Before you start hunting for potential universities, you should know what course you want to apply for. At the very least you should have a vague idea of which subject field you are interested in. However, unless you have always hankered after a specific degree, it can be difficult to know how to go about deciding on a subject.
First and foremost, you should choose a subject that you enjoy. You are going to spend three to four years (longer in some cases) at £9000 a year immersed in it, so choose something that you are truly interested in and passionate about. Ideally you should have a solid foundation of knowledge on this subject and have successful experience studying it. A lot of courses require you to have a minimum level of study for you to apply. But in the case of courses rarely or not studied at A Level, admissions will be lenient on this and focus on your independent experience outside of the classroom.
If no subject springs to mind, firstly think of any subjects you could not stand to study and take them out of contention. You should be left with a few remaining subjects or fields of study. Take some time to look through university websites or prospectuses and look at their courses in a field that interests you, such as Science or Humanities. This gives you the opportunity to find lesser known courses that you never thought of applying to, but appeal you. It is also worth exploring joint or combined honours degree options, since they do not limit you to one subject.
Once you have settled on a subject or two, start to search for course content. Look at what is usually included in the syllabus and how the subject is taught and graded. For example, if a History degree does not include as much political history as you would like, consider choosing a combined honours Politics and History course. Similarly, if you perform better in exams, perhaps opt out of a coursework heavy degree.
Career opportunities are also worth considering when choosing a course. Obviously, if you want to be a doctor you should choose a Medical degree. But if you do not have a concrete career path and are looking at a few different subjects, it may be useful to look at graduate employment prospects and employer links. Yet having a set career path does not mean that you need to do a degree with the same name. For example, if you want to be a journalist, you could do an English or Politics degree rather than a Journalism course.
If you are still stuck when it comes to choosing a course, there a pre-university level or foundation courses designed to give you a yearlong foundation in a subject. They can help you to decide if your chosen subject is right for you without the three year commitment. After all, it is most important that you enjoy the next three years at your chosen university, doing a course that you love.
By Rebecca Watson - student at Exeter University
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