HOW TO choose which course to study at University

A beginners guide


Register with UCAS

Congratulations you are now in the System! Even if you have no intention of going to University we always recommend you submit a UCAS application, even if you have no intention of using it. This allows you the opportunity to change your mind further down the process.

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Which course shall I choose?

OK so applying to University can be a complete minefield, especially with increasing competition from Universities for your (or your parents) hard earned cash. At this early stage it is always best to keep a fairly open mind as to what and where to study. You may want to study a subject you already study, one that you enjoy and also one you know about. You might however choose one that you have not studied before but sounds really interesting, personally, I chose Politics because I knew it was a subject I would be still interested in three years down the line and also as I was unsure as to my future career ambitions, it kept my choices post-uni wide open.

If it is a subject you already know:

Will you still be interested in that subject for a further three or four years – enough to motivate yourself to work and research independently? Does it differ at degree-level, compared to at A-level, GCSE etc? This is where you should look at examples of modules you might study. Any thoughts on life after university – what do you want to do and could your subject choice help reach with this goal? Of course for BTEC students you have limited options as you will need to study the course related to the one you are currently studying, so BTEC Business students will look at business related degrees and BTEC sport students will look at sport related degrees.

Is it a subject that relates to a career idea?

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of becoming an journalist? Or perhaps a work experience gig you didn’t have any expectations for, has opened your eyes to that career? How is the subject you’re considering at university viewed by the industry it is connected to? Do you need to take it to actually go into that career? For example, you don’t have to do a journalism degree to become a journalist – many degrees are considered. Have you done any/enough work experience to see if this is the right career for you? Don’t just base your idea of a career on what you’ve seen in films and television – it could be quite different.

Is it a subject that relates to something new?

Maybe you’ve always been interested by the big questions in life and now you’re considering a philosophy degree. This isn’t the most common A-level subject, so it’s possible you won’t have studied it prior to applying to university. Do you know what’s involved? Try speaking to a careers adviser, researching online or exploring in detail the type of modules you’ll study. As above, your perception of a subject may be very different from reality. What can you do later? While you may be really interested in a particular subject, keep in mind what your career prospects might look once you graduate. You never know, you might learn about jobs you never knew existed.

Things to think about when choosing a course:

I always recommend all students take the Spartan Test via the Sacu-student website. This is good for those of you unsure which course and/or which career to follow. It takes all your interests/dislikes and strengths and weaknesses and makes recommendations for future options.

So which course should I look at? Well there’s a wide variety of options and you will need to be aware when choosing, for example do I consider?:

  • Joint honours? Where you can take two subjects with equal weighting.
  • BSc/Ba? – Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts
  • Modules & weightings? – Which topics are of interest? For example if studying History, which period will you be studying and also which areas? Every university will have different ideas about this.
  • Year Abroad/Industry? – Before Brexit these were very common with our EU partners, post Brexit this might offer up opportunities for Universities to take a more global perspective. This will be an interesting development, but answers will not be obvious.
  • 3 year or 4 year “sandwich”? – Increasingly popular these include a year in industry, often leading to post degree apprenticeships.
  • Graduate opportunities? Where will my course take me after university, most courses now publish theit progression to employment rates.
  • Entry requirements – Always a big call, how confident are you of reaching those grades? There’s is little point in applying for History at Durham with A*, A*, A* requirements if your teachers are predicting CCC.

You have five choices, it is always best to divide those five up into 2 x ambitious, 1 x confident and 2 x safe options. Although being in the system means that even if you do not get any offers from your initial applications, you are perfectly placed to enter clearing and be in that perfect place at a later time. Seek advice from professionals and never panic. That pathway may not be one you are initially expecting, but it will work out for you in the end. I promise.

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