Decision making is hard, we know. But at some point, whether you are a current or prospective student at a US or UK university, you will have to choose a course or major.
It sounds easy – you just pick one, right? But when it’s your future in the balance, you’re going to want to make sure you put some extra thought into it!
If you have absolutely no idea what to study, then grab a pen and paper and write down a list of things you find interesting or fun – whether they are related to academia or not. You might end up with a list like: “skateboarding, biking, food, books about World War 2, the Sun.”
Then break this list down further and decide what you like about each thing. For example, you might be fascinated by the graphics on the underside of your skateboard or interested in the mechanics which make your bike work.
You could be interested in how the food you eat affects your mood or your health or how historians gather the information for historical fiction books.
You might be interested in how the Sun provides the planet with life or when it will meet its end.
From that list alone, you have numerous potential courses: graphic design, engineering, dietetics, nutrition, history, creative writing, literature, environmental science, and physics to name a few.
See how easy it is to come up with ideas when you break it down into your personal interest areas?
After that, you can begin researching each one and see which sounds best for you.
With hundreds of factors, both big and small, to consider when choosing a course that is the right fit for you, it is worth asking yourself the following questions…
1. Are you passionate about it?
You are going to have to study it for three to four years so if the idea of learning about marine biology doesn’t sound too appealing now, chances are it won’t be too fun three years down the line either.
Choose something that fascinates you, allows you to explore many facets of a subject and makes you excited to do so. You will have to devote a significant amount of energy into the course so ensure it is something that brings you joy and fulfilment.
If in doubt, make a list like the one above and work through it.
2. What sort of career do you want?
Have a think about how can you use this degree to get to where you want to be in your future career. Maybe you don’t know what you want to do as a job yet – many people don’t – but research which potential careers are available to graduates in your chosen field.
If you are really uncertain about your career, or prone to changing your mind, choose a degree where you can develop transferable skills so that you expand your job options.
For example, a course like literature could land you a job in a multitude of different sectors whereas something like nursing is pretty job-specific.
There’s also value in thinking about where you plan to put your roots down post-graduation. Do you want to return to your home country? Or perhaps you want to migrate? This decision may or may not change over time but where you settle down will matter because if the country of your choosing has no demand for your skills, you might want to consider a different career path.
3. Do you have the necessary qualifications for the course?
For the majority of courses, you will need certain pre-university or equivalent qualifications to be accepted. If you are choosing a major, you are unlikely to need to have specific qualifications but may have had to study the subject earlier in your degree.
Check online or directly with admissions staff or lecturers what you need to do to score a spot on the course of your choice.
4. Are you good at that subject or one similar?
It is possible you have never studied the subject before – you might not have even heard of it until recently – but that doesn’t mean it is off-limits to you by any means.
Start by thinking about the subjects you have studied already and which you usually do well in: if biology and sociology are your best subjects then a degree in forensics is not an implausible option.
If fine art and literature are your best subjects, however, you might want to reconsider where your energies are best spent.
If you are stuck between a few options, pick one and stick to it for a few days.
Say it out loud, tell your friends, make plans. That way, one of two things will happen: either, you begin to feel comfortable with the decision and it will feel right, or you will still be full of doubt. Feeling full of the doubt after a few days? Cross that option off your list and repeat.
Ultimately, this is your decision and your future so while it is important to listen to your friends’ and family’s opinions, you need to make sure you are comfortable with the final choice.
And if you don’t? Maybe it is worth considering a year out to work, volunteer, travel or all three to take the time to decide what is best for you.