How to choose a course

Thursday 19 December 2019, UCAS advice


How to choose a course


There are over 30,000 courses listed in our search tool. Quite a daunting statement if you haven’t made your mind up yet about what you want to apply for, right? It doesn’t have to be though, after all every year there are hundreds of thousands of people in exactly the same situation as you’re in now, and they all manage to choose. So wouldn’t it be great if you could ask how they did it? How they narrowed down 30,000 to five course choices, and then ultimately just one? Well that’s exactly what we did.

We asked those of you on Facebook who already know what you’re going to study, or what you plan to apply for, how you decided that your course was right for you. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories, we had heaps of responses. Reading through them all, I could see that most people chose their course through one of five ways, so here they are in a nutshell.

Some people just know
​There’s a group of people out there who, for one reason or other, have always known what they wanted to study. Perhaps they were inspired at a young age by their favourite TV character or by a family member they looked up to. However it came about, they’ve been focussed for as long as they can remember on a particular career, and this is guiding their studies. You might think they’re a lucky bunch, because for them the decision never really had to be made – but spare a thought for those who were inspired by Bananaman...


Start with your heart
Looking at what you enjoy – what makes you tick – is a good way to kick-off your research. If you love writing for example, courses with plenty of written assessments are a good starting point. Moving on to your broader interest, you might be able to find courses that 
reflect your hobbies and extracurricular activities, as well as subjects you know you’re good at. If you can do this then you’ll probably find writing your personal statement a piece of a cake, as you’ve got heaps of evidence to support why you’re genuinely interested in the course you’re applying for.

Work experience works
Work experience, both paid and unpaid, can help you narrow down what you like doing, and – as importantly – what you don’t. If you’ve already got some experience then think about the tasks involved and also the industry it was in, to determine whether these are areas you can see yourself learning more about. If you haven’t got any work experience, then arranging to work shadow someone in a career you’re interested in is a great opportunity to find out whether you want to study a course which could lead to something similar. Although having your sights set on a job isn’t the only reason you’d choose to go to uni (this video explains lots of other motivations) it’s one that we know is important to some people.
Speak to those in the know
Although no one knows you quite as well as you know yourself, there are other people who can help you choose a course. Current and past teachers can give you insight in to where your strengths lie academically, and therefore what types of course you could be well suited to. If you have a particular career in mind then speak to people who work in that profession already – it’s a great way to find out which courses might help you to pursue it.

No idea? No boundaries!
Sometimes not knowing what you want to study can seem like you’re in the dark, but try to see it instead as having an open mind. Look at as many different avenues as possible, and do as much research as you can. Attending open days and UCAS conventions gives you the chance to find out about lots of different courses, some of which you might never have considered (or heard of). Take the opportunity to speak to staff from universities and colleges on these days – they’ll be able to give you far more information than could possibly be crammed in to a prospectus!

Speak to current students with Unibuddy!