So you’re planning on going to university, but you’re not sure what subject is right for you? If you don’t have a clear idea of a vocational career with a defined entry path, like 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 even 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 to succeed.
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!
Follow the steps below to start figuring out what your options might be.
- Take a look at what you are already studying. Make a list of all the subjects that you are currently studying, 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?
- Now consider the subjects that you don’t enjoy as much. Think if there are any aspects of these subjects that you like more than the rest. For example, you may not enjoy History on the whole, but quite like the process of researching an essay, or arguing a controversial point.
- Consider your hobbies and other interests. Are you happiest when organising group events for your friends? Hate taking bookings at your part time job, but love chatting to customers?
- Using the same ideas, think about what your strengths are. 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? Praised for your creativity at work?
- 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?
- Think about how different things on your lists could work together. 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!
- Look at some 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. No matter what your skills and interests are, there will be some way to use them at university.
- 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!
- 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!
- Don’t forget Joint subjects. 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.
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’s really not for you, it’s not the end of the world! Lots of people change courses, change universities, and even go on to do second degrees, because they’ve only figured out what they want to do later in life. Whatever choice you make, you are never stuck with it, and you’ll learn a lot of valuable things along the way!