The complete guide to finding the right university course for you

How to find the right course…

There are many different ways to begin, however the best way is to begin with the you, the student. You are at the center of this, so let’s begin with a  few questions that will hopefully narrow things down and eventually lead you to produce a short list of universities to apply.

Let’s start with the simple things:

List 10 things you love doing. If you have listed sport and travel, you can study international sports management… even become a famous footballer . If you’ve listed caring for a sick relative, then you could consider medicine or nursing.

Next,  move on and make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes knowing what you do not like doing will avoid you moving into the wrong course/ career. E.g. If you do not like speaking in front of groups, then it is probably best not to become a TV presenter.

Now move on to:

  • Ideas resulting from psychometric careers testing. Identifying areas of strengths and interests.
  • Which are your  best subjects in school?
  • Which subjects do you  find most interesting?
  • How would these subjects lead onto a university course? (Consider prospective careers and employment opportunities.)
  • Which university courses do your IB subjects qualify you to apply to?
  • Are you aware of all the courses at university that are not offered as school subjects? (Check a uni website, you will be amazed!)

It is often the case that a student in  Grade 12 has not firmed up their university subject choice, this predicament is particularly prevalent amongst top students who would excel in all their subjects. They could theoretically study anything from engineering to psychology to politics to languages etc.

Are you still unsure about what to study, then let’s look at universities and countries where the system is open and flexible and does not tie you into a particular subject even before you reach university. Deciding what to study is a tough call to make at the beginning of Grade 12. Some students already know for sure what to study, for those who don’t you can go to university  and take a broader program and during the 3 to 4 years studying your bachelor’s degree; you will be exposed to new ideas, new subjects and new professors. With all this new input and your increasing maturity, you will find the right path before the end of your bachelor degree. You can then specialize for your master’s degree. Employers are particularly interested in where and what you have studied for your master’s degree. This is called delayed choice.

So where are all these wonderful flexible courses? Well, they fall basically into two categories:

  1. Countries with flexible systems
  2. Particular subjects/ subject combinations

Let’s look first at countries with flexible systems systems, and by that I mean where you can go to university, take several subjects, change subjects and generally explore the academic offering. The USA is the first and most obvious country to look at, although there are others.

In the USA you can make an open application, meaning that you don’t have to nominate your major on the application form. This provides considerable flexibility as you move through four years of a bachelor’s degree. Generally speaking, the larger the university the more choice of subjects you can take.

Similar opportunities are also available in other countries e.g. Canada or Scotland. Although these countries do not provide quite as much breadth as a typical US college, there is considerable leeway to experiment by taking different subjects and changing your major part way through your bachelor degree. In Scotland for example, you would typically take three or possibly four subjects in years 1 and 2 before nominating one of these subjects to continue on with as your  major in the final two years. (Scottish degrees are four years)