Choosing what to study for your degree is going to be one of the hardest, yet most important decisions you will make.
When I was picking my course and university I originally chose them for the wrong reasons and ended up changing course and university at the end of my first semester. I originally enrolled on a Primary Teaching degree at a very large university. I felt, especially as a mature student, that I should pick a degree with a defined career at the end where I would be likely to benefit from a job in a relatively stable sector. I had always dreamt of working with children but had spent only a few weeks volunteering in a local school. Before that, I had spent 11 years working in the Financial Services sector and wanted a complete change. I wanted a career where I felt like I was making a difference and I thought Teaching was the answer.
The year before starting university I completed an Access to Higher Education Diploma and it was part-way through this course that I began to have doubts about my degree choice. What if I completed these 4 years of education and then didn’t enjoy the job? What if I loved the job but wanted to take my career in a new direction in 10 years’ time? I dismissed these doubts as ‘cold feet’ and continued on my journey.
When I arrived at University, I knew instantly that I was in the wrong place. I hadn’t been to any open days as I decided to pick the university closest to where I lived so that I did not have to move house with a young child in tow. I hadn’t realised that I would be taught at a smaller campus, a 20-minute drive from the main campus (where the library and other facilities were located). There were also no parking facilities at the main campus which made it incredibly difficult to access any facilities.
Although I still wanted to be a teacher I felt that the course and university did not suit me. So before you choose your course and university, follow these simple steps to help you pick the right choices:
Research your course and your university:
- Attend open days and get a real feel for the place. Find out about parking, the different campuses and facilities you will need access to and look around the local area. You will know instantly if the university is for you and you can speak one-to-one with the course tutors to help you determine if the course, assessments and other details like placement patterns will suit you. One thing I love about the University of Worcester open days is how welcome they make everyone feel.
- Check out the universities social media to find out addition information. The University of Worcester has regular online Q&A sessions, so if you do have any more questions you can ask away!
- Choose a university where you feel comfortable, safe and at home. Choosing a university for convenience is not a good choice. After moving across the country to the University of Worcester, my grades instantly improved. I felt safe, happy and supported and this was a big factor in my success at university.
- Check out the help and support on offer for mature students. Lots of universities have additional support for mature students such as; childcare facilities, Access to Learning funds, study support, and personal tutors. The level of support on offer can have a big effect on your time at university.
Study something you love, not just something that you think will get you a job at the end of your course. Although I still want to be a teacher one day, I wasn’t ready to jump straight into the Primary Teacher Training course 3 years ago.
By studying a subject I am passionate about, I managed to gain a degree classification beyond my dreams and still have the option of becoming a Teacher. However, I also have a huge array of other careers at my fingertips. Choosing a broader degree has opened doors to many different careers instead of limiting me to just one.
Check out my handy checklist of do’s and don’ts before choosing your course and university:
- Go to open days for the Universities you are thinking of applying to and check out anything that is important to you, such as the proportion of mature students or distance from the halls to the lecture theaters. Do you feel comfortable there? Is there parking if you need it?
- Make sure you have fully researched your chosen degree and are passionate about what you will be studying!
- Ask about contact hours and check if you can fit childcare around them (some unis even have childcare on site, like the University of Worcester)
- Check the methods of assessment used for your course choice at each university (it may be different)
- Check out the surrounding area for each university. Will you be happy living there for at least 3 years?
- Just pick the closest university for convenience
- Study a subject just because there is funding available for the course
- Pick a course with one specific job at the end unless you are certain that the career is right for you
- Don’t pick a university just because it is where your friends are going – the place and course need to be right for you
- Pick a course without fully researching the time commitment you will need to make, including any placements