NEXT UP ON this.
Feeling unsure about what you want to study is a common conundrum. And there’s a lot more to picking a university course than the degree you’ll earn or the career you’ll land.
Practical considerations like whether you prefer exams or assignments, or you’re more interested in practical or theoretical subjects, are often just as important as the course itself because they have a huge impact on your ability to complete the degree.
So crucial are these factors that ‘many students change their course after their first year,’ says Deakin University’s future student engagement coordinator, Luke Ridgwell.
Keen to boost your chances of getting it right the first time? Here are some important practical considerations for choosing a course that fits with your interests and learning style.
If you’re starting university straight after year 12, one of the big changes is that classes are optional. In high school you must attend classes, whereas at university there’s often more flexibility.
So it’s vital to choose a course you’ll find engaging. If you’re not engaged in the course, you’re less likely to attend classes and, by extension, complete your degree.
‘At university you’re an adult and you don’t have to go to class if you don’t want to,’ Ridgwell says. ‘You’re only going to make the effort to do well if you’re truly enjoying what you’re studying.’
If a university qualification and student life appeals to you but you have no idea what to study, Ridgwell suggests using a course guide to go through each course to work out what you’re interested in – and eliminate what you’re not. ‘Start with the subjects you’re interested in and go from there.’
Still unsure what to study that will keep you engaged? Ridgwell recommends choosing a general degree, which allows you to sample a range of subjects and narrow down what you really want to pursue.
‘Study a broad range of subjects in your first year, then decide your area of specialty or major once you’ve tried a few subjects,’ Ridgwell says.
Every course is structured differently. There might be greater focus on lectures and assignments, or more work placements, exams and time in the lab. How you prefer to learn has a big impact on the course that’s right for you.
‘Courses at university are taught very differently depending on the study area,’ Ridgwell says. ‘Does the course you’re considering include practical learning or field trips, or is it all theoretical? Are there lots of assignments or more emphasis on exams?’
Something else to consider is subject selection. Before choosing a course, it’s important to look at the compulsory and elective subjects and consider whether they’ll hold your interest and fit with your learning style.
‘In nutrition-based courses there are subjects like chemistry and health; in sport science there is physics; and in optometry there are business and accounting units,’ Ridgwell explains. ‘It can be surprising to see subjects in a course that you may not expect.’
Students tend to fall into two broad categories, explains Ridgwell: those who know what they want to study and the field they’re keen to work in after graduation, and those who have a broad area of interest but no clear career path.
If you fall into the latter category, he says it’s okay to have only a vague idea of what you’d like to study. You don’t have to decide your career path before you begin your course, as it’s likely that during your course you’ll eventually work out what you enjoy and what you don’t.
‘Most students simply have a rough idea of what they want to do, and they build on that idea as they progress through their course,’ Ridgwell says. ‘During your course you’ll learn what you’re good at and what you enjoy, and this will help you make decisions about your future.’
Subscribe for a regular dose of technology, innovation, culture and personal development.