dictated by personal circumstances or distance to travel. However, whenever possible, students should avoid missing school to attend. When attending an open day, students should ensure they arrive early.

It is important to leave time to enjoy the events and atmosphere of the institution. Often, after doing a lot of research, a student’s decision on how to prioritise two similar courses in different institutions on the CAO form can come down to the vibe they get from the college. This is as legitimate a reason as any other, especially as the student will be spending at least the next four years in the college. The colleges’ clubs and societies often put on a great show and have fun events during open days. Taking time to enjoy these is all part of the experience.

Students should also take time to check out facilities such as student accommodation, sport facilities, scholarship opportunities etc. especially if a student has a particular talent or interest. This may help make the final decisions when considering their order of course preference on the CAO list.

Throughout the research process, it is important that students keep records of what they discover, as well as their thoughts and reflections. It is easy to get courses and colleges confused, and such records will help when it comes to deciding on the order of preference for CAO.

This article was first published on 6/11/2014 in the Irish Independent, article by Aoife Walsh , “Students must keep an open mind on open days”


Getting the best out of Open Days: Students must keep an open mind at college open days

Getting the best out of Open Days – Finding the best fit course for you requires serious thought and engagement. If you prepare well, Open Day experiences can provide an ideal opportunity to help you to do this even if you are sure of your course, you need to find out as much as you can about it before you put it on your CAO application.

Establish your interests: This might relate to subjects within school or quite different interests outside of school. Look for courses that fall within your area of interest. 

Eliminate what you dislike.

Research: Use the Internet to research these courses. Don’t limit the search to one college. Explore and you will be surprised at what information you will find about what you will be expected to study and the commitment that will be required.

Ask questions: You must ask. Be selfish about your own interest. Talk to students, lecturers, admission staff and any others who are at the stands. Make use of the short time available. Listen to others asking questions too and more importantly the answers they get.

Evaluate the experience: What have you gained from attending? What else do you need to find out? You will need to extend your network by searching far beyond Open Day engaging with your school, community, family and friends. Try and find graduates from the course who will only be delighted to share their experiences with you.

Remember: You will be in college for three or four years. It is important to make a course and college choice that suits you. Refine your questions as you find out more and follow up with the Colleges (and individual courses). They welcome your enquiries throughout the year.

For all courses you are thinking about: Ask yourself onequestion and ask it many times over the coming year, ‘How would I feel if I were offered this course in August?’. The answer might be telling.

College entry is highly competitive so be sure to give yourself lots of options in the area of your interest when completing the CAO application.

Open days are all about you, the student. Make things happen for you.

By Catherine O’Connor, Education Consultant at Trinity College Dublin and Author of Cracking the College Code, A practical guide to making the most of the first year college experience. Published by C J Fallon


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