Figuring out which university course to study is a big decision in our educational journey. After three years of studying for my degree, I began to realise it was not the right course for me. Upon coming to terms with this sad and frustrating reality, I reflected on a few ways I could have guided myself to a better-suited choice.
Many of you may be considering university and thinking about you application, especially with the early deadline fast approaching. I think this is the perfect time to share some tips to help you think about your next steps. I hope they guide you to make the best choice so you can depart from your university experience feeling satisfied and accomplished rather than unfulfilled and frustrated.
Who am I?
If you’re unsure what course to choose or career to pursue, then it is helpful to carry out some self-introspection.
Here are some questions to think about:
- What are my interests?/ Where do I invest my time regularly?
- Every activity we partake in requires some sort of skill – whether we are aware of it or not – which can be transferred to certain careers.
E.g a keen baker may be very adept with measurements or have a steady hand which can translate to skills in medical courses where one is required to undertake procedures for their patients.
Or a competent board gamer may be very capable of thinking a step ahead or problem-solving which can be great for law courses where individuals need to be one step further to their opposition.
Or an avid documentary watcher may be knowledgeable of world affairs or how people function which could make them a great analyst in political or economic courses.
So, really reflect on what you do in your day and what skills you are using to carry it out. You’ll often be pleasantly surprised at realising it. These skills may be worth mentioning in your personal statements!
What are my strengths?
A strength of yours does not always translate to something you enjoy and vice versa but may be a good indication of it. An individual may be good at public speaking, writing or negotiating, etc and if a degree course and its career options require these attributes then they are worth considering.
What are my weaknesses?
Knowing your weakness is just as important as knowing your strengths. Perhaps a weakness is something you want to develop into a strength. Or it may translate into something you don’t enjoy and hence do not want to pursue. Just as my secondary history teacher used to tell my class: ‘know what you know and know what you don’t know’.
How do I want to contribute to society?
I would say most jobs, if not all, are carrying out an act of service to others. So, knowing how you want to help your community and the world around you will help you figure out what course will best lead to a fulfilling career.
Do you want to study at university?
With alternate courses and apprenticeships on the rise, it is worth considering if studying at university is even the most suitable option for you. An easy way of answering this is by asking yourself if you enjoy academic studies and what you want to get out of a degree (e.g a qualification, relevant knowledge)
Is this relevant to my career?
Many careers do not actually need you to have studied a certain degree course, for example, if you want to pursue a career in law, you can study a non-law related subject and then take a law conversion course or go straight into an SQE Course. However, some careers do require at least a degree qualification, for example (as of now) to become a teacher, an individual needs to have studied to at least a degree level even if it is not in the subject they want to teach.
That being said, if you are going to take on higher education (HE) it is worth studying for a degree that not only you enjoy but that will also be relevant to your career. I would advise this as it’s quite unfortunate for an individual to study anything for a segment of their time (and be paying for it!) only to not use this sanctum of knowledge later in life.
General categories for university degrees
If you’ve decided HE is the right step to take, it’s worth understanding how degrees can be viewed. Here are three categories to think about some degree courses:
- Career-specific degrees e.g medicine, dentistry, law, engineering, accounting
- Current In-demand degrees e.g economics, computer science
- Academic degrees e.g English, maths, history, physics, etc
These are not official categories, and all degrees have a use but they may help you decipher what kind of degree you want to study.
What is important for me when choosing a university?
Given the range of universities and courses out there, it can be overwhelming to whittle the choices down. But there are certain methods to help you do so.
In a table, list the different universities and their courses that you are interested in. Then, compare each of your choices. The option that stands out is an indication that it best suits your needs. You can compare categories such as course content, assessment type, employment links, location, campus, accommodation, financial support, transport links, etc
Where can I receive more direct information?
- University open days – speak to lecturers and current students
- Speak to your teachers! Most have gone through HE so have a lot of experience!
- Unibuddy app – message current students anytime
- University general inquiries telephone lines
I hope you find a university where you can enjoy student life and a course that stimulates your interest so you can build a bright future. Best of luck!
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