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Articles > Student Life January, 10, 2017

5 Questions That Guarantee To Help You Pick Your Uni Course

Paul Ellett
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8.31 / 10

Each year, droves of year 12 and 13 students pound the campuses at open days, bang down their teachers’ doors, and frantically scour sites like Which? University in search of the answer to the almighty question: ‘What university course should I study?’

Stressed out with subjects

Photo by Firesam! (altered)

With tens of thousands of courses across three hundred or so universities and colleges to choose from, starting the search can feel pretty intimidating – where do you even begin?
So to narrow down that search, below are the five basic questions to ask yourself from start to finish.

(Note that while we refer to A-levels primarily, you may be studying other qualifications such as BTECs, Highers or International Baccalaureate).

‘What am I currently studying?’

The A-levels you’re studying now will shape what you can apply to. Some universities might require certain A-level subjects (with minimum grades – more on this later) in order to get on to particular courses (hopefully you knew this when making your A-level choices two years ago).

So if you’re studying English, History and Business A-levels, you can wave goodbye to that dream of studying Biology at university (sorry!). On the bright side, you’ve immediately cut out a large chunk of potential subjects.

Why not throw your current A-level subjects into Which? University’s A-level Explorer tool and get some subject ideas based on what previous students studying the same A-levels went on to study. You might even discover a subject you’re not studying at the moment! There’s a long list of degree subjects which aren’t available at A-level.

baby reading biology book

Photo by Harald Groven

‘What can I study specifically?’
Once you have a couple of subjects in mind, you can dig a little deeper into specific courses within those, which pique your interest. Do you want to keep your focus broad and leave your options open for the future? Do you want to specialise in something which grabs your attention now, or if you already have a career in mind?

Have a look at what modules and topics you’ll study to get an idea of what the course would be like. Additionally if you’re stuck between two options, could you study a joint honours degree?

‘What can I expect on graduating?’

With hefty tuition fees to think about, you’ll want an idea of your graduate prospects and the salary you can earn once you graduate. This could be a specific position, a few possible jobs or a particular sector; so don’t worry if your life-plan isn’t quite sketched out in full in your mind.

If you do have a career in mind, make sure the course you’re considering is the correct stepping stone to achieving this. At an open day, ask what previous students have gone on to do or about close links the university has with companies and organisations.

‘Where could I study?’
So you have a list of courses you like the look of and will get you to where you want to go. Now, for a little injection of reality…

As we mentioned above, universities will ask for minimum A-level grades or UCAS points as part of their entry requirements. They may even ask for specific grades in certain A-level subjects. The general rule is that the more popular or prestigious the course or university, the higher the entry requirements.

Therefore you need to look at what you’re predicted currently in your A-levels and check whether these meet the requirements for the courses you’re interested in. These should knock a few more possibilities off the list.

Some universities may have some wiggle room with their entry requirements if you impress in other areas of your application, such as your personal statement. However, you should check this with them first rather than assume anything.

‘Where should I study?’
Now you can start looking at a few final factors to whittle that list down to your Final Five. This is where things like the university’s reputation, location and facilities come into play. These are important factors. For instance, something like location will play a big part in your day-to-day life as a student and overall university experience (e.g. what there is to do for fun locally, how comfortable you feel living there etc.).

Some of these factors may come into play earlier in your research journey; for example, if a particular university is highly-regarded in the field you’re interested in. These could ultimately sway your decision, especially if you’re stuck between two similar choices for that final spot in your Final Five.

If you are still unsure then take it from the students in our community. They told us what they loved and hated about their uni in our ‘Student Experience Survey 2016‘, so check it out to help you make the best choice…

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  1. Christopher Dudley

    I think…People should also remember that they can change course, and that it’s not uncommon to get it wrong first time round!
    I spent 2 years on a Physics undergraduate course, but it wasn’t what I had expected. I’m now enjoying a very successful first year of a Computer Science course which I’m getting a lot more out of. Sometimes you need to go back to go forward!

