Choosing a university course

students studying in library

Choosing your university course can be tough, particularly since it involves leaving subjects you love behind and committing to just one or two. While it’s not set in stone, and many universities will let you swap, changing subject is not always feasible or easy, and can often make you feel like you’re starting your degree catching up. So it’s important to get right.

Making the decision of what to study at university will always feel daunting: you’ll be dedicating three or four years of your life to this subject, so it’s necessary to be passionate about it, as well as good enough to ensure that you’ll pass with a degree that makes the time and money you’ve invested in it worthwhile. For some, it’s easy: they know exactly what they want to study, and why they want to study it; the decision takes as much effort as putting on a uniform in the morning. However, for those of you who aren’t sure, or who are wavering between a couple of subjects, the pressure to choose can seem insurmountable.

Choosing a subject usually comes down to following your heart or your head: what you love doing, versus what you’re good at doing. While no one can give you a crystal clear answer, there are many different ways to approach the problem:

Think about the amount of time a degree involves

If you love doing something, no matter how good or bad you are at it, it’s always going to be easier to dedicate the majority of your life to following it. However, if you’re good at a subject but don’t enjoy it, will you put in the required amount of time, without regretting it? Even if you’re not great at your intended subject, your love of the field and passion for getting it right will pick you up in more ways than you could imagine.

Imagine the next three years

Do you want to be spending time on a subject you feel apathetic towards? Being in the library more than your fellow students may be the price you pay if you think you’ll struggle doing the course you’d love to do, but if you enjoy the work, it won’t feel like a disadvantage – and most of the time, being the underdog, or feeling less confident can often help improve your grades. It’s those who get arrogant over natural talent and fall behind, whereas dogged determination to succeed will see you excel.

Remember the bigger picture

University requires you to specialise further in your degree as you progress through the years, and if you don’t know enough about a subject or have the desire to seek undiscovered truths, you’ll soon find yourself in trouble. University tutors and lecturers know when an essay or dissertation has been written by someone who’s enjoying what they do, fuelled by an evident interest, and in turn they know when someone’s dragging their fingers across a keyboard!

While there are some decisions you have to make with your head, choosing your degree course is not one of them. This isn’t to say you should pick your subject on a whim – choosing to do art if you struggle drawing stickmen won’t have good end results – but ultimately, your choice should depend on what you’re passionate about, not what feels safe.

Written by - Jen B.

Studied English at Durham University