With September looming and freshers heading off to university, you may find yourself ruminating over your future: do you want to study at university, and if so, what subject? University can seem daunting and overwhelming, but given the right support and guidance, your decision-making process can be made much smoother. In this article, we will discuss what to consider when picking a university course to alleviate a bit of the stress that comes with choosing a degree.
1. Don’t follow your friends
It may be tempting after seven years of school to simply follow your mates into the big wide world. It would provide comfort and ease the harsh transition from small-town sixth form or college to university. With this said, choosing the same university course as your friends will limit you massively, not just academically but socially. University is all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, finding new crowds and discovering things about yourself as you go. ‘At home’ friends may inhibit your growth and prevent the exciting challenge that comes with carving an independent life for yourself.
2. Stray away from the ‘easy’ option
Similar to following your friends, make sure you don’t just choose the course which you think is easiest. If you are going to university solely to party and have fun, you will find that the novelty wears off quickly. Don’t be fooled – degrees are hard work regardless of what subject you choose. Fine art degrees may not be as academically taxing as medicine, but they require intense concentration and long hours of creative work. Make sure you choose a subject that excites and inspires you to get the most out of your (expensive) university experience.
3. Entry requirements
Chosen your desired subject? Great, now you need to have a look over the entry requirements for each university you’re interested in. Keep in mind that Russell Group universities tend to have higher entry requirements, and some will require an interview to better understand your aspirations and motives for applying for that specific institution. Looking over entry requirements not only gives you ballparks to position yourself in but work to motivate and push you to achieve as highly as you can. Don’t be put off by the scary numbers or letters; use it to encourage a strong work ethic.
4. Take a good look at the course content
The title of a degree may be appealing, but what does that consist of? Degrees are made up of modules, and those modules are split between semesters- this may sound alien if you are new to the university scene but trust me, it gets familiar very quickly. Every degree differs, but usually, you can expect to take between six and eight modules in an academic year- each being completely different to the one before it. Make sure to explore the module catalogue and pick out ones that interest you and ones that you would prefer to stray away from. If none of the modules sound exciting, maybe this course isn’t the one for you.
5. Does this course aid your future career prospects?
University is expensive! Students rack up lots of debt and find themselves paying it off for years after graduation. Be sure that university is the route for you and that it actually aids your future career prospects. If you have a specific job in mind that you are keen to pursue, research what degree, if any, is needed. You will find that many employers care more about experience than a degree, so make sure to check your options.
6. Quality of academic facilities
When choosing a course, ensure you are considering the facilities that would be available throughout the academic year. Do the libraries accommodate productive study? Is the art equipment high tech enough to produce the work you have in mind? Don’t forget, you are paying lots of money to attend this university and should be met with state-of-the-art facilities and spaces to encourage a productive degree.
7. Type of work involved
Despite courses sharing the same name, different universities will require different work. Some may ask for presentations or require mandatory field dates; some may even ask for physical work. Be aware of what you are stepping into- not all courses operate traditionally.
8. Choosing a course with a placement year
Most universities offer an optional placement year which extends the degree from three years to four. If this is appealing and you would like to test the industry standard before jumping into the deep end after graduation, why not opt for this course?
9. Do you like the University itself?
Arguably the most important- do you actually like the university you wish to attend. It is all well and good choosing a course which excites you, but if you don’t like your environment, the university experience won’t be as rewarding. The phrase work hard, play hard has never seemed so pertinent- it is important to balance studying with socialising, new friends and fun! Why not check out the societies and the nightlife?
10. Go to as many open days as possible
Ultimately, you won’t get a feel for a university until you are there in person. With covid, it has been impossible to visit the universities but hopefully, next year more opportunities will present themselves. Have a walk around campus, speak to other students and get a feel for the ‘vibe’. You will be surprised how quickly you discover whether a university is for you or not. Check out our tips to make the most out of all of the open days!
We wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect course for you. You may not feel 100% ready to fly the nest but enjoy the excitement that comes with venturing into a new chapter of your life- usually, it proves to be the best one!