7 March 2024

How to Choose a University Course

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Picking what to study at university is a huge decision that could set the course for the next three to four years of your life.

Maybe you’re really on it and already know what you’ll be studying, but if you haven’t yet – that’s okay too. With 166 universities and over 50,000 courses to choose from, it might feel just a tad overwhelming.

Luckily, there are ways to narrow it down. Read on for tips on how to choose a university course and what questions you should ask yourself.

Why it’s so important to get it right

There’s nothing worse than sitting midway through a lecture and suddenly realising that your chosen course is not for you. 

While it’s not the end of the world (there are still options if this is you), it’s so much easier if you pick the right course early.

Think of your university course as the gateway to the career you want. Ideally, your chosen course should incorporate everything you’ve been studying at college or sixth form as well as your career aspirations and interests.

You’ll spend the next three (or possibly, four) years on this course. That’s a long time, it’s basically marriage. So you’ll need to choose a university course you’ll enjoy.

What degree should I do?

There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re picking what to study at university, you could think about everything from location to course content and beyond. We’ve narrowed them down to four questions you can think about to get you started.

What are you currently studying?

It’s safe to assume that you’re currently studying a subject that you want to make a career in. Let’s start there.

If you’re studying engineering, there are several courses you can pick. It all depends on what part of engineering you have your eye on. You can continue in the general sense, or specialise. For example, civil engineering or electrical engineering.

Let’s say you don’t quite enjoy what you’re currently studying. Think about other areas of your industry that could follow on from what you’re studying.

For example, you’re currently doing A Levels in geography and business. Maybe you’re not so keen on the business side of things, but love geography – university is your chance to expand and specialise in that.

If you want to study a completely different course, you’ll need to make sure you can meet the entry requirements.

What are your career aspirations?

Next, you should spend some time thinking about what it is you want to be. 

You might have already had that in your head since you were five years old. However, it’s 200% worth doing a little bit of research to find out what jobs students have gone on to do after their degrees. You never know what you’ll come across.

For example, if you decide to pursue a law career you could become one of the following;

  • Solicitor
  • Barrister
  • Legal Executive
  • Trademark Attorney.

Or if history is your calling, you could be the next;

  • Archivist
  • Historic buildings inspector
  • Gallery curator
  • Archaeologist.

It’s all about making sure you’re picking the best course that will help you achieve your career goals.

Does your industry favour students who’ve done an internship or placement? If you’d like to do a placement (they work wonders for your career, trust us), it’s worth looking at courses that offer sandwich years or at least the option to complete work experience during your time at university.

Where do you want to study?

This is another important step in how to choose a university course. You might have dreams of attending a certain university because your parents or sibling went there, or maybe they have the UK’s number one chemistry facility. But it’s always wise to do your research.

There are many factors to consider when picking your university such as,

  • Is the course I want available?
  • Do I need to relocate?
  • Can I afford to live in halls?

However, it’s worth making sure you pick a university that a) has the ideal degree and b) is one you know you’ll be happy at. That’s why going to open days is so key (more on that later).

What qualifications do you already have?

Think about the grades you have and the grades you’re working towards. Do they correspond with current entry requirements? 

This will really inform the course you decide on and the type of degree you’ll have to do. For example, you might need a foundation degree if you don’t have all the entry requirements for a regular Bachelor’s degree.

Always look through the entry requirements for each course you consider.

Placements are super helpful and can help you secure a job after graduation. Find out why you should seriously consider one.

Top Tip: Attend University Open Days

Open days are VITAL. You’ll understand what it’s like to be a student at a particular university. The campus you’ll be walking through, the halls you’ll be staying in, the lecture, seminar and lab rooms you’ll be taught in, and the library you’ll spend 90% of your life in.

Seeing IRL makes a huge difference.

You can read course content all you want but there’s nothing like being able to visit a university campus and speak to the students currently on the course(s) you’re interested in.

A huge part of an open day is the course meets. These usually happen in the department buildings and can take the form of tours, live demos or introduction talks.

On your visit you’ll be able to;

  • Have a look at the facilities your course has (labs, computer rooms, music studios, equipment etc)
  • Speak to students on the course and find out everything from their favourite lecturer to what their day-to-day is like
  • Have a read of the course guide and get into the details of what the course offers
  • Meet potential classmates.

Skills are super important and you can pick up a few whilst at university. Here are 8 transferable skills you learn at university.

When do I need to apply for university?

Full-time undergraduate applications for 2025 are expected to open at the end of March 2024. So keep your eyes open. 

The early deadline usually happens around October, with a full deadline at the end of January.

If you miss those deadlines, it is possible to try your luck in clearing (around June). It’s also important to know that some courses might have different deadlines, so it’s always good to triple-check what those dates are. They’ll always be outlined in the course details.

You can sign up for Student Finance’s mailing list to get updates on when applications open too.

Hopefully all the above will set you up to find the right university course for you and the beginnings of a career. Why not see what’s out there and check out our placement and internship vacancies? We have loads.