400 visitors, 20 staff and students, and a lot of biscuits

Yesterday and today, the University of Surrey ran two Open Days for prospective undergraduate students and their parents. They were very busy, today the university had over 2,000 visitors on campus. I organised the Physics bit, and we had at least 400 visitors over the two days. For his morning’s talk, I believe we were two short of the 160 capacity of Lecture Theatre L.

It was a bit manic at times, but it is good that physics, and Surrey, are popular. I lost count of the number of times the potential student said they loved physics. This is great, I am happy to lose count here.

It is also good to help people. The prospective students and their parents coming on these Open Days are early on on the process. They will only be filling in their UCAS forms in the winter. So many of them want answers to basic and important questions like: ‘How do I get in to do a MPhys in Physics at Surrey? Answer: Get an A in A-level physics, an A in A-level maths, and a B in another A-level – which can be anything (from Chemistry to Further Maths to Philosophy) – and you are in. We don’t select on the basis on interviews, or personal statements, we select on the basis of A-level results.

Of course I know all this by heart but it is no good just me knowing it, we have to tell prospective students and their parents this. Open Days are the opportunity to do this, and to do to this to prospective students early in the process of going to Uni, so they know clearly what they need to do. This allows them to focus on their physics, and they don’t need to worry that they are missing anything.

Running the physics open days took the work of over 20 people, including 5 undergraduates who talked about the student society Physoc, guided the tours round the Department, and chatted with the prospective students over coffee. Both staff and the students chatted with the visitors over coffee and biscuits at the end of the Department tours. It was helpful for the visitors, I think, to have both perspectives – of academics who have the overview of the course and can answer formal questions, and of students who know what it is like to actually be on the course.

And at end of a short talk I gave on computational physics, I  was asked a question and one of the student guides stepped and gave a masterclass in answering in a clear, comprehensive and reassuring way. I should clearly talk less and leave more of the talking to our students. I also need to get more biscuits. We were cleaned out in both the morning and afternoon tours today. I thought the carrier bag full of 6 packets would be enough for the afternoon tour. I was wrong. I should try harder, get more, in the September open day.