Girl reading by a bookcase

How to figure out what you want to study at university

Finishing school can be daunting. With the pressure of exams and the knowledge that everything you’ve ever known is coming to an end, it’s not surprising that you’ll be feeling a little anxious or lost.

The key to relieving your fears is being prepared and excited for the future. Some of you will know, or will have known for sometime, exactly what your next step is and that’s amazing! However, for a lot of people, you’re probably wading waist deep in a pool of potential post school options, trying to hang onto one, any one, just to stop you from drowning.

For those of you who are still unsure about where your future lies, never fear. There are people almost twice your age who still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

To help give your thoughts a bit of direction, ask yourself the following questions:

What am I interested in? 

University is all about independent study. There’s not going to be a teacher reminding you about what to read and when assessments are due. Therefore, it’s important that you find something you would get up out of your nice warm bed at 6am to study.

While you might think you need to do something related directly to your HSC subjects, truth is there are actually a number of degrees that don’t have high school counterparts – like architecture and public relations. Your best bet is to think about your interests outside of the school gates and then do some research to find a relevant degree.

What are my strengths?

students reading

Playing to our strengths is what helps us succeed, not only during high school but throughout our lives. Find out what kind of learner you are, whether you’re a left brain or a right brain and ask yourself questions like ‘Do I prefer being indoors or outdoors?’ or ‘Do I prefer working on my own or in a team?’. These questions will be really important in determining the type of work you’d be happy to do in the future and help you decide what you should study at university.

What job would I like to have?

This can be a difficult question in a number of ways. You might want to work in Media, say, but don’t know enough about the industry to really know whether you want to do journalism, advertising or public relations. It’s also good to note that an industry like the media is ever changing, so your dream job or role may not even exist yet!

The best thing to do is to narrow down a few industries that you would be interested in and talk directly to people who are working in that industry. They will be able to tell you all about the job, how they got there, what they studied and any advice on what they’d do differently. Don’t be shy, most