How to choose a university course

07 May 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

Not sure how to choose a university course? Sometimes, it can be a little bit overwhelming when you’re not sure what career path to follow or you find universities offering different versions of the same course.

And, unlike the American way of doing things, UK courses tend to be very specialised from day one. So, how do you decide what course to do from the get-go?

Below, I’ve highlighted some of the key things you should start thinking about if you’re hoping to take that next step into higher education.

After all, you’re going to be spending a lot of money on this – even if you don’t have to pay it back for a while.

Research your career goals

If you’re one of those people who knows exactly what they want to do after university, then I applaud you. But it’s totally okay if you’re not one of these people, because you’ll certainly figure it out along the way.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your research in. If you’re not sure about what you want to do, look into the things you’re interested in and explore the paths to get there. You could open a door you’ve never thought about before, simply by doing a quick Google search.

Equally, if you know exactly what you want to do, make sure the course you’re planning to take is the right one.

If the online searches don’t help, don’t be scared to reach out to people in the industry. Contact experts in the field and find out what they think is the key to getting into that particular role.

Honestly, I’m talking from experience, here.

When I decided to study journalism, I knew I wanted to be a news journalist. However, after graduating from my degree, I came to find that many papers wouldn’t take me on without a specific newspaper qualification (in this case, the NCTJ).

Annoyingly, I had looked at other universities that included this in their course offer but didn’t realise how important it was at the time. I luckily found other ways into the field and loved my time at my university, but it still serves as a great lesson.

Explore job sites

At the same time, you might want to research current jobs out there already in relation to the course you’re thinking about. What direction would you be able to go in with that course, and what does the pay scale look like?

If earning a lot of money is important to you, then it could have a big impact on how you choose a university course. Essentially, you’re probably not going to be looking into an industry that could require years of grinding and volunteering before the potential of landing a paid role, so perhaps you need to look at something more business-related.

If money is not a motivating factor, though, it’s still a good opportunity to see what roles are out there for the industry you’re looking into.

Think about what you’re actually interested in

There’s nothing worse than spending three years studying a course that you’re not interested in. After all, this isn’t like school and you won’t be learning different subjects throughout the week.

It is, quite literally, three years of solid, hard work on one subject area. So, make sure it’s worth it.

The best thing to do if you really have no idea is to highlight the subjects, or industries, is to consider what you’re most interested in right now, then work back from there.

Reach out to course leaders and ask for more information if you’re not entirely clear on what they’re offering and see if you can track down people doing similar courses for a take on the student experience.

Weigh your options

So, one of the key things to note here is that some courses will require you to take particular A levels in order to meet the entry requirements. It isn’t always just about the UCAS tariff points.

And, unfortunately, it can be a bit of a gamble if you didn’t have a decent idea of what area you wanted to go into when you started them at 16.

Take, for example, a subject like zoology. For this one, you’re going to need to have taken at least biology at A level, and usually one other science-related subject, too.

That doesn’t mean you’re completely stuck, though. There are pathways you can take to get into the courses you want if you don’t have the right A levels – it might just take a little longer.

If you’re keen to start your degree as soon as possible, however, have a look at the A levels and grades you currently have to give you a good idea of what areas you could possibly move into.

Give yourself time

Finally, and most importantly, don’t rush this decision. If you’re not 100% sure which course is for you, there’s no point in choosing one for the sake of it - only to hate it later. Take some more time and come back to it after you’ve had some space to think about it.

And, if you’re stuck between a couple of courses that you love, check out the universities themselves to figure out if you could see yourself living there. It could be the deciding factor in how you choose a university course.

Want to get started? Check out some of the stunning accommodation on offer in cities all over the UK by Unite Students, right here.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.