Choose a course
It is important to research the courses available to you before committing yourself, as you will usually be studying it for three years. The following questions will help you to make an informed choice.
Do you have a particular career in mind?
If you do, then it's important to research the requirements needed to enter that profession. Some careers need very specific qualifications, such as studying medicine to be a doctor. With others, you can consider a much wider range of qualifications. Talk to your school careers advisor about your choices and search the internet for professional associations and societies. Most professions will have one and they can be a great source of information on what the job entails, careers and qualifications.
Before committing yourself to a career, you may want to get in touch with someone already doing the job and talk to them or even shadow them at work. See if you, or your parents, know anyone who is doing that job and if they could arrange an introductory meeting.
If you don't know what career you want, this will afford you a little more flexibility with regards to your choice of subject.
Is university the best place to study your subject?
It's important not to go to university solely because it's what's expected of you by your school, family or friends. This is your future, so think about what you want to do with it. For example, you may want to be a car mechanic, so work experience may be a more relevant route to achieving your ambition.
Explore the options available to you. There are a range of training opportunities and new initiatives like apprenticeships, technical colleges and on-the-job experience which might be more appropriate.
You could also take a year out and work in an area of interest to see if you enjoy it. Even if you decide the area is not for you, you'll have still gained valuable experience which will help in the future.
What subjects are you studying at school?
Some courses require specific A-levels or experience in a subject for entry. It's no good wanting to study forensic science, if every university requires a science A-level and you don't have one. Check the course requirements carefully for all the universities. You may just find the perfect university for you is one you would never have considered before.
If you have set your heart on a subject, but don't have the relevant qualifications, many colleges and universities have foundation courses, Higher National Diplomas or similar access programmes that could be a route to a degree course. If you decide to follow this route, it is worth checking the programme is accepted by other institutions before signing up. You don't want to spend a year studying only to find that your University of choice doesn't recognise it at the end.
What subjects are you good at?
Don't just consider whether you enjoy a subject, it ought to be one you are good at as well. After all, if you are good at the subject you are applying for, you have more chance of receiving a university offer.
Studying at university is very different than school or college. You will be expected to read around a subject and gain knowledge from lots of different sources. So if you enjoy your subject and are good at it, you will be more motivated to learn everything you can, making it easier and more fun.
Where would you like to study?
This can prove to be a chicken and egg situation. The course of interest to you may only be available in certain universities, which may force you to reconsider what's most important: where or what you want to study. For example, you can't study Architecture at Oxford or Fine Arts in Durham. You may, therefore, need to cross certain universities off your list or consider another subject.
You may also have to move away further away, or stay closer to home than you would like, to study the course of interest to you. Think about whether you need to get home as much as you think you do. Most students settle into their new lives and find visiting home at holidays enough.
What about changing your course?
If you start to think that the choice you have made isn't right, it's important to talk to your tutor or department office as soon as possible. The sooner you talk about it, the more options you will have. There may be the opportunity for you to change your course within the first few weeks or months of starting.
Some institutions and courses have common first years, like engineering, so you may not have to make your choice right away about moving subjects.
- Research your chosen career to find out what qualifications they require.
- Think about the subjects you enjoy and are good at.
- Keep your options open by considering different routes.
- Consider slightly different courses in the same subject area.
- Make a decision on what is important to you - the location or the subject.
- When you start, if you have doubts, talk to someone early.