Meet the postgrad people

Postgraduate fairs and open days offer a great opportunity to find out more than the prospectus tells you.

A fair chance
Postgraduate fairs are an excellent way to find out more about what further study involves. Armed with information gathered at fairs you will be able to make a more informed decision when it comes to choosing a course and place of study.

Anyone can attend postgraduate fairs but they are most useful for finalists who are making decisions about what to do when they graduate and those who want to change or enhance their career prospects by gaining a further qualification. It is always worth checking whether you can or have to register for events though, as by pre-registering you will usually receive information ahead of the event, which will help you plan your day, says Michelle Kilpatrick, Postgraduate Recruitment Officer at the University of Manchester.

Professional advice
Not only will you be able to talk to representatives from different universities, a number of talks will take place to give you more information on the world of postgraduate study ways to fund your study, for example.

As well as this, you will be able to get free professional advice from careers consultants. Elizabeth Wilkinson, a careers consultant at the University of Manchester Careers Service, says fairs are an opportunity to find out whether or not further study will be a good investment for you. To do this, she says, you must ask the right questions.

Postgraduate study is a big investment, in time, money and effort. If youre investing to improve your career prospects, make sure the investment is likely to pay off. Check out what graduates from postgraduate courses go on to do next - ask course providers for the employment destinations of their postgraduates. Also, find out if a postgraduate qualification will make you more employable, or if you might be better getting work experience.

Make the most of it
If you want to get the best out of a fair, though, you must do some preparation before you attend. Find out who is exhibiting, how to get to the venue, opening times, and what talks are being held. Most of this information can be found on the universities.

Open house
If you are interested in a specific course or institution, paying a visit to an open day at a university can offer greater insight. Michelle Kilpatrick says open days are a way of getting a deeper understanding of the course but also a feel for the institution.

An open day should give visitors a real taste of the university. Not only should you leave with relevant and interesting information about the course you wish to study, but also with a feel for the university. It is important to remember that this university may not only be the place you choose to study at but also where you may be living (or at least spending a lot of time). Prepare well and ask lots of questions.

A sneaky peek
At open days you will be able to talk to representatives from departments across the university and ask important questions about accommodation, library facilities and, perhaps most importantly, if there are any scholarships or bursaries available.

Its also an opportunity to check out the institutions facilities first hand, and meet with the people who are likely to be teaching you, which is of extra importance to those considering a research specialism. All taught courses and research opportunities as well as academic schools and research institutes should be represented at open days

Open days offer a great chance to explore a university. Usually individual academic schools will host events throughout the day. These often consist of presentations or Q&A sessions and are designed to give visitors a chance to meet academics, administrative staff and, sometimes, current students to talk about the programmes. It also gives you time to find out what facilities are on offer to postgraduate students, explains Michelle Kilpatrick.

To find out when your nearest fair is taking place www.prospects.ac.uk/fairs or check on the universities websites.