How do I choose what to study?

Choosing a subject to pump a minimum of £27,000 into can be pretty daunting, but by the time you’re coming up to the end of completing your A Levels you should have at least a rough idea of what you’d like to do in the future. If you really have no idea at all, then stop right there! Have you perhaps considered that university may not be the right place for you if you don’t know what to do there? It’s a huge investment and just because a lot of your friends are going, it does not mean you have to.

However, if you are certain you want to go to university, here are a few things to consider:

Enjoyment: what are your favourite subjects at school? If you’re going to study only one (or perhaps two) subjects for at least three more years, you need to love it or it’ll drive you up the wall – and you probably won’t do very well. So if you take Maths and absolutely hate it, it’s not worth studying at university. You need to choose something you have a natural inclination towards and interest for, and something you want to study in depth. This is probably the most important aspect to consider when choosing a degree course.

Ability: it is important too to pick something you’re reasonably good at. This is mainly so the money you’re paying towards your degree is worth it – the majority of employers look for a minimum of a 2:1 grade from graduates, so if you’re getting Ds in Art you may wish to reconsider whether studying it academically is right for you. It may be worth considering apprenticeships or other qualifications to help you push forward in your career rather than a degree, especially if you’re looking at something a little more practical.

Course structure: remember, even the same course at a different university can vary wildly in structure, so make sure you check this out. Would you like to do something more coursework- or essay-based, or a degree more based on exams? Would you prefer to have a year abroad or industry? Do you have to do a dissertation at the end of your degree? These are important to consider.

Future prospects: similarly to ability, it is important to consider what you’re actually going to do with your degree. Are you considering a degree in a growing sector, such as environmental protection, or in a sector with a shortage of labour, such as engineering? If you’re studying something a little more competitive or general, such as English or Maths, you will likely need to get some work experience on the side of your degree to specialise in a specific career.

Subject guides: using the search box below have a look through hundreds of subject profiles as compiled by Which University. You can put in your A Levels and UCAS points to find courses suited to your ability, too. Get stuck in and research thoroughly – you might find a course you never even knew existed!

Search Courses on Which

Remember too, if you’re really stuck on choosing a subject, you could always consider a joint honours if they fit together really well (for example Maths and Business or English and French). Remember there are advantages and disadvantages to studying in this way – although you will develop a wider skill set and range of disciplines, a number of joint honours students struggle to get the most out of each half of their degree, as they may miss out on certain aspects of the full subject. There also needs to be excellent communication between departments to avoid clashes with deadlines and classes. It is worth considering whether the subjects fit together well enough at your chosen university before you apply, otherwise your overall grade when you graduate may be affected. There is debate around the joint honours degree: some claim that it is not a well-respected as a single honours, yet others say that because it is recognised as being harder, it is more respected. Ensure you consider all of these things before making a decision.

So you’ve got plenty to think about, but lots of advice to help you with it, too. Good luck!