Don't know what subject to study at university? Don't panic!

If you are confused about what you want to study at university, and are being hounded by parents or teachers claiming your whole life hinges on this decision – relax.

Very few jobs actually demand someone has a particular degree. And even those that do, such as medicine, make it possible to study other subjects and then switch into future training later on, if that’s what you decide.

“If you’ve no idea what to study and don’t have a particular career in mind, relax, it’s normal,” says Emily Huns, head of careers at Queen Mary, University of London.

“Choose a subject that you are genuinely going to enjoy and do well at. Then, while you’re studying, do some work experience each year – anything from leading a student society to helping out with a charity project or a corporate internship. Employers look for graduates who have taken the initiative to develop their skills.”

If you do have a career ambition in mind, look at the graduate employment destinations on the Government site Unistats to find out which courses are the best route to your dream job.

How to get onto your chosen course

Once you’ve got a shortlist of courses “you need to find out as much as you can about the course, the staff, the students, the facilities, the university, and the city,” says David Fairhurst, Ucas admissions tutor at Nottingham Trent University.

“Go to open days – it’s OK to be the person who asks lots of questions of staff. Scratch beneath the surface.”

Staff may have regular office hours, but how easy is it to get help when you need it? What flexibility is there if the course turns out to be not what you expected? Don’t go home with questions unasked. But if you do, follow them up by phone or email.

“Interrogate the students too. They will all have different experiences so speak to a few,” says Fairhurst.

Other questions to ask, according to Julian Lovelock, pro vice-chancellor at the University of Buckingham, are: “Find out who will teach you, and for how long, and how much individual attention you’ll get.

“The location of the university is important too: do you want to go to a different part of the country or stay close to home? What about the opportunities for your other hobbies and talents – music, drama, or sport, for example?”

You can do plenty of research on your laptop, too, says Eóin Lally, head of student recruitment at St George’s, University of London.

“Scrutinise the university’s web pages for entry qualification requirements, and look out online events such as virtual open days or online question and answer sessions – they’re the perfect opportunity to get the answers you need.”

Choose a subject to motivate you

Ian Harding is admissions tutor for Geology at the University of Southampton, where he’s worked for nearly 20 years. Here are his top tips for students:

“If you don’t know what to study at university, my advice is to spend some time soul-searching about what it is about the subjects you are studying at A-level or GCSE that grabs you.

“It might not be a single subject, but perhaps a combination of them. Thinking back to my own application, I had no idea what I wanted to do. But as I enjoyed chemistry and physical geography, at school, and history too, I ended up studying geology and loved it.

“The most important thing about studying for a degree is that the subject should inspire you. If a student is enthusiastic, engaged, and driven then their future is secure – so the choice of subject is of paramount importance, there must be a ‘spark’. Find your spark!

“My other practical advice is, look at university websites and league tables, but remember they won’t give you much of a ‘vibe’ about an individual department.

“Given you will spend three or four years of your life studying for a degree, there is no substitute for visiting during an open day, talking with current students and meeting some of the staff who may end up teaching you.”

(Source: theGuardian)


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