Deciding whether or not to go to university is a big decision, but choosing which subject to study is an even harder choice. Here is the low-down on what seven different subjects are really like, from the students who have studied them.
Communications – Edyta Wanic
Can the media influence public opinion and political decision-making? Is globalisation really Americanisation? How can we define journalistic professionalism? Communications is not only about interpersonal communications, as some people may think. Rather, it is a multidisciplinary course providing an insight into different types of communications including political, economic, mediated and international. During this course, you will explore the interactions between communications and the media, and their influences on social and cultural issues in a global context. You will learn how to analyse the mediated text and will study the relations between media ownership and journalistic objectivity. The course will also provide you with a background into the creative industries including film, music and photography. There are many career paths that a graduate of Communications can choose due to the interdisciplinary nature of the course. These range from journalism and publishing to public relations and advertising. Other job opportunities include work as press officers, social media executives and market researchers.
English – Harriet Bignell
It may not put you top of the Telegraph’s ‘top 12 employable degree subjects’ – or even on it for that matter – but English Literature is a fantastic subject to study. English students have the opportunity to access writing from around the globe and explore it through various poetry, graphic novels, fiction etc. Weekly texts keep the course alive and come revision phase, when the library is jam-packed, you can be on the sofa with a cuppa and a novel. Bliss. Skills that the study of English provides in essay writing, referencing, and researching are not only transferable, but also invaluable when it comes to impressing potential employers. Whilst English is not vocational, it does provide valuable attributes for forging careers in a variety of different fields. Accessing the thoughts of some of history’s most intelligent people through their writings can provide an insight into worlds and lives hitherto unimagined; it is this which gives English the unique ability of producing open-minded and well-rounded graduates. Accessing this multitude of opinions also affords English students the critical ability to regard the world around them and conclude: “Civilised my syphilised yarbles” (Anthony Burges, A Clockwork Orange).
History – Kayley Gilbert
History is a brilliant subject to study at university, but it is very different from A Level, simply because of the amount of independent study. Unfortunately, there will be no comprehensive textbook that covers everything you need to learn for your exam. You will need to consult a wide range of books and historians, question their ideas, argue with their conclusions and evaluate their reasoning for any essay. There is no one book that does it for you, I’m afraid. Although lectures will ease you in slowly, this does mean that reading with take up a large amount of your time at university. It will seem like a lot, but it is important to keep on top of your reading list, not only to understand the topic, but to engage with the invaluable discussion in seminars. Also, at university there is a larger focus on historiography rather than history in essays. You may have touched on this at A Level, but it will be studied in much more depth at university. Historiography can take a while to get your head around, but keep practicing and you’ll get there. So, although History at university is a sizable step up from A Level, it is a thoroughly interested and challenging topic that I’m sure will engage and excite you over the next three years.
Languages – Selina Sykes
In the age of Google Translate and English as the global language, British students have developed a certain lacklustre for languages. Everyone speaks English nowadays, right? But in an increasingly global world, Languages students are more important than ever. Language learning goes far beyond communication. It is about understanding and being able to interact in different cultures – an attractive trait for any employer. Our degrees provide us with transferable skills which will make us stand out in international and competitive job markets. Languages students become multi-skilled: they study literature, history, politics and film, not to mention verb conjugations and the subjunctive. Most importantly, Languages students are exportable. We are culturally aware and open to new horizons and challenges. Our year abroad makes us stand out and proves that we are able to adapt to change and communicate confidently and enthusiastically. If you want to become an all-rounded individual who can communicate clearly, is more globally-minded, has the opportunity to travel and is spoilt for choice from an exciting variety of occupations, then a Languages degree is for you. In a fiercely competitive and international market, a Languages degree will open more doors.
Politics – Ibtisam Ahmed
If you happen to think that studying Politics will only lead to a dreary career in Westminster where you have to give up your morals in exchange for popularity, you are mistaken. Not that the subject won’t give you those opportunities, but it is not just about votes anymore. Undergraduate degrees are aimed at providing a well-rounded examination of the discipline, which naturally includes an understanding of the most important features such as understanding government systems as well as reading all the great thinkers, ranging from Marx to Mill. Postgraduate specialisations will let students focus on specific aspects such as policy-making, international development and foreign affairs. The most significant development in recent years, however, has been the integration of fields that are not strictly ‘political’ into the subject, such as films, television, theatre, books, music, art and architecture. This is an age where party politics is greeted with apathy, if not hostility, while popular culture is becoming an increasingly visible stage for political movements. It is good to see that the subject is adapting to reflect this. So, whether you want to debate the merits of democracy or the interventionism of Spider-Man, Politics is for you.
Physics – Helena Moretti
Physics is one subject that always gets a reaction. Whether people think it is amazing, boring, or needlessly difficult, everyone has an opinion. However, a lot of the stereotypes about Physics aren’t true – take it from someone who has been there and done that! So what’s the truth? Why should you get on UCAS and choose Physics? For starters, it opens up a massive array of opportunities. Though many jobs will accept applications from all subjects, employers love the logic and numerical ability that comes with Physics. At most universities, you can pick a few modules from other departments as well, so you can build on that great subject with coding or languages. Although it comes with brilliant career prospects, it also comes at a price. Chances are that you will have more contact hours, assignments, and exams than most of your friends. The complex theory involved can be very difficult to wade through if you’re not passionate. However if you have relentless curiosity and a drive to learn about the universe, then studying Physics will be massively satisfying and worth the endless hours of revision! So, if you find yourself watching Wonders of the Universe and reading some Richard Feynman in your spare time, then go for it – Physics just might be your thing!
Sociology – Susanna Chapman
From healthcare and media, to food and consumerism, all the way through parenting, education and economics, there is something in Sociology for everyone. The range of topics that you can study is just so vast! What is more, the subject varies between the purely theoretical and the very practical; so you are bound to find an approach that you enjoy. Finally, there are varieties in research methods (which you are bound to have to study). Some people prefer ‘qualitative’ research – interviews and ethnography – while other prefer ‘quantitative’ methods: surveys and statistics. Sociology is everywhere. Look around you. Do you see films, newspapers, magazine, and television? That’s Sociology. Did you eat a particular brand of food today? Do you have a favourite clothing line? That’s Sociology. Get the idea? It’s all relevant and it’s all studied by you, and that’s what makes it interesting. Being examined on Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Writing essays about contraception in the USSR? Watching pop music videos in your seminar (think One Direction, Jessie J). Sound like your thing? Sociology is a fun and accessible course. Some of my essays last year were so much fun, I actually enjoyed writing them. Sociology offers an array of opportunities after graduation including, but not limited to, journalism, social work, working for NGOs or charities, NHS management, local government opportunities, teaching and education, academia, and many, many more.
Of course every individual has different interests and ideas about what they want to study, but the above summaries might just get you thinking. Good luck!
Which subject should you study at university? What do you think?
Photo: SPT Photographe / Flickr
PhD Politics student from Bangladesh, writing on the British Empire and its creation of the utopian/dystopian binary. Sees a lot wrong with the world and tries to contribute to their solutions. Or at the very least rants about them.