How to pick what to study at university: advice by students
Not sure what to study at university? SOAS students share their experiences and practical advice for making the right choice for you.
Deciding what to do after school is often the first time you get to choose the education you want. With so many paths to pick from, it can feel daunting to know what to do next and what's right for you, but remember, this time is also an opportunity for reflection and self-discovery. Hear from those who were recently in the same place as you.
Delve into something that you are fundamentally passionate about
When applying to universities, even if you're unsure what you want to study, delve into something you are fundamentally passionate about. University is ultimately a chance to become fully engrossed with your specialism. Therefore, it should be something that, at its core, excites you.
When applying through UCAS for universities, I knew I was passionate about international affairs, mainly focusing on regions within Asia and the Middle East. SOAS's focus on the Middle East, Africa and Asia captivated me - its uniqueness as a degree differed completely from other universities for my course.
If you feel uncomfortable with 'pigeon-holing' yourself too early on, choosing a university and degree with broad and unique degree combinations and modules can prove highly rewarding. It is also imperative to see how expansive and rewarding a university's degree programme may be. At SOAS, I got to choose to learn Korean as an optional module throughout my degree.
Focus on what you are passionate about, irrespective of university league tables or external pressures, as ultimately, what you are passionate about will reap the best results for you!
Consider choosing a broad degree
I can understand how daunting it can be to join a university, especially not knowing which degree to study for the duration of your course. When I first joined SOAS, I decided on a BA in Politics & International Relations because I had a fresh love for politics from my A-levels, which I had done well in. I wanted to understand more about the international sphere, trade, global institutions, historical events, and how they have shaped international relations.
I did enjoy my first year of politics. However, as I approached the end of my first year, I realised, looking at the second-year modules, I would like to narrow down and focus on International Relations, as it was more suited to me. Therefore, when choosing a degree, I recommend all students research the courses and consider what they like.
What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy most? If you're unsure about picking one, consider choosing a broad degree which entails multiple things you enjoy. A joint honours gives you more than enough time in year one to see whether your course is for you and whether you'd like to narrow it down or if you made a perfect choice.
Overall, I have loved International Relations; being able to choose such specific modules on Africa and Asia makes SOAS stand out from the mainstream course, which is more predominant around the world.
A joint degree lets me study both world traditions and world music
It was a last-minute decision for me to go to uni. I took a gap year after college. I didn't have the best experience at college, so I wasn't that interested in university. However, I wanted to see what there was to offer, so I browsed UCAS last January, not expecting to be impressed. However, when I saw some of the courses at SOAS, my interest changed.
I applied for SOAS on the day of the UCAS deadline, and four months later, I got an unconditional offer to take Anthropology and Music. I still felt conflicted about university at this point. I was curious to know if it was the right step forward for me or if it would meet my needs or aspirations. However, this couldn't be any further from my experience so far.
My course is exactly what I wanted to do; I really think that SOAS was the right uni for me. I wouldn't have gone anywhere else. The combination of Anthropology and Music satisfies both my desire for a knowledge of world traditions and world music.
SOAS truly is such a unique place to study with the courses they offer. The experience so far has been what I needed to explore and build on my interests, and I'm glad I took a gap year to really think it through. My university experience is becoming one of personal development and growth that I hadn't expected SOAS to provide me in the way it has.
Prioritise flexibility of modules
I could not decide what I wanted to study - to the extent that I applied for two separate courses at SOAS, economics and development economics, hoping they would choose for me. However, I was accepted for both and ultimately chose to do a BSc in economics. Since I was confused, I decided to prioritise flexibility. This degree allowed me to pick more optional modules across various departments.
My time here has allowed me to explore my interests by taking classes in the development and politics departments, improving my understanding of the economy while still letting me focus on rigorous economic theory in my core studies. While initially picking can be daunting, it’s important to remember that there is guidance once you are at university to pick classes that are more aligned with your interests.
Explore the broad range of undergraduate courses available at SOAS.