  2. Lucy

    I think…that 18 is too young an age (for some people) to decide on one university course that could have the potential to affect the rest of their lives. When you are at school / college / six form you are able to study a variety of subjects which opens your mind up to what you do and dont like. However, when you go to uni the course you do is very often much more restricted. I know a lot of my friends who decided to do a certain degree and by the time they had finished their degree they did not want to pursue that subject, having studied it so intensely for 3-4 years. It is important to try and choose something that you enjoy but university isnt just about the course; for many it is the first experience living away from home. I am now 28 and I’m attempting university for the second time. I originally went to university at 18 and was nowhere near mature enough to be able to cope with the change in lifestyle. Equally, a course that I had had my heart set on for 2 years was not what I expected it to be. As a result, I left after 3 months. Ten years later, I’m now in my second year studying a different degree at a different university and I’m much happier than the first time around. I feel I can give more to the course being that little bit older. I have much more ‘life’ experiences too compared to others on my course, as some are even yet to have their first job. There is also a lot of pressure for students to study at a university far away from home but you need to do what feels right and pick something that you are comfortable with. One thing to remember is you never stop learning, you need to do what makes you happy and you dont necessarily have to go to university at 18.

  3. Fiyona Joseph

    I think…that we should get a trial year to gt used to being an a level student instead of just being put in at the deep end as it will enable us to choose the nest suited courses and gives time to choose career choices.

  4. Abdul Moiz Javed

    I think…that going for a university course requires us to considers our interests and the subject we are good at.

  5. kalifa saifeddin

    I think that the talented student knows his direction according to his interests and talents, but usually some details hinder him to be creative in his field

  6. thabz

    I think…picking the rite subjects with no information is wrong-have a plan and research task on what you are willing to do

  7. Bamigbola Oluwatobi

    I think…it’s better when we choose a career based on our interests and the subjects we love a lot. This will avoid difficulties and unnecessary switching of courses.

  8. Lauren Cooney

    I think… I knew what I wanted to do since the age of 11, although that isn’t the case for most people, yet the specific field that I wanted to work in changed and developed as I expanded my knowledge on the subject in college. I think that chosing a subject or, in the case of A levels, subjects that you are very passionate about makes it easier to make a decision on what it is you want from a university course. From experience with my younger brother who is preparing for college, I feel that 16 year olds need more advice on what sujects are actually available to them so that they can make a more educated choice based upon their passions and strengths.

  9. Paul

    I think that since students need to realise that 16 is tough. A levels approach and the fear of uni hits. Stop thinking life easy. I’m 32 and just completing an access course. 9 months to study four subject areas and I’ve had to resit a GCSE which should be done over two years in that time. Hard work pays and choices sometimes come late in life. Don’t expect things to always be easy; we will end up with highly educated people that know absolutely nothing. This is increasingly likely with today’s idea that a pass should be handed out to students rather than earned. Trial years would just give people time to ummm and ahhh rather than than work for what they want. Tasters of 6 weeks or so may help but a year? Please don’t waste tax payers money. I’ve seen plenty of people drop out due to pressures and they can be demanding. Where would we stand without the challenge to achieve something for ourselves?

  10. Karolina Kaluba

    I think…that A-level subjects are being chosen way too early. It makes a lot of people lack general knowledge. Plus it narrows your choices at university level. A 16 year old cannot possibly chose a career path so early. This is why so many people are unsatisfied with the course they chose.

  11. Deborah Adegbite

    I think… This article makes a lot of sense, studying what you enjoy doing would make it easier for you to learn.

  12. Asiya Siddika

    Definitely agree with this article. One thing is, choose a subject you really enjoy. If u choose a subject purely because your friends are doing so or parents want you to do so….. there’s a possible likelihood that you may not do as well cos you yourself aren’t interested in it…. so do contemplate carefully before choosing.