What Should I Study at University?
Before you choose a subject to study at university, you should consider your strengths, the subjects you enjoy, how the course will be taught and how your subject choice will impact your life after university.
When you decide to study at university level, it’s easy to imagine the social life you’ll have when you move on to campus. You’ll spend plenty of time picturing yourself during freshers week, at society socials and in the pub, but it’s often a lot harder to imagine what subject you’ll be studying during the day.
There’s no doubt that the subject you choose to study at university will have a huge impact on the rest of your life, but it’s important not to be intimidated by the choice you have to make. After all, you are in control of your university experience, and the subject you choose is entirely down to you.
Choose a Subject you Enjoy
By now, you’ll already have a good idea of the subjects you like or dislike. Perhaps you lean towards humanities and the arts, or maybe you prefer maths and science. You may be a technical wizard or thrive on a sports pitch.
At this stage, thinking about subjects you enjoy is really important. Generally, your university experience will be a minimum of 3 years of intense teaching, so it’s not worth committing to a subject you can’t stand.
Choosing a subject you enjoy will make it easier to be self-motivated, as unlike a school environment, a lot of your learning will be self-led. Without having a genuine interest in a subject, you’re unlikely to put in the time and effort needed to complete your course.
If you need some inspiration to help you make the jump from A-level subjects to university degrees, it’s worth checking out The Uni Guide’s A-Level subject explorer to find out which degree courses suit the subjects you’re studying.
Remember: Even though school or college will give you a good idea about subjects, topics will vary at university level. Make sure you take a good look at the university course content before making your decision.
Pick the Right University
👉 The Same Subject can Vary
As well as subject variations between school and university, course content will often vary between universities. Download the course content literature to make sure you understand what’s included in each course.
Going to online or in person open days at universities will often give you an opportunity to find out more about the course structure and content, as well as meet lecturers and ask any questions you might have about the course.
👉 Consider the Teaching Methods of Different Universities
Of course, as well as understanding how the content of the course you like varies between universities, you also have to consider the approach to teaching. Some universities may emphasise small group work, others may favour large lectures.
Methods of assessment can also vary. For more creative subjects like music, equal weighting between performance and composition may make all the difference to your final grade. With humanities subjects, you may prefer universities that emphasise shorter, more frequent assessments, than those that insist on compulsory dissertations.
If you can’t find specific information on a university’s website, get in touch with the head of school or department to ask them directly. You’ll find a list of staff on all university websites, and it should be relatively easy to get in touch with the right person.
👉 Consider Future Employment
Inevitably, the subject you choose to study at university will influence the roles you apply for once your course has finished and graduation is a distant memory. Even though it’s difficult to imagine life after university before you’ve stepped foot on campus, it’s essential that you start to think about your future choices.
Do some online research to find out about the opportunities available to graduates - The Times Top 100 list of graduate employers is a good place to start.
👉 What sector do you see yourself working in?
In the same way selecting a subject can open doors, not choosing a specific subject can occasionally close doors. For example, studying English is unlikely to help you become a Doctor. Of course, there’s always the potential to change careers at a later date, but you need to think about your ultimate goal before you make decisions you may later regret.
It may help you to work backwards. For example, if you are really interested in becoming an Educational Psychologist, work out the best pathway to ensure you reach your goal. Maybe you’ll choose to study psychology, and have the option to specialise during your course, or perhaps you would need to consider a postgraduate degree.
On the other hand, certain subjects don’t offer any obvious career paths. English, History and Maths could pave the way for various roles in the future, and the transferable skills you learn will become as invaluable as the subject specific knowledge.
👉 What do you want to gain from your job?
What motivates you to get up in the morning? Even before you’ve entered the world of full time employment, you’ll have an idea of the things that make you tick. Perhaps you’ve always had a part time job because you love spending money. Maybe your satisfaction comes from volunteering or helping elderly relatives.
There are certain career choices that will appeal to different types of people, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, if you recognise that you’re driven by money now, it’ll probably make deciding on a subject at university that little bit easier. If your dream is to climb the business ladder, a degree in Business or Business Management may be perfect. If you’re less interested in salary and more keen to ensure job satisfaction, then focusing on a subject you enjoy that will benefit others such as Nursing or Education, may be key.
👉 Prioritise Number One
When you’re surrounded by friends making the same decision, it’s easy to be influenced by what everyone around you wants to do. But just because all of your friends want to go to London to study engineering, it doesn’t mean that’s the right choice for you.
Maintaining contact with friends is still possible even while you’re at separate universities, and sometimes, being away from your friendship group will make it easier to make new friends and have different experiences!
Occasionally, older family members may want an input into what and where you study. Even though it’s great to get advice from others, be aware that their ambitions may be different from your own, and when you’re the one studying, they won’t be there to help you complete the coursework!
Exploring online quizzes can be a good way to start thinking about what you want to do when you leave school, but make sure it’s from a well respected website like the UCAS career quiz.
5 things to consider
when you choose a subject to study at university:
Think about subjects you enjoy because it’ll be much easier to research and revise topics that genuinely interest you.
Consider each university’s approach to the subject before you make your decision.
Think about the careers your subject choice will naturally push you towards.
Remove everyone else from the equation and imagine yourself studying that subject. Does it feel right?
There’s never a bad time to start thinking about your future so do as much research as possible, as early as you can.