Are you taking those first steps towards applying for university? Perhaps you’re approaching the UCAS deadline but still don’t know what you want to study.
With so many university courses available to choose from, picking what to study can be a long and tricky process. But not if you ask the right questions to help you narrow down your options.
Choosing a university course is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a student. And you should start thinking about your options early enough so that you have plenty of time to research and choose the course that’s right for you.
Looking for some advice on how to narrow down your options? Read our helpful guide for advice on how to choose the right university course for you.
Are you struggling to decide which subject or university course is best for you?
Read on for our top questions to ask yourself during this important decision-making process. With helpful advice and top tips on what to look out for during your research, you can be sure you’re making a decision that’s right for you.
Quite possibly, one of the most important factors in your decision-making process comes down to which subject you want to study at university.
Narrowing down your options and choosing one or two (more on this later) subjects that you want to pursue for three or more years can be a challenging task, especially if you have a passion for a whole variety of subjects. However, once you have an idea of what subject you do want to pursue, it’ll become a lot easier to narrow down which university course you may want to choose.
To help you with choosing your subject, consider these following points:
Consider things you enjoy on a daily basis: What types of things do you enjoy doing or reading about? Is there a particular subject at school that you can’t wait to begin? Perhaps you have a hobby that you’re really passionate about. Think about how your interests could trickle into your future - could you turn the subject you’re passionate about into part of your future career?
Search for courses by subject to see what’s available: Reading through different universities’ prospectuses and seeing the modules that are available can be really helpful at narrowing down your subject choices. Take note of any that pique your interest and add them to the ‘potentials’ list.
Imagine your future: Now, this may seem trivial, but for some students it can really help. Take 5-10 minutes to sit and think about what you imagine your future to be like. Not just where you may want to go on holiday or what type of house you may want to live in, but really think about your day-to-day life. Do you see yourself working in an office environment? A lab? Running your own business? Taking time to consider your future and ruling out courses against your ambitions can really help to narrow down your options.
Research what jobs are currently available: Need ideas about where a subject could take you? Take some time to explore different job and graduate sites for ideas on what you may want to do once you’ve completed your education. You may even discover a new dream job you didn’t even know existed! Some great starting points for inspiration include Prospects and Save the Student.
Struggling to choose just one subject to study at university? Perhaps you could consider pursuing a joint honours degree.
A joint honours degree allows you to study more than one subject (usually two) and combine them into a single qualification. You’ll study both subjects equally, although most universities often give options to ‘major’ in one subject and ‘minor’ in another - where your time is usually split 75%/25%.
Joint honours degrees don’t typically take any longer than a regular degree to complete, usually between 3 to 4 years, depending on the university and course you pursue.
There are lots of universities in the UK that offer joint honours and major/minor degrees, ranging across all subject fields.
When doing your research, joint honours degrees will be recognisable as both subjects will be separated by an “and,” such as English Literature and Creative Writing. If a course has “with” in the title, it usually means it’s a major/minor degree, e.g. “English Literature with Creative Writing.”
Just be careful to thoroughly read and research each university and the course they have to offer. Even though the course titles may sound the same, each will slightly differ in their offering from the other, and you want to make sure that you are choosing the course which offers the content and learning style that’s right for you.
If you’re struggling with choosing between a few courses, it can be helpful to carefully dissect each of the programmes and the modules that they have to offer and match them to your own pursuits or areas of interest.
Even though many universities share the same course names, the courses at each of these universities are usually very different, offering entirely different modules and content, teaching methods, and contact hours. Therefore, it’s important to read each course description closely to find out if the content matches exactly what you want to learn about.
Whilst reading each programme outline in detail, ask yourself questions such as; ‘are the core modules relevant to my interests?’ and ‘are there enough optional modules for me to gain the breadth of knowledge I want?’ These will help ensure you’re picking the course that perfectly matches the areas you’re most curious about, and therefore, committed to learning more about.
During your course content research, it’s also worth looking into what different opportunities are available between different courses. Universities are increasingly looking at more ways they can offer value to their students, and, as a result, you can usually benefit from a range of additional opportunities that they have on offer.
Questions you should be considering when researching different courses and choosing one that interests you include; Do they include work experience placements? The opportunity to spend a semester abroad? Will you have guest lectures from leading industry experts and professionals? All of these can add huge value to your university experience and shape you for your future career.
Another factor to consider when choosing a university course is how you want to study.
Most often, undergraduate students pursue a full-time course, but this isn’t your only option. And with the unprecedented challenges of the past 18 months, many students are considering other options, such as living at home and opting for blended or distance learning.
There are lots of different options available, designed to fit around your own circumstances. The most common include:
Part-time degrees: Many universities offer part-time degree courses, which are taken over a longer period of time, allowing you to learn at a more relaxed pace. These are particularly beneficial for students who have significant commitments, such as taking care of their family during their studies, or those who need to work alongside their academia to support themselves and/or their families. Each university offers different delivery options and will be flexible at finding a solution that allows you to manage your study around other commitments.
Distance learning: Distance learning means study remotely, allowing you to learn in your own time. Your learning and assignments are usually supported by a range of online learning resources, with regular support available from your tutor. You’ll also have the opportunity to interact with fellow students via webinars, email, online forums, or even residential meet-ups (infrequently).
Blended learning: If going fully remote doesn’t work for you, then you could consider a blended learning degree. These combine face-to-face learning sessions with online learning, giving you a healthy combination of tutor-led teaching and independent learning, usually with additional course materials available online. These can be helpful for students that can’t or don’t wish to move close to their university, but still live in a relative distance that when they need to, they can travel. It can also offer more flexibility, again benefiting those who need to fit studying in around other commitments.
Another crucial deciding factor in choosing a university course is deciding where you may want to study. After all, there’s no use looking at courses up in Scotland if you have ambitions of spending your free time travelling to and exploring the city of London.
Before applying to university, some students have their heart set on their dream destination, while others are guided more by the course they like the best. Either way is fine, as long as you take the time to ensure you are happy with both your course and location - changing universities once you’ve begun studying isn’t always that easy.
When researching where you may want to study, consider the following tips to help guide your decision-making process:
Think about where you would like to live: Now, this may seem like a silly question, but it should actually be a huge deciding factor in your process. Choosing a university can open up a whole variety of living options; from cities to rural areas, or even other countries - the world is, quite literally, your oyster. Picture the types of activities and facilities you want your university city to have, and then start your research from there.
Consider campus and off-campus living: Another factor to consider in choosing a university is whether you want to live on campus or rent private accommodation and commute to the university buildings for your studies. Campus universities have all (or most of) their buildings close together in one place, almost like a very small student town, which many find comfort in living in - especially in their first year. Alternatively, city or off-campus universities have their buildings and accommodation spread across a city, giving you a far more ‘realistic’ city living experience, which many also are keen to experience.
Attending an open day (or virtual open day): Visiting a university on an open day is a hugely beneficial experience, and one we cannot recommend enough. Aside from getting to meet the tutors and learn more about your course, open days also give you the opportunity to explore campuses, the facilities, and local area. If you can’t attend in person, explore using a virtual tour - you’ll still be able to get a good feel for the university and whether it’s right for you.
Check entry requirements: Before you consider doing any further research about a university, make sure you check the entry requirements. Different courses at different universities will have different entry requirements, which you need to match (or be close to) with your predicted grades if you are hoping to secure an offer from. You can check entry requirements on a university website, via their prospectus, or, if on their website, by checking course listings on UCAS’ search tool.
As already mentioned, entry requirements are a hugely important part of the research process, and will ultimately determine whether you apply for certain university courses or not.
Each university has its own entry requirements. Often, these are specific subjects they would have wanted you to study at school or college, as well as the qualifications and grades you’ll need to achieve in those subjects for them to give you a place.
There many different entry requirements that universities may demand from students, including:
Grades: Do your predicted grades align with the grade requirements that the university has specified? Some universities offer UCAS tariff points instead of grades, so be sure to check each set of requirements carefully.
Aptitude tests: Do you need to sit a specific test as part of your application? An example of these is the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT).
English proficiency: For international students, do you have the English skills required to be able to learn effectively on a particular course?
Criminal record, DBS check or equivalent: Particularly important for those training for public-facing roles, such as Medicine or Nursing.
Fitness to practice checks: Some practical courses, such as Medicine, require you to pass a medical or ‘fitness to practice’ check.
Don’t forget, each university will have its own entry requirements. Therefore, it’s very important that you read each prospectus carefully and ensure that you are working towards the level of qualification that they require.
To increase your chances of getting a place on a university course in the UK, UCAS gives you the option to apply to up to five courses at once. These are usually to separate universities in a similar subject, so that your application is relevant to all of them.
If you’ve still not made up your mind by the time you’ve come to apply, you’ll still have some time to consider which course is right for you - that is of course, based on the premise that you’re successful in being offered a place on them all.
So even if you’ve not made your final decision when you hit ‘apply,’ it’s most likely that you’ll still have some time to consider your options.
Finished reading this article and still uncertain about which university course may be right for you? Perhaps you want some help with applying through UCAS so you can ensure you’re making the most successful application possible?
With Melio Guidance, you’ll work one-on-one with an experienced guidance counsellor, who will coach you through the areas you want most help with.
Taking place over an 8-week period, they’ll work closely with you to ensure you have all the practical tools you need for your future success. So, whether you need help narrowing down which university course to choose, or want some coaching on how to master your university interview - they’ll be there to help support and guide you through the whole process.
Alternatively, if you’re ready to start your Guidance journey today, you can submit an application online, and we’ll be in contact with you regarding the next steps.