Now that the 2015/16 academic year is coming to an end we will soon be welcoming a new cohort of students.
Therefore, for those of you who are or who know of prospective students, I know that choosing the right course at University can seem daunting. So I thought I would share some advice that I received when I was choosing my course and my own personal experiences.
1. Choose a course that you find interesting. When I was considering what course to apply for at University, a speaker came into my secondary school and gave a really good piece of advice; he said choose something that you enjoy, something that you will look forward to get out of bed for. This does not mean that you have to have done this course before but as long as you find the topic interesting and engaging you will find that you enjoy the course. Also don’t be swayed by others, this choice affects your future and so the choice must be yours and no one else’s.
2. Be aware of the assessment methods. This may not be much of a consideration and should not govern your overall choice but should be a consideration. For instance I preferred coursework to exams, and it also happened that the course I chose for my under-graduate degree had more coursework as opposed to exams. In hindsight I think this really enhanced my learning because I was able to examine particular essay questions in-depth and critically apply what I had learnt from lectures and seminars. This suited my learning style and really enhanced my university experience. However, this should not be the over-arching determinant but at the very least you should be aware of what to expect from the course you are thinking of choosing.
3. Make sure you feel comfortable and like the department in which you be based. One of the biggest determinants for my choice of course and university was the pastoral support and the department in which my course was based. This was a big factor for me, because I wanted to be in a department and undertaking a course run by teachers and academics that cared and guided the students. Luckily for me, I have received fantastic support from supervisors and staff within the departments in which I have studied.
4. Consider what you are good at. I am aware that this is a bit vague, but what I mean is consider where you academic or learning strengths are. For instance, in terms of learning I know that I am better at writing than mathematics. So when I was choosing a course, I tended to veer towards a topic that involved writing more than balancing and completing mathematic problems. This meant that I enjoyed what I was studying and felt that I was making more progress that I probably would have done had I chosen a more ‘scientific’ and ‘maths’ based courses.
5. Consider the future. I know that this is a daunting prospect; I am not saying that you need to know what you want to do for a career but it might be a small consideration behind your choice of course. For instance, when I was considering what I wanted to do after university, at the time I wanted to join the Police Service after graduating. So my degree choice of sociology suited this choice as this was a subject that the police value in potential recruits. As it happened, I have since remained in education but perhaps what is more important is that aside from learning and studying sociology I have developed a number of other skills that make me a good candidate for many jobs. For instance in studying sociology I had developed a number of skills which includes: high level of written and verbal English (communication skills), critical thinking, research skills, distilling information etc. So I guess what I am trying to say is that even if your choice may have no direct link to work (for instance studying medicine results in you becoming a doctor), the skills you develop along the way can help you in the world of work even if the choice of topic seems a bit bizarre. For instance a good friend of mine studied European film, language and literature at university. She found the course really interesting and enjoyed her time at University, but when graduating there appeared to be no line of work that linked directly to her course of study. However, what she found is that the skills she had developed along the way including: critical thinking, writing and language skills, research skills and creative thinking helped her gain employment.
So although these tips seem a bit vague, I think these all need to be considered in various measures when choosing a course at University; this applied to both post-graduate and undergraduate courses. There are other things to consider, but in terms of choosing the right course it is important that you enjoy the course and the skills you develop along the way will set you in good stead for a bright future. What is most important is that you are happy and enjoy your course.
I hope these tips are useful! Thank you for reading.