Umass Advice
Choosing a course and a university

Choosing a course

So how do you decide what you want to study? For some of you this might be easy, you might have very clear career aims that dictate what you need to study at university. If you want to be an Architect, you need to study Architecture, if you want to be an Engineer, then you need to study Engineering. But if you are one of the many people that don’t know what career they want after university, don’t worry.

Over 60% of graduate jobs that are advertised every year require a degree in any discipline. What employers are really interested in are the transferable skills you have developed as a student; skills like communication, leadership, time management and the ability to  research, and you’ll learn these skills regardless of what degree you choose.

There are three mains types of course you can choose from: Traditional degree courses, vocational degree courses and modern degree courses.

Traditional degree courses are normally academic courses; subjects such as Maths, English Literature, Politics and Chemistry. They won’t qualify you for a particular job and won’t necessarily lead you to a specific career path. They will give you a great insight into the subject, give you the opportunity to specialise in certain areas that really interest you and give you a set of transferable skills for you to take into the graduate workforce.

Vocational degrees are sometimes called qualifying degrees. These are subjects such as Teaching, Midwifery, Law, Dentistry, Engineering or Physiotherapy. When you graduate from these courses, often you are qualified to go straight into the work force. If you’re not fully qualified then you’ll be well on your way, and there will be an obvious career path for you to follow.

The final type of course you might want to consider are the modern courses. These courses weren’t available at university fifty years ago and have often come about due to either a changes in the job market or developments in technology. For example, fifty years ago people didn’t have careers in PR and Marketing, but these are key graduate recruiting markets and  universities have started to offer courses in these areas. By the same token, courses in Artifical Intelligence weren’t available until the technology developed.

One of the best places to start when choosing a course is to choose a subject that you enjoy. Students that study a course they enjoy do better, and it will certainly help with your motivation if you are studying a subject you love.

Whichever courses you decide to apply for, make sure you are qualified to apply. There might be GCSE requirements attached to certain courses, and many courses will have specific A level subjects required, not to mention predicted grades. For some courses, work experience and voluntary work is just as important as your academic performance, and some courses will ask for further assessment; admissions tests or portfolios. It is your responsibility to ensure that you’re qualified to apply.


Choosing a university

There are a wide variety of universities in the UK, so researching the options available to you is vital.  Most undergraduate courses are at least three years long, so you need to ensure that you make an informed decision.

You may find that there are lots of reasons that you might want to choose a particular university.  These reasons will be personal to you.  What is right for your friends may not be right for you.  Some of the questions you may wish to consider when researching your options are:

  • Does the university offer the course you wish to study?  Not all universities offer all courses.
  • Do you want to live close to home or further away? Would you prefer to live in a city or do you prefer a more rural location?
  • Would you like a campus-based university?  Are you bothered about whether you’re on campus where everything is located or not?
  • What is the quality of the study facilities, including the library?
  • Is there a range of social activities, student union, clubs and societies?  What is the student life like?
  • What is the university’s reputation? Does it have expert academic staff?  How do other students rate the teaching?  You can view and compare courses at Unistats.
  • What is your general impression of the campus and “feel” of the place?  If you have visited during an open day, can you see yourself living there for the length of your course?