Choosing a course: The three C’s

When I received the confirmation that I would be going to study my desired course at my first-choice university, I was thrilled! Now two years into my studies, I strongly believe that should be the attitude of every prospective university student – an enthusiasm rooted in satisfaction. The decision to go to university is not one to be taken lightly. So, it is important that you thoroughly consider your reasons for pursuing higher education, as well as what you want to study. Giving it all serious thought ahead of time is the best way to ensure you are making the right decision for yourself. When you know that you have made the right decision, then it’s easier to enjoy your course and embrace your university experience. So, here are some tips and insights to help you choose the right course for you: the three Cs – career, curiosity, and competence.


If you have a concrete idea of what you want to do after university, all you need to do is find out what the requirements are for your desired career path. The legal, medical, and teaching professions, for example, have structured paths to qualification with specific requirements. However, some are more flexible than others which allow for people from different educational backgrounds to qualify through postgraduate courses. So, if you already know what you wish to go into, you can just research what it takes to qualify in that profession. Asking people you know who work in the fields you are interested, and getting work experience in them, will help you decide whether that career is suitable for you. If you are interested in a career that requires no specific degree, consider doing research on or contacting people who work or have worked in those roles, and ask them what they studied and how it benefited their role. That’s not to say that you must stick to the career you had in mind at the start of your studies.


If you have been following my posts, you will already know I am in my second year of a Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) degree. You will also know that I came across it quite accidentally during a conversation with a girl who was also applying to study it elsewhere. I had known it was possible to study any two out of the three, but it was not until after this conversation that I was made aware that I could study all three together. This was perfect for me because I did not know exactly what I wanted to do for a career, but I did know that I was curious about the world and the way it worked. PPE provided just that – a way of understanding society and the things we take for granted in everyday life, but from the lens of social sciences rather than hard sciences. I also knew that studying PPE would not limit my career choices. So, I chose my degree because I had an academic goal that would be nonetheless valuable whatever my eventual career choice. I also attended subject talks at open days to gain some insight into the content and structure of the course, which helped me gauge which modules I might enjoy. It is important to note that no two courses are the same, and their exact structure will usually vary by institution. So, PPE at Manchester will look different to PPE elsewhere, which is why you sure ensure you properly look at the course descriptions and the modules available to you, so you can identify your areas of interest. Speak to lecturers and other academic staff at university open days, and do not hesitate to share any concerns you have. There is no such thing as a stupid question, but even if there was, it is far better to ask it before you have made a decision.


Another way of choosing a course if you are not sure what you want to do for a career, or are not sure what it is you are interested in, is to choose based on what you are good at. This can be the riskiest of ways to choose a course because sometimes what we are good at and what we enjoy do not overlap. However, if you do find yourself good at something and you enjoy it, then it can be a good way to approach course choices. You can either choose a course based on what you do well in already or you can choose a course in an area that you would like to strengthen your skills in. The latter option can be tricky at times because it may require extra effort. For example, I chose PPE because I was curious about politics, philosophy was a pastime of mine, and I wanted to become more numerate and understand economics. My A Levels (English Literature, Religious Studies, Psychology and AS Sociology) were only marginally related to my degree. So, I was mostly taking on a new way of looking at things. Thankfully, all first year Economics courses at Manchester have compulsory maths and statistics modules to bring you up to scratch. The point is that if you are considering throwing yourself into something new, do as much research and preparation as you can to ease yourself into it all. Whatever you do, it is vital to ensure you are qualified to study what you want to study at the particular institutions that you are interested in. If you want to try something new, check the course requirements in the university prospectus or on the website to see if your post-16 qualifications are appropriate preparation for your university ambitions.
In summary, do your research and consider what’s important to you; career, curiosity or competence.