Soon, schools and colleges across the country will be holding open evenings, enabling prospective students to find out where they would like to attend, and which courses they want to study. It’s not just students and parents that face pressure, but schools too. With financial figures and targets to meet, schools want to ensure they attract the right type of students.
Here, RAL Display looks at how heads of departments in particular, can make the most of an open evening; through the promotion of their subject and speaking to potential pupils.
Display Students’ Work
Having leaflets full of subject information is extremely helpful for students and parents, as they can take it away with them. However, one of the best – and most interesting – ways for visitors to understand what you teach, is to bring in examples of your current students’ work.
Whether it’s posters, essays or projects; having examples to hand enables prospective students to look through them, and determine whether or not it’s something they’d like to do.
Nevertheless, you should ensure that your stand isn’t too cluttered, and material is clearly laid out. An attractive stand will encourage people to come over: for instance, you may decide to pin posters on display boards, and place student work and a stack of flyers on a table.
Create a Fun Task
Depending on the format of your school or college’s open evening, there may be an opportunity for you to hold a short taster session for prospective students. If this is the case, then that’s great, as you can demonstrate exactly what it would be like if students chose your subject.
Prepare a quick yet fun task in advance that students and parents can take part in – making sure that it’s relevant to your subject! You’ll want visitors to enjoy themselves at the open evening; and your taster lesson could well be the reason why a prospective student chooses to attend your school, and pick your course.
Recruit Current Students
Students and parents know that your main priority at an open evening is to promote your subject. Therefore, asking a couple of current students to join you on the night can be beneficial for both you and attendees – although you’ll obviously want to ask students who enjoy your class!
Prospective students in particular, may find it less intimidating to ask them questions; and they can provide a great insight into your course as they’re currently going through it. Plus, current students can be more candid, which is ultimately what visitors are looking for.
Presentation Is Key
Sure, you may have had a long day of lectures and marking, but at an open evening, you’re an ambassador for the school. Remember, first opinions count. We’re not saying you need to be suited and booted, but you want to make sure you present yourself well. This extends past appearance, and includes your behaviour: you should be open, friendly and engaging. This could well be the first open evening for many students and parents, so they’re probably going to be a little nervous.
Putting them at ease and being a friendly face will go far; and will be beneficial for both your department, and your school or college overall.
Answer Questions… Honestly!
Prospective students are likely to have several questions, and their parents even more! Whilst you’ll probably find yourself repeating certain information like the modules your course covers, the split of coursework and exams, and the amount of homework; prepare for other questions too.
School trips, classroom sizes and broader questions like career path support, lunch options, and what the process is for reporting issues are all important.
You should always be totally honest when answering any questions. Whilst there may be pressure in the form of classroom size quotas, you want to ensure you attract the right students. Playing down the amount of homework or self-study hours may encourage more students to sign up; but it won’t be of benefit to you or students come the start of the school year, when they realise exactly what they signed up for.
Students dropping out and failing exams is not what anyone wants. If you’re entirely truthful, then not every prospective student will like what you have to say, but that means they’re not the right student for your subject.
The main purpose of an open evening may be to give prospective students – and their parents – a greater insight into your school or college, as they decide where to attend; but it can be beneficial for staff too. These five tips will help you to get the most out of your upcoming open evening.