Starting Uni Student-made

How and why I chose my course: advice from a first year

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With the UCAS deadline looming, you may still feel slightly unsure about what course to apply for if you know you want to go to university. This is a common position many prospective students find themselves in, a position I was in whilst applying too. Here’s some advice I wish I knew when applying, so hopefully this will put your mind at ease.

Think about your existing interests – no matter how niche or broad

A general piece of advice you’ve probably heard already is: what are you interested in? Whilst clichéd (and at this point tiresome), it’s given for good reason!

I liked both History and French at A-Level and the content taught at Manchester fitted with my more specific interests in both disciplines. For example, history is taught at Manchester from a perspective of decolonisation, an approach which spoke volumes to me.

This can also be thought about by looking at what skills you need to do the degree. A degree in the humanities or social sciences typically involves being critical and analytical, as well as a lot of independent research; these were skills I enjoyed using at sixth form.

Sometimes you don’t know if you’re passionate about something until you try. Find taster lectures online, do MOOCs (effectively short courses on specific topics), read books on the reading list of modules you’d want to take – it’s often a game of trial and error to see what you would want to study for at least three years.  

Who do you admire and what degree did they take?

A degree can just be a stepping stone to a future career – many companies in a multitude of industries don’t mind what degree you’ve taken, as long as you can show what you’ve learnt and how this applies to a role. With this in mind, look at people you admire or research someone whose job you would potentially want to do in the future.

For me, at the moment, I’m looking at a career broadly in the media industry. A lot of journalists I admire took a History or Modern Languages degree – a motivating factor in choosing my degree.

Don’t be necessarily dissuaded by what A-Levels (or equivalent qualifications) you took

Although I am taking a joint honours degree of my two of my three A-Levels, your degree is not determined by what qualifications you took pre-university. A great example is a Politics degree. Whilst some people who take Politics might have studied it before university, the course is designed to give a foundation to those who won’t have experienced it before.

I have to mention that this does not always apply to all courses – some STEM degrees do mandate certain A-Levels, but it’s not the same across all schools and disciplines.

Evaluate what the course actually involves

Sometimes a course can seem great on the surface, but when you delve deeper it can turn out to be something you just wouldn’t want to study. It’s worth looking at compulsory modules, assessment methods etc.

In my case, History has only one compulsory module in my first year, with complete free choice across both disciplines next year onwards. As I would describe my interest in both disciplines as quite broad, this works well for me – but some would potentially prefer a more structured or set approach.

I’ve also made a short video on choosing my course, take a look:


Student Jacob shares his tips for choosing the best university course for you #unilife #uniofmanchester #student #ucas2023 #studying

♬ original sound – The University of Manchester
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