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University visits – a parent’s perspective



Written by Dave, Parent/Carer Ambassador at the University of Suffolk

If you are reading this, you are probably about to embark on one of the epic journeys to the far-flung corners of the United Kingdom, otherwise known as “University Visits”. Or you may be a hardened veteran of previous campaigns. In either case, I’m hoping this may give you a few ideas on what to expect, or at least get a nod of recognition if you’re an old hand. 

Two of my children have already gone through university, and I have one to go in 2020. I went to university myself in the 80’s. (Yes, that is the 1980’s, and not the 1880’s as my son seems to think). Even though I have gone through it all before, each time still feels like a whole new experience. 

The university visit is a great thing to do, and is the next step on you and your child’s journey in deciding which is best for them. How many visits is your choice, but I would recommend doing at least three or four to compare what’s on offer. 

Firstly, plan your day in advance. Most uni’s have restricted parking, so follow the guidelines in the open day guide. It may be best to use the local Park and Ride or take a train. An overnight stay may be worth thinking about, but this does put up the cost. I tend to drive up on the day. It’s never that easy getting a tired teenager roused at 6 o’clock in the morning, but to me it’s worth it to save a few quid.


Once you’ve shepherded your bleary-eyed offspring into the car, it’s time for the road-trip. It’s worth taking stock of how easy or hard the journey is. As a parent/guardian, you could be doing this journey multiple times a year, to pick up and drop off when term starts and ends, to visit during term-time, and for the graduation ceremony – although that seems a long way off, it will soon come around quickly.


Next, get a feel for the town. Are there shops, cinemas, market, pubs, and clubs? Take note of how easy it is to get to from the uni campus, whether the locals are friendly and how safe it feels. Remember that your child will be living here for three or more years.


Get a feel for the campus. Are there lots of green open spaces and is it well maintained? What facilities are on offer? Again, your child will be spending a lot of time here, so this is important.


It’s important to find out if university accommodation is guaranteed for the first year, the options available and how much it costs. Is it on or close to the campus? Is it catered or self-catering? Go and have a look, and talk to the students if you can. It’s worth finding out what happens after year one. Will your child get to stay in halls or do they need to get a shared house in town? 


Make sure you visit the department your child will be studying at. Get a feel for the lecturers, the syllabus offered and the subject options available. Are there links with the profession or industry? This can help to get a job at the end of the degree.

If it’s a technical subject, do a lab visit and take a look at the equipment they have. Talk to as many present students as you can – what they like about the course and what could be improved, how many contact hours they get and the support available to them.

Students’ Union

In most universities, this is often a go-to social space for students. But the Students’ Union is also vital for independent help and advice on accommodation, problems with the course, safety, physical and mental health. The university will normally have their own professionals who can provide help and support.

Overall impressions

On the day, make some notes and take some photos. If your memory is anything like mine, multiple visits tend to merge over time if you don’t record them. Then put the universities on your shortlist into a ranked order.

Remember, it’s not just the academic reputation of the university. It’s where your child will be living for the significant part of the next three years. Both you and your child have to be comfortable with the decision.

Final thoughts

It’s a lot to take in, and it’s a big change for you and your family. My first two went through uni successfully; they are now confident and self-sufficient, and have made life-long friends. 

Good luck with your visits, I would love to know if this was helpful to you. Let me know in the comments below if you have anything I have missed from this blog.


Dave, Parent/Carer Ambassador at the University of Suffolk

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