UMASS Blog

Decisions, decisions …

Choosing what you want to study at university can seem like a daunting prospect. How are you meant to know what you want to dedicate three or more years to studying? One important thing to remember is that choosing what to study at university is not necessarily going to restrict what you end up doing in the future. Whilst studying for a degree, you gain many transferable skills that are highly valued in the workplace; therefore the majority of graduate employers are looking for applicants that simply have a degree.  Of course, this is not true for those wanting to go into professions like Medicine – but for the majority of degrees, your future career options are kept open. I am currently studying Politics, and my degree definitely does not restrict my options. Whilst studying this subject I have developed strong independent research skills, as well as a confidence in written and oral communication. These are skills that are highly valued by graduate employers and will well prepare you for the world of work.

It is also very important to keep in mind that you want to study a subject that you are going to enjoy. Of course, this may not be obvious to you right away – you may really enjoy studying Maths at A-level (or equivalent) but you’re worried that you won’t have the same enthusiasm at a higher level. During the process of deciding what to study at university, try and think through what you like about the subjects you are studying at the moment at school or college. Have you recently covered a topic that you found particularly interesting? Or, perhaps you were set a task to carry out an extended project that you enjoyed completing? Make a list of the subject areas or topics that you are interested in – this can be a work-in-progress – things may get crossed off or added on as you learn more about the subject areas.

So, once you have an idea about the types of things you want to study, the next step is research!    You can find information about different degree subjects on individual university websites, but the best way to compare courses is by using the search tool on the UCAS website. This is when you may start to think about which universities offer the right course for you. Before I began doing my research I was set on studying Human Geography, which focusses on the movement of people, communities, and cultures across the world. However, it was through this process that I decided that it wasn’t the course that I wanted to study. I found that the courses at the universities I was interested in studying at, combined both Human, and Physical Geography; the study of the natural environment.

Researching the content of various courses helped me to make the decision that it was social issues that I was interested in, leading me to research courses relating to Social Sciences. Eventually, I settled on the idea of studying Politics. Viewing the details of courses online really helped me to pin down a handful of universities that offered the kind of Politics course I was interested in. For instance, the flexibility of the course was important for me; how much choice do I have in deciding what modules I can study? What do the modules cover? Courses vary greatly from university to university, so it’s really important to have an idea of which ones offer the course for you.

Once you have identified potential universities that you may want to apply for, it is a really good idea to visit them. Open days help you to see if you can actually picture yourself studying at the university, and see if you can imagine yourself living in the town or city. You also have the opportunity to chat with current students, as well as tutors and teaching staff, and to have a good look around at the facilities offered. When I visited The University of Manchester open day, it gave me the chance to find out more about what studying Social Sciences is like, as well as allowing me to get a feel for the campus itself. If you are unable to make it to an open day, you can request a prospectus in the post or even view them online. You can also contact the specific department to find out more information about the course you are interested in.

The next step is to apply!