Today was the second of two back-to-back Open Days the University runs for prospective students. A-level students thinking of going to university in autumn 2015, and their parents, visit the university to learn about degrees and university life. Today we had about 350 to 400 visitors in the Department, and maybe a bit more than half than yesterday.
It was really good t0 help people, to answer their questions. But it was a lot of work, my feet hurt and my larynx is knackered. I was only one of about 25 staff and students who ran the Department part of the open day, and we worked with people in marketing to make it work. It was a real team effort.
I think I learnt a couple of things. The first relates the need to stress that although we now have a grand total of 12 degrees, for all but the ones that are joint with maths, the first years are identical and so it does not really matter which one you enter on. For example, you can enter on BSc in Physics with Astronomy and leave with an MPhys in Physics with Quantum Technology, if you want to.
The decision to go university, and if so what subject to do and which university to go to, are all big decisions, and it helps to tell people these are the ones they should focus on. It takes a bit of the load off, if prospective students know they can leave other decisions to later.
The second was to let our students do the work. I dropped by the undergraduate lab yesterday around midday. It was moderately busy at the time. Our current students were in there chatting to the prospective students and their parents. In fact they were doing this so effectively that not a single prospective student or parent was not being helped. There was nothing for me to do, our students were doing a great job. So I took the opportunity to take the weight off my feet. It is a good job we pay our students to help, or I’d feel very guilty.
The third thing is that maybe the Department should invest in a couple of MP3 players. The most popular demo was one where two music streams are sent via red and green light through air, so they could be mixed or one blocked using a red or green filter. This is fun and goes down both with our students and with the prospective students.
But in the demo we have, the music comes from 2 portable CD players. As you can probably guess the demo has been around a while – not sure you can actually buy that sort of cheap portable CD player anymore. We probably need to blow a very small amount of the Department’s budget on a couple of MP3 players, before a 17 year old who has never seen a CD before, mistakes one of the CDs for a shiny coaster and scratches it.