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What degree should I study?

Tips for choosing a uni degree when you don't know what to study at university.

With your high school days coming to end, the pressure to decide what you want to do after Year 12 is looming. If you are unsure what career path you want to take, don’t worry, you’re in good company. According to Year 13, 1 in 5 high school students have no idea what career to pursue after school.

Just because you don’t know what to study in university, doesn’t mean that you can’t choose the right course for you. Many of your fellow students are asking themselves the same questions – ‘What should I study at uni?’ and ‘what course should I study?’ With a little bit of thought and research you can take a step in the right direction. Remember, even if later down the track, you want to evaluate your options (or even change courses), you can! Nothing is set in stone.

Here’s our top tips for how to choose a degree

1. What should I study and how does it fit in with my master plan? 

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and go to uni but find yourself wondering ‘what degree should I study?’! Getting a university degree is a goal of many, but choosing a uni course so it fits in with your master plan is completely unique to you.

A great place to start is thinking about what you enjoy, what you’re passionate about, and how you can align what you love with a career. Visualise your goals, want you want to achieve and how you see your future playing out. It is hard choosing a career based on money or passion but, did you know the average person spends 90 000 hours of their life at work (Gettysburg College)?  Choosing a study option that leads to a career you love isn’t just a nice to have – it’s essential for your own self-fulfilment and welling.

Identifying what you are passionate about naturally lends itself to your strengths which can make choosing a degree not only less stressful, but exciting – the possibilities are endless. At USQ we have 14 different study areas to choose from, so you can pursue what you love while working towards your own success story.

We understand that there are so many choices out there, and that what works for you now, may not be the right fit for you in the future. The best thing about USQ, is that we’re pretty flexible when it comes to changing your mind. So, if you don’t know what to study in university, it doesn’t mean you can’t start exploring your options. If you make a start with study and after the first semester find yourself wondering ‘how do I know if I’m studying the right thing?’, that’s okay! Our support team can support you through your options and help you change into a more suitable degree. 

If you need a nudge in the right direction, check out our Career Explorer Quiz. The ten minutes you spend doing this quiz will help you work out what career options may be suited to you, based on your personality.

2. Play to your strengths

We’ve all experienced subjects at school that you either didn’t love or excel at (or both). Though it may have felt like an up-hill battle at the time, these experiences can give you great insights into where your strengths lie.

It’s important to remember that everything you are good at isn’t necessarily reflected on the results of your school report card. The person with a top ATAR isn’t guaranteed a successful and fulfilling life. Maybe your strengths lie in navigating challenging situations? Or adapting quickly to changing environments? Or resolving conflict and issues? All of these critical life skills aren’t often things you can be formally tested on, yet they will help inform the way to your master plan.

If you aren’t sure what you’re good at or how to choose a degree, it can be helpful to get an outside perspective. What you think of yourself isn’t necessarily how others view you – we tend to be our own worst critics. So why not ask around? Have a chat to your friends, family, teachers, and co-workers and ask where they think your strengths are. You might be surprised at the feedback you receive, so keep an open mind. These observations might lead you to consider a university degree or a career path that has yet to cross your mind.

Stepping out of your comfort zone and reaching out to people who are working in industries you are interested in can also provide amazing insights. They can tell you what their job involves, what they love about it and what traits and skillsets work in different careers. This information can help you decide how your strengths align with your future goals. While you’re talking to these professionals, why not look for networking opportunities or undertake some work experience? There’s no better way to get a feel for a career than immersing yourself in the industry and working with knowledgeable professionals. You may even increase your chances of getting your dream job!

At USQ we offer career and planning advice to our students to support the development of career skills, work experience and networking and goal setting, so you don’t have to do it alone – you can leverage off our industry connections.

3. Be in the know

Now is the time for exploring options and doing your research. Your future self will thank you for taking the time to do it now. Being in the know can make a huge difference to your uni experience, and help you understand how to decide what to study.

As a high school student looking at your first degree, you’ll likely be exploring different undergraduate study options. You might be surprised to learn that you aren’t limited to bachelor degree for your first experience at university. If you don’t feel ready to commit to a 3-4 year degree or want to get the feel of a study area, you might want to consider a shorter course. At USQ, not only do we offer a wide range of bachelor degrees, we also offer single courses, certificates, diplomas and associate degrees as undergraduate study options.

Start taking a closer look into the courses you want to study! The easiest way to do this is to research your chosen study area on a university’s degrees and courses website or peruse online guides and brochures like our USQ Undergraduate Guide. At USQ we’ve even made it easier by giving you the option to find a degree based on what ATAR you are hoping to receive. If you are having trouble choosing a uni course or a study area and you want to sample a range of uni subjects, you might want to consider a general degree such as Bachelor of General Studies. How to know if you are studying the right thing is a question that many students ponder, so starting with a general degree that allows you to explore several study areas is a great starting point. When you’re asking yourself ‘what should I study’, it may be worthwhile looking into a degree that gives you a taste of uni without having to select a specialisation straight away.

When choosing a uni course it is easy to get tunnel vision once you find ‘the one’, but remember to be open minded! It never hurts to have backup degree and course options which is why it’s important you take advantage of the fact that you can include up to six preferences in your QTAC application. Ensuring you add your first preference as #1 followed by other degrees that interest you means you have a bit of a safety net. If your circumstances change or you don’t meet the entry requirements for your #1 choice, you have options! And even then, your selected degrees can be flexible. Did you know you are able to change your QTAC preferences after you’ve submitted your QTAC application? It’s free to change up to three times so if you want to head in a different direction, or if you simply have a change of heart, the option to change is there.

4. Get a feel for which university is right for you

Just like you, every university is different. The culture, course offerings and general ‘vibe’ of each uni is unique, so selecting one that suits your own personality, interests and goals is important – after all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time there – either on campus or virtually.

Attending university open days is a great way to get a feel for the uni, to check out the location, and answer any questions you may have about choosing a uni course. There’s no better people to give you insight into courses than the lecturers who will be teaching you. So go prepared with a list of questions and make the most of being able to chat to the experts. Be sure to take your time and really soak up the atmosphere and the opportunities the day presents. Enjoy a campus tour, look at the facilities, learn more about the support services offered, and explore the surroundings. You’ll soon know if you can see yourself enjoying uni life in that environment.

Commencing undergraduate study doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to your friends and life as you know it. Most uni’s understand that we have busy lives, so study needs to fit in with your lifestyle – not the other way around. Look at the flexible study options that are available at the uni you are interested in. You may want to study on-campus, online, or a mixture of both. Understanding the different ways you can study means you can self-pace your learning while juggling work and life commitments. At USQ, we’ve been offering flexible study option for 40+ years, so we know a thing or two around the benefits of flexible study.

University life goes beyond lectures and study. For many, it’s about the full experience - meeting other people and discovering all that uni life has to offer. Most universities have different student clubs, sports and social events so making sure a university aligns with your interests and hobbies is also something to consider when you are asking yourself ‘what course should I study’.

The thought of life after school is weaved with many emotions so defining success on your own terms is not only empowering, but it paves the way to a future you can get excited about. And don’t forget, you’re not the only one going through this. Take advantage of the great resources and advice from those who have ‘been there, done that’.