If you’ve set your sights on going to university, but you’re not sure what subject is right for you, don’t worry. You’re definitely not the only one. When you don’t want to pursue a vocational career with a clear entry path, such as medicine, it can be difficult to decide on a degree course. There are so many options out there, it can feel very overwhelming, and you might not know where to start!
The key to choosing a subject to study at university is to pick something that you’re interested in. There’s no point studying something that you hate. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t be motivated to put the required amount of effort in and get the most out of your studies.
However, there are a few more things that it’s helpful to think about, and we’ve put together a list of 10 tips to help you!
10 Tips for choosing a university course
1. Take a look at what you are already studying. Make a list of all the subjects that you are currently studying at school, and think about which ones you enjoy the most. What is it about these subjects that you particularly enjoy? For example, if your favourite subject is English, do you prefer analysing poetry or writing articles? If you love Maths, do you like statistics or algebra?
2. Now consider the subjects that you don’t enjoy as much. Even if you definitely don’t want to study these subjects at university, it’s useful to think about any aspects of these subjects that you find interesting. For example, you may not enjoy History on the whole, but quite like the process of researching an essay, or arguing a controversial point.
3. Consider your hobbies and interests outside of school. Are you happiest when organising group events for your friends? Hate taking bookings at your part time job, but love chatting to customers? This might give you an idea about your best style of learning and your other transferrable skills.
4. Using the same ideas, make a list of your top 5 personal strengths. Start with which subjects and areas you are particularly good at. Are you great at making a logical argument? Do you excel in drama lessons or class presentations in other subjects? Are you great at helping friends through tough situations? Are you praised for your creativity at work?
5. Think about where these lists overlap. What aspects have you identified that you both enjoy, and are good at? Sometimes it might seem obvious – your favourite subject is English and you get your best grades in that work. So you should study English, right? But take some time to reflect on the particular aspects of English that you enjoy and are good at. If you love writing factual pieces, have you considered looking into Journalism? If your strengths and interests are more linguistic, maybe you want the chance to pick up an entirely new language? What about a Creative Writing degree?
6. Don’t be limited by what you’ve learnt at school. The number of courses on offer at degree level is so much broader than the subjects you can take at school. Do you enjoy public speaking, and excel at creating reasoned arguments in your essays? Maybe you want to look into what studying Law might entail. Are you great at maths, and love thinking about the latest technology in your spare time? Perhaps it’s worth considering what studying Engineering could be like!
7. Look at university prospectuses. There are a huge number of degrees out there that you might not even know existed! If you see a subject name that catches your eye, read further, and see if it sounds like something you’d be interested in. Some universities have unique courses that you won’t find anywhere else. Browse related courses on university websites and see where it takes you! No matter what your skills and interests are, there will be some way to develop and invest in them at university.
8. Talk to your careers advisor, or guidance councillor. It’s their job to know more about what courses are available than you do. If you explain the skills and interests that you’ve just identified to them, they might be able to suggest something you’d never have imagined!
9. Don’t pay too much attention to your friends and family. It’s great to discuss your thoughts with them, and they might have some different ideas for you, or uncover a hidden skill you hadn’t thought of. Don’t get sucked into studying Law just because that’s what your uncle thinks you should do though, or Psychology because your best friend thinks it sounds interesting. Do your own research, and remember that if you’re not interested in it, it’s not worth dedicating years to!
10. Don’t forget Joint courses. If you’re struggling to decide between different subjects, see if you can do both. Many universities will allow you take a joint course in, for example, History and French, or even Computer Science and Philosophy!
Most importantly, don’t panic! This is a big decision but there are plenty of resources out there to help you learn more about different degree courses. You can start here, by checking out our Explore resources, where you’ll find interviews with current students and descriptions of what studying certain subjects is actually like day to day, amongst many other things designed to help you make the most informed choice possible.
What if I choose the wrong course?
Studying a subject for three or more years is a big commitment, and we’d love everyone to get it right first time. Sometimes though, no matter how much thought you put in, how much research you do, and how much you’re convinced you know that this is the course for you, it just isn’t what you wanted.
Even if you have chosen something that ends up being different to what you expected, it’s not the end of the world! Lots of people change courses, change universities, and even go on to do second degrees. It’s completely normal to take time figuring out what you want to do later in life. Whatever choice you make, you are never stuck with it, but you’ll certainly learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way!