Finding the right course for you Finding the right course for you

Have you got a university course shortlist as long as your arm? It’s not unusual to feel a bit bewildered by all the different options available. 

This guide from current undergraduate student, Louise Fitzgerald, will help you to whittle down your options by making you think about how you study and choose the course that’s right for you. 

What do you want to study?

Do you want to continue with one of your A-Level subjects, or try something completely different? There are a huge range of courses out there, for example, did you know that you can do a degree in Viking studies? Me neither. Use the UCAS search tool and university websites to get a feel for what courses are out there.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • If it’s something you currently study, will you still be interested in three years’ time?
  • If it’s something new, do you know what it involves?
  • If you have a career goal in mind already, do you need to study a specific undergraduate degree subject? 

Where does the course and university rank?

Don’t get too obsessed with University League Tables. They rank universities on slightly different criteria and are a good indicator, but should not be the only comparison tool you use. It might be more useful to look at websites like UNISTATS and the National Student Survey results for a more detailed breakdown, and to hear what recently graduated students thought of the course.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What do other students think of the course or university?
  • Are you only looking at the highly ranked universities based on perceived reputation? If so, why not try looking at a few others?
  • How do the ‘official’ and student league tables compare?

Which is best for you: Modular or structured courses?

Some courses have a set structure, whereas others give you lots of choice about what you want to study. For example, I study Environmental Science at UEA, and get to choose from a huge range of modules such as Aquatic Ecology, Low Carbon Energy and Environmental Economies. Picking a course with lots of options is great if you’re not sure what you want to specialise in.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you like being able to choose what you study?
  • Do you have a diverse range of interests?  
  • Do you know what you want to specialise in, or do you want to keep your options open?

What are the course grade requirements

You have five choices on your UCAS form. Find the courses that appeal to you the most with entry requirements that are realistic. You’ll probably want to choose a few safer options that you know you’ll get the grades for, but also consider those more aspirational courses that will stretch you.  Based on the universities that make you an offer, you’ll then have to choose a firm and insurance choice.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a sensible spread of grade requirements across your five options?
  • Have you included a safe and more aspirational option based on your predicted grades?
  • Does your insurance choice have lower entry requirements than your firm?

Try and go to university open days

My best advice for picking a course is to try and go to as many open days as possible. Being able to visit the university will give you a much better feel for the place than any of the pictures in the prospectus. Take advantage of the opportunity to talk to current students and academics about life at their university. If you can’t make it to an open day, try asking on The Student Room.

What happens if I choose the wrong course for me?

Most students choose a course and know it’s the right thing for them. But what happens if after hours of research and university visits, you start your dream course and it’s not for you? It’s not the end of the world and there might be the option to alter your field of study. UEA student Hannah shared her story about changing courses on her blog.  Hannah was able to swap courses from English Literature and Drama to English Literature, but still enjoys being part of the Drama Society.

So my advice for you would be to do your research – look at university websites, use comparison tools and league tables and speak to your teachers and advisers. Visit as many university open days as you can to get a feel for the course and find the university that’s right for you. Remember, going to university isn’t just about the subject you study, but what you make of all the other opportunities open to you when you’re there. 

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