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What are university fairs and how can you squeeze the most out of them?

Make the most of your time at a university fair with these top tips from members of The Student Room

What is a university fair or Ucas exhibition?

Also referred to as a convention or exhibition, university fairs usually follow the same rough format.

University fairs take place in a large venue where each university has a booth with a representative you can talk to about your university plans. You can ask any questions you have about that university to help you decide if they could be worth applying to, or just generally ask questions about going to uni.

Essentially, though, the university reps are there to sell you their university. They'll have prospectuses you can take with you, and probably a few (branded) freebies as well. 

Students from other local schools will be there too, so they can get quite busy. 

You might also hear some university fairs referred to as Ucas exhibitions – these are university fairs that Ucas runs across the country. There are also other organisations that run university fairs, though. 

Six tips to get the most from a university fair/Ucas exhibition

1. Have an idea of the universities you want to see

University conventions can feel a little overwhelimg when you first arrive, as there are so many universities packed into such a large space. You can make the most of your time at the fair by having an idea of the university stalls you definitely want to visit before you go. 

"The best thing to get the most out of it is to do some preparation before the event. The Ucas website will have a map/list of all the universities exhibiting. Print it out or make a list of any universities you definitely want prospectuses from," says The Student Room member PQ. 

"Make sure that you only pick up prospectuses for universities offering the subject area you’re interested in and if you are interested in a common subject try to filter it down to universities with entry requirements within a grade or two of what you’re hoping for and by location," they add. 

You can search for courses on The Uni Guide filtered by entry requirements, or take a look at our university profiles to see student satisfaction ratings and read student reviews. 

You could also visit The Student Room's forums for the universities you're interested in to see what other students are saying about them. 

2. Consider getting there early

The earlier you get there, the more time you'll have to look around and chat to students and staff at the universities – including some that may not have been on your original shortlist.

"Try to resist the rush – take your time, browse and look at stands and information for universities that you haven’t heard of/don’t know much about. You might be surprised or come across the perfect place for you," says PQ. 

3. Be prepared to queue and have questions in mind

For the most popular university stands, you might have to queue up for a few minutes and it could get a bit hectic. 

Prepare the questions you want to ask universities in advance to make the most of your time. For example, think about what information you'd like to hear about your preferred course/s (from modules and assessment style to entry requirements) or something you won't get from the prospectus. 

"Most of the people on stands will be current students so can give you a current impression of what the place is like," says jonathanemptage.

4. Make sure you speak to the right people to answer your questions

Be aware that different people will be more knowledgeable about different aspects of life at the university – students are probably going to be better placed to answers questions about the university's social events and nightlife than an admissions tutor would be, for example. 

"The first thing is to ask the job of the person you speak to. If they’re a marketing or outreach person then they’ll only have a very limited knowledge of the courses and admissions. If they’re a student then they’ll only have good knowledge of their own course and student life information. If you have detailed questions then you would usually be better off asking for contact details to send your questions to," says PQ. 

5. Take a strong enough bag

It's likely you'll end up hauling a big pile of prospectuses back home with you, so bring a bag that's sturdy enough to get them all home in one piece. 

"Try and be selective in terms of which prospectuses you pick up – if you pick them all up then you will very rapidly find yourself unable to walk under the weight of the things," says Origami Bullets. 

"Take a decent rucksack as well as grabbing some free bags from universities," says PQ.

If it all gets too heavy but there are still more universities you're interested in, you could always ask them to post or email you the information. 

"Be selective – if a university has a big heavy prospectus then ask if they can post you a copy with more information instead of taking it and carrying around," advises PQ. 

6. ...and don't be afraid to say no! 

"Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you’re not that interested and don’t want a prospectus if they don’t do your subject or they ask for grades too high/low or they’re not in the sort of town/city/campus that you want. They won't mind – refusing one if you’re not interested will save them money," says PQ. 

What is Ucas Discovery? 

If you don't fancy going to a Ucas fair in person, you could use Ucas Discovery instead. 

Ucas Discovery host exhibitions across the UK where you can chat to uni representatives and listen to live talks from experts - you can find out more on the Ucas website here.

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