A sixth form college is urging parents and students to attend open days in person instead of just searching for information online.
The Blackpool Sixth Form College made the call after seeing a growing trend towards people viewing information online instead of visiting in person.
“There is definitely a trend towards preferring to get information online or through social media,” said Jon McLeod, head of admissions at Blackpool Sixth.
“That certainly can be a useful way of finding out about post-16 choices but it isn't really a substitute for going out and seeing for yourself.”
As a parent, one of the best ways to help your teenager make the right choice and give them the best chance of success at college is attending open days.
“There is so much that you can only really judge for yourself when you visit a college or other provider,” said Mr McLeod.
“For instance, you will get a first-hand impression of the staff and often of current students. You will be able to ask questions not only about courses but also about other aspects such as pastoral support and extra-curricular activities.
“You can experience the facilities and see some of the equipment and resources which help support learning. You will be able to see examples of work current students have produced and generally get a sense of the all-important overall 'atmosphere' of the place.”
Mr McLeod acknowledged people have busy lives and getting to open events might not be straightforward.
However, he said many colleges put on multiple events to help combat this problem.
“At Blackpool Sixth we offer two open days in the autumn and an open evening in February so there are a number of opportunities to attend an open event,” he said.
“If for some reason you or your child is unable to attend any of the open events, we also have taster events and we are holding an event in January especially for parents and carers which will cover more of the support and advice side of progression into the next stage of education.
“We also are able to arrange individual visits in term-time on request.”
However, he said open days and evenings were still ‘by far the best way’ to get a clear view of a college and what it offers.
Once you have made the decision to attend an open day (and persuaded your teenager to give up their evening or Saturday) there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you get the most out of the experience.
1. Decide what is important to you
Make a short list of questions you want to ask and your priorities before attending an open event. Are there specific areas you want to look at? Don’t just think about subjects but also extra-curricular facilities and activities.
2. Get your teenager involved
Wherever possible, help your teenager to feel empowered by the process of choosing a college. Listen to them when they talk about their strengths, the subjects they are interested in, the questions they want to ask and their priorities. It can be tempting to take over but the happier they are with their choice the more likely they are to make the most of opportunities.
3. Meet current students
Young people tend to be brutally honest in their opinions, meaning they can give you a greater insight into the overall learning environment your teenager can expect. Do current students seem enthusiastic and engaged? Do they talk naturally and positively about their courses?
4. Give yourself enough time
We all have busy schedules but try to allocate enough time to truly get the most out of open events. Once you have looked at specific subjects, explore other aspects of college life. Trying out extra-curricular activities, eating at the café or exploring the facilities will give you and your teenager a better sense of what the overall experience is like. Taking the time now could save potential heartache in the future.
Blackpool Sixth is holding open days on Saturday, September 28, and Saturday, November 9, from 10.30am to 2.30 pm.
Details of open days and other events at Blackpool Sixth are available at blackpoolsixth.ac.uk