This is a question we get asked countless times every year, and it can be very hard to answer!
Some students are able to choose their degree based on the type of career they want. For example, if you want to become a psychologist, one of the quickest routes of getting there is by taking a Psychology undergraduate degree, and preferably one which is BPS accredited.
As the employment market has changed over the past couple of decades, so the choice of degrees has changed to reflect the greater diversity. If you wish to practice as a lawyer, you may complete a Law undergraduate degree, or you may instead pursue an entirely different subject and then undertake a Law conversion course. Similarly, more and more people are taking the Graduate Entry route into Medicine, as opposed to applying for it as a first degree.
An increasing number of options are now available to students and, whilst this can certainly be advantageous, it also makes the final decision regarding a particular route to a final destination more difficult.
For the majority of students, choosing a degree is not a quick process. Even once they have decided on a subject area, there are so many things to consider: would they prefer a three or four year course, would they like a year in industry or the option to study abroad, would they prefer assessment to take the form of examinations, coursework, or a combination?
They are just the preliminary decisions. Once a student has set parameters, they need to start making a shortlist of universities which offer their course. Arguably, it’s easier if not many universities offer it; the alternative being considerably more research which needs to be done. For “popular” degrees offered at a number of institutions, students need to think about more practical sides of studying: would they prefer to study in a city or somewhere more rural, what accommodation and facilities are on offer at the university, and how long are the terms?
Once a student has shortlisted universities they like, it is then that the more in-depth research needs to be done. Do the universities give standard offers that the student is likely to achieve or exceed? Are the modules and electives on offer in line with the student’s main interests? What size is the year group, and how is the teaching conducted?
Typically, after a student has thought about the above points, they will have shortlisted around eight to ten universities which they like. At that stage, it is always worth attending open days, or engaging with the faculties to gain as much information as possible to ensure that the university really is the right one. It is certainly worth the time and effort to create a sufficient pool from which to draw. Resist the temptation to apply to universities you don’t particularly like, or don’t know much about, merely to fill the UCAS options. Often, this leads to disappointment if a place is not secured from first or second choice universities.
In our experience, students are often reticent to ask their schools and colleges for support and advice. Choosing your university degree is a big decision, and it’s one which could have a marked impact on your career. It’s important that you feel that you can ask as many questions as you need in order to make an informed decision.
You may find that you get advice from your family, friends, and school, but feel that you would still like to talk to someone else.
If you’re in that position, you can always talk to the universities you’re considering, but also, you can talk to us for impartial advice. We have all been there, and are very happy to help!