You’ve decided that further education and a degree is what you want to do for your next step in life. Congratulations! This is a start and well done for making it this far. The next bit – the decision of what degree you should do – is somewhat more difficult for many of us. So to help you along the way to making this huge decision there are some serious questions to ask yourself.
Take some time to really think about where you are now in your educational journey, where you want to be and what you enjoy in life and in school. Ask yourself the seven questions below and answer them honestly – trying not to let anyone else influence your answers. So with a warm drink to hand, the internet, and some free time, note down the answers to these questions...
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1. Which subjects do you enjoy most?
One thing you absolutely do not want to do is sign up to study something for 3 or 4 years and not enjoy it. Learning is easy if you have a genuine passion for the subject. Liking what you do is almost always half the battle. List the subjects you enjoy and the new subjects you’ve come across in the university prospectuses you like the sound of. You can then cross-check these with what industries you’d like to work in later.
2. What sector of work do you see yourself in?
We’re guessing that if you’re struggling to decide which university course is for you, then you probably don’t know exactly what you want to do for a career (let’s face it, very few of us do, so don’t fret). Think about industries that appeal to you – publishing/journalism, banking, theatre/design, construction, business/business support, education, public sector, IT and engineering for instance. Once you’ve got an industry you’re interested in you can start to list all the possible jobs that sit within that industry and narrowing down what roles appeal most to you.
3. What grades am I likely to get?
Be honest with yourself; don’t put down grades you might get if a miracle happens. Be sure to stretch yourself so you do your very best but ensure you know where you are realistically. Once you know what grades you’re likely to get, you can start looking for university degrees that accept your academic level. However, there’s often more than one way to enter any given career. So although you must always keep what grades you’ll probably get in mind, you can also ask yourself…
5. What grades do I need to study my chosen degree?
Now this is where reality might come to bite. Do the courses you like which lead to the sector you prefer need top grades, and you’re more a B, C or D student? Don’t be disheartened. Look again at the industry you want to work in – are there alternative courses? Can you do the same courses but at a different university which may accept lower grades? Speak to people who work in the roles you are interested in – how did they get to where they are now?
6. Am I studying the wrong A Levels or need more qualifications?
OK, so being in the situation where you’ve studied the wrong A Levels for the degree you want to do obviously isn’t ideal. But if you’ve decided that a future in the environment is for you and you need to have Geography A Level or Medicine is your calling and haven’t studied A Level Biology, there is still time to do a Fast-Track A Level in one year. Certainly, though, the course you have chosen to study pre-university has a bearing on what you’ll be able to study at university. So this needs to be taken into account when you’re pouring over the university prospectuses.
7. What do you want from life?
Now then, not only is this a BIG question, but it’s also, quite frankly, one which can change all the time. However, it’s not a bad question to ask yourself at this pivotal life stage. People spend most of their waking hours at work so it should give you what you want – whether that be money, travel, to learn, be creative, to be near family, be self-employed, job security, or whatever it may be.
8. What do you want from your university experience?
Some universities are campus-based – i.e. where you live, party, study and play all on one site. The other type of university is city-based where all uni buildings are spread out over a whole city. You may live at one end of a city, study at another, and have a student in the middle, for instance.
You may have strong feelings about which type of university you’d like to attend. You might also be passionate about a particular sport or hobby and the facilities the uni has for that extracurricular activity could sway your decision. A question to ask the university course tutor that might help with your decision process is: what percentage of graduates in your chosen course go into further education, work or travel? For more on this, have a look at our best universities for 2016 post.
By answering these seven questions in a considered and honest fashion you should have a much clearer idea of what degree you should do. Once you have a list of possible industries and roles, favoured subjects, needs from life, grades and which universities appeal the most you can now cross-check them all and eliminate the ones that don’t tally.
Still not quite sure whether you’ll even be going in the first place? Check out our piece on whether you should go to university.