Choosing the right university degree
Feeling unsure about what you want to study is a common problem. And there is more to choosing a university program than the degree you will earn or the career you will have after graduation.
There are also practical decisions you need to make. Do you prefer exams or assignments? Do you prefer hands-on learning over lectures? These are important and have an impact on your success.
Do not worry if you are unsure what course you want. ‘Many students change their plans after their first year of study,’ says Deakin University’s future student engagement coordinator, Luke Ridgwell.
Here are some tips for choosing a course to help you get it right the first time.
Focus on what you enjoy
If you are starting university right out of high school, one of the big changes is that class attendance is optional. In high school you must attend classes, whereas at university there is often more flexibility.
It is important to choose a course you will find interesting. If you’re not engaged with the content, you are less likely to attend classes and to complete your degree.
‘At university you are an adult and you do not have to go to class if you don’t want to,’ Ridgwell says. ‘You are only going to make the effort to do well if you are truly enjoying what you are studying.’
If you are not sure what you want to study, Ridgwell suggests looking at a Deakin international student course guide. Go through each course to work out what you are interested in – and eliminate what you’re not. Start with the subjects you are interested in and go from there.’
Are you still unsure what to study that will keep you engaged? Ridgwell recommends choosing a degree that allows you to sample a range of subjects. You might have an idea and narrow down what you really want to pursue.
‘Study a broad range of subjects in your first year, then decide your area of specialty or major once you have tried a few subjects,’ Ridgwell says.
Deakin students work on real world projects
Hands on learning is a focus at Deakin
Think about how you like to learn
Every course is structured differently. Some might have more focus on lectures and assignments. You may have to write exams. Some will provide a lot of hands-on experience in labs or workshops, while others will have longer work placements. ‘How you prefer to learn has a big impact on the course that is right for you.’
‘Courses at university are taught very differently depending on the study area,’ Ridgwell says. ‘Does the course you’re considering include practical learning or field trips, or is it all theoretical? Are there lots of assignments or more emphasis on exams?’
Something else to consider is subject selection. Before choosing a course, it’s important to look at the compulsory and elective subjects. Consider whether they hold your interest and fit with your learning style.
‘I definitely like the more hands-on part. I need to get my hands on the activity or else I’ll never understand.’ – Kathleen, nutrition science student from Indonesia
‘In Deakin’s nutrition-based courses there are subjects like chemistry and health; in sport science there is physics; and in optometry there are business and accounting units,’ Ridgwell explains. ‘It can be surprising to see subjects in a course that you may not expect.’
Some degrees will have a very set structure that you need to follow. Others, such as arts degrees, are more flexible so you have more options of exactly what you want to study.
Have an idea to get you started
Students tend to fall into two broad categories, explains Ridgwell: those who know what they want to study and the field want to work in after graduation, and those who have a broad area of interest but no clear career path.
If you fall into the latter category, he says it is okay to have only a vague idea of what you would like to study. You don’t have to decide your career path before you begin your course. You will eventually work out what you enjoy and what you don’t.
‘Most students simply have a rough idea of what they want to do, and they build on that idea as they progress through their course,’ Ridgwell says. ‘During your course you will learn what you are good at and what you enjoy, and this will help you make decisions about your future.’