What Degree Should I Study?

19 Dec, 2023 | Blog Articles, Get the Edge

The time has come for you to make that all important decision of choosing the degree that is right for you! 

While your future career goals are likely to impact your choice of degree, it’s also important to choose a subject that you’ll enjoy studying for the next three or four years. 

From reflecting on your interests and passions, to considering your personal and financial situation, here’s our checklist of things to consider before submitting your UCAS application!

1. Assessing Your Interests and Passions

The first step is to reflect on your individual academic interests and passions. It’s easy to pick a subject you get good grades in at school and assume it’s the obvious choice to pursue for your degree, but if the homework feels like a tedious chore, then it might be time to have a rethink.

Start by considering your answers to the following questions:

  • Which aspects of your favourite subjects do you enjoy most at school?
  • What are your hobbies outside of your academic work?
  • Are there people you admire with hobbies or interests you’d like to explore?
  • Are there any subjects or academic areas you’ve not had a chance to study, but you’d like to?

Maybe you enjoy participating in your school’s debate club, and English is your favourite school subject. In this case, you might thrive studying Law, as it combines an extracurricular passion with an academic subject that you enjoy.

2. Exploring Your Strengths and Skills

If you’re struggling to identify your unique strengths and skills, then talking to your teachers or mentors is a good place to start. Reflecting on  feedback you’ve been given in the past is another excellent starting point.

Consider asking friends and family what skills they’ve seen you demonstrate – you might find that the people around you suggest some unexpected strengths you haven’t even considered! 

It’s also important to consider the subject areas where you feel most confident and capable. Leveraging your unique strengths and skills will help to boost your university application, moving you one step closer to your future career! 

A great way to develop your academic and personal skills – especially in subject areas you’ve not yet had the chance to explore! – is to enrol in a summer school. You’ll gain subject-specific experience, as well as developing valuable skills for university, like critical thinking, collaboration and time-management.

3. Researching Degree Options

Once you have an idea of the degrees you might want to study, you can start your research! 

University websites are a great starting point for gathering information on course content, structure and assessment methods. When you’ve narrowed down some options, attending open days, speaking with academic advisers, and reaching out to current students are all excellent ways of gaining a well-rounded insight into each degree programme. 

When choosing a degree, it’s often helpful to consider the potential career pathways associated with different courses. If you have your eye on a specific career, make sure your degree transfers nicely into your future plans; your degree should create opportunities, rather than diminish existing ones!

You can also investigate alumni success stories to see the career opportunities each degree can offer – you might be surprised by some of the options!

4. Weighing University Reputation and Rankings

It’s worth considering reputation and rankings when choosing a university for your degree programme. 

A prestigious university can offer unique resources and networking opportunities to help you on your career journey. However, be sure to prioritise the factors that align with your personal academic and career goals!

All universities are different, offering students a wide range of skills and experiences. Some degrees include a year of studying abroad, while others prioritise work placements, so try to think of the specific opportunities you hope to have and match these to the best universities in those areas.

Students exploring Oxford city in preparation for their degrees.

5. Seeking Career Guidance

If you’re unsure of the career path you’d like to head down, you might find it useful to attend some networking events in your local area. 

Here you can gain career guidance from professionals, and meet others who share your specific interests and passions. You might be lucky enough to meet an attendee with experience in the field you’re hoping to get involved in. If you’re comfortable, exchange contact details – once you’ve built up a rapport, you may want to ask them to be your mentor! 

The right academic mentor or adviser can offer invaluable insights into the real-world applications of different degrees to support you in your decision-making process.

6. Understanding Labour Market Trends

If you’re looking for a degree that will undoubtedly boost your future career opportunities, you may want to research current and future labour market trends to assess the demand for specific degrees. 

With developments like artificial intelligence, the technology industry is experiencing massive growth and is certainly an industry worth considering when choosing a degree. 

While it can be important to choose a degree that offers long-term viability and potential for growth, your choice should still align with your personal interests and values! 

7. Considering Personal and Financial Factors

When choosing your degree, remember to reflect on your personal preferences as well! Do you want a university that’s close to home? Are you determined to attend a campus university rather than one spread across a city? Do you want a university with a Quidditch society, or a Viking club, or both?!

While planning, try to keep the full picture in mind. When you’re travelling to and from a university far from home, train tickets and taxi rides can quickly accumulate. Similarly, your student budget will need to stretch further if you’re studying in central London, so it’s definitely worth researching the potential scholarships or funding opportunities available. 

Whatever your decision, try to achieve a comfortable balance between personal preferences and practical planning.

8. Exploring Interdisciplinary Studies

If you enjoy multiple subjects, and really can’t decide on just one, you might like to consider interdisciplinary studies. A combined honours degree allows you to integrate two or three subjects into one undergraduate experience, opening up unique career paths and fostering a broader understanding of complex issues.

Many universities offer joint degrees in complementary subjects, like a History and English degree. If you’re not yet certain about your future career path, interdisciplinary studies can be a great way to keep your options open. 

However, this option doesn’t come without its own challenges – meeting degree requirements can be twice as difficult when you’re applying for two subjects, and it can sometimes be tricky to strike the right balance between multiple disciplines. 

Students researching degree options.

9. Evaluating Long-Term Goals

When it comes to making a final decision, keep your long-term goals at the forefront. Your chosen degree can play a big role in achieving your career goals, as well as contributing to the goals in your personal life. 

Take a look at all the potential pathways your chosen degree could uncover. Practise envisioning your future self – how does your degree choice fit into your broader life plans? 

This can be helpful in setting realistic and achievable future career goals, while also inspiring motivation and excitement for what your future holds!

Before diving into the wide array of degrees available, take some time to consider your personal preferences in choosing a degree that’s right for you. It’s not a decision to be rushed; but, do keep in mind that if the degree you choose doesn’t end up being the right one, you’re always free to change! 

Once you’ve decided, you can embrace the journey of starting your degree, confident in your decision!

sam

By Steph Towler

Steph is an undergraduate at the University of Bristol where she studies Spanish and Russian. Her interests include reading, particularly contemporary fiction, and historical linguistics.

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