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Choosing a course to study

At first glance this might appear a simple decision – take a degree in what you enjoy. In reality, you have to consider a whole variety of factors before you put pen to paper. All of that before you start to fill out your university application forms. Choosing a course is a commitment and you are signing up for three years of full-time studying. Furthermore, it is not easy to transfer from one course to another. Do not assume that you can simply change your mind six weeks into your university life.

However, by the time you are in your final two years at secondary school, you should have a good idea of the subjects you are interested in and excel at. Your educational path may not be narrow, but it has certainly been narrowed, and you still have many options when it comes to choosing what to study at university.

The above statements apply to the UK and Europe.

The USA is, however,  quite different, because students either follow a mandatory Core Curriculum or design their course based on an Open Curriculum. Students at American universities are given until the end of their second year to decide the major or majors in which they wish to specialize. This means that applying to a specific university is more important than committing to a course, at the application stage. Given the fact that students can and do explore a whole range of topics and fields in the first year, they are less likely to find choosing their subjects an issue. They will have met the professors, done the background reading, attended lectures, and taken part in workshops. After that, they will be in a strong position to decide what they wish to study.

Choosing a course to study – think about the career you want to pursue

In the UK and EU, the number of applications you can make each academic year is limited, ranging from five to ten, so it is essential to sit down and think about the direction you wish to take, whether or not you will meet the academic requirements for admission, and if the course will improve your career prospects.

Your educational journey is part of a larger narrative and does not take place in a bubble. If you want to become a vet, you should study veterinary medicine. Moreover, you are more likely to find work in financial services if you have a degree in accounting and finance. Furthermore, agricultural qualification is not the best choice if you want to be a music critic! Think about your end goal and what would help you to reach it.

However, do not forget that there are professions where having a degree, any degree, will help you enter an industry. There are many graduate admission schemes in administration and public services. For example, demonstrating that you have completed higher education shows that you have critical thinking and communication abilities. Among the fields you can consider applying for with a degree are:

Large retailers often run graduate schemes. So do oil and energy companies, banks, IT sales companies such as Google and Microsoft, and many airlines. Graduate schemes expect applicants to have excellent academic results. Not only that but also related extracurricular activities and some job experience. Competition for places is keen, so make sure you start researching potential employers at the end of your second year at university. You should also go to any job fairs where you can make your interest known. Additionally, to find out about the company you would like to work for once you have finished your bachelor’s degree.

Be realistic about your abilities

You may love geography, but your grades are not brilliant and put you in the bottom half of your class. It, therefore, seems unlikely that you will get the scores needed for admission or pass an entrance exam in the subject if you are asked to sit one. You would be well advised to put geography aside and treat it as a delightful hobby that you can do in your spare time.

Maybe you are thinking of studying English or foreign languages. Be aware that these courses are extremely popular, and entry is highly competitive. Are your grades good enough? Ask yourself if your school transcripts will support your application. Have you taken courses or gone on exchanges to foreign countries which demonstrate your language abilities? The current trend is to look at applicants as more than the sum of their grades and results. Consequently, you need to provide evidence of your enthusiasm for languages through voluntary or extra-curricular activities.

What else might interest you?

Maybe you love playing video games and believe you have come up with the ultimate virtual reality scenario and have invented the next Fortnite. You may be right, but have you studied computer science, or joined programming clubs? Have you acquired a good knowledge of basic animation? Unless you can answer “Yes” to two of these questions, you have no idea whether you will be suited to a course in video game design. Therefore, it also applies to whether you will meet course entry requirements.

Similarly, many individuals see themselves as “artsy” and “creative” without having any particular field of expertise. All too often motivational statements fall into the “I am“ category, where applicants talk about how innovative they are, visionary, experimental, soulful, sensitive, in love with color et,c. If this is you, you might assume studying interior design, fashion or film-making is a good fit. That means you have to read the course curriculum very carefully and see if your skills match what is being taught in the modules.

If the course does not match your expectations

You may find that your dream does not match reality. The interior design focuses on the best use of space, building structure, and technology, and not finding quaint antique sofas and Persian rugs to fill a rich villa. Film-making is technical, and fashion courses are historical, theoretical, and marketing orientated, and teach you technical drawing and pattern cutting. Studying fashion is thus not merely a question of finding precisely the right boots and haircut to set off Marc Jacobs’ newest tote bag.

Should I study for a single, double or joint degree – and what is the difference?

single degree focusses on one subject, for example, a BA in History. You will study history for three years and while there may be some interdepartmental input and teaching, you will concentrate on history.

A joint degree allows you to study two subjects at the same time. You take core modules in each subject and divide your time equally. You gain a single qualification, for example, a BA in History and Philosophy. If you take a BA in History WITH Philosophy, however, history is the main subject, and philosophy is the subsidiary, so you will spend more time on history than philosophy.

A double or a dual degree is longer than a joint or single degree because you will be studying two separate subjects, one after the other, at two universities. You will eventually get two degrees. Some universities allow you to do the second subject online or through distance learning. These courses normally last for five or six years, and students often change countries when they have finished the first subject and take the second abroad.

For example, London’s London School of Economics teams up with New York’s Columbia Law School to offer a dual law degree. Similarly, UCL and Paris’ Sciences Po cooperate in providing a double degree in social and political studies. If you want to study History of Art in London, you can do a double degree which takes you to Venice. There are many options and an increasing number of universities with international partners. Those universities run double degrees, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. For example, King’s College London offers a double Master’s in Asian and International Affairs. This course lasts for two years and involves a year in China, at Renmin University, Beijing. Correspondingly, the UK University of East Anglia is twinned with Ritsumeikan University, Japan. The beforementioned university offers an MA in International Relations.

Which course interests you?

You decided that you want to do a double degree at the undergraduate level or a double Undergraduate – Master’s degree.  You may want to contact Elab and go through the choices open to you in some depth. Just call or email us, and one of our experienced consultants will advise you and give you the information you need. They will tell you all about timescales, costs, and possibilities.

Students who do dual degrees find the workload heavy since there is often no overlap between the subjects. Having a dual degree is, nevertheless, impressive when it comes to applying for jobs and compensates for the years of hard work. Moreover, it allows you to pursue two subjects that interest you, without having to choose between them.

How do I find out what subject I am good at and what inherent abilities I have?

Maybe you are torn between different fields and different subjects and your grades show that you are a good all-rounder and do well in Latin and biology. One of the most useful steps to take is to sit down and do a diagnostic test. The Morrisby Profile, which we offer at Elab, is a  renowned psychometric test that assesses your abilities and performance and links the results to the type of career which will suit you.

Morrisby is not an IQ test, but a guide to academic performance, which looks at your whole profile and analyses where your abilities are strongest. The test takes about one hour and 40 minutes and evaluates your logic, verbal, non-verbal, and numerical reasoning skills, as well as your spatial awareness and technical abilities.

The test will define your personality type, your strengths, weaknesses, and interests, and guide you in choosing what subject to study. For example, if you are hopeless at spatial awareness, this indicates architecture may not be the way forward!

Elab offers a great and popular program called Get Ready to Study, which begins by running the Morrisby test. Then we organize a meeting with one of our specialist consultants, during which you discuss the test findings and what you learned about your career prospects and personality. The Elab consultant will guide you through your options and suggest several universities. They will also prepare a list of courses that meet your needs and interests. In addition, if it is helpful, we can put you in touch with one of our mentors. They are the students who have either already finished the course you want to take, or are currently completing it. You can ask them questions and get a comprehensive idea of what to expect. By this point in the process, you will have a clear idea of where you want to apply and what subject you want to study!

Choosing a subject to study – a summary

At this juncture in your life, you are standing at a major crossroads. You are ready to set off down a path that will eventually lead you to employment and a career. It is therefore important not to rush this stage of your educational journey. Make sure that you are making the right choices – and Elab can help.

Call us or send us an email, and look throughout Get Ready to Study one-to-one program. Stop worrying about what subject to study – we have the tools, the consultants, and experts to help. All you have to do is get in touch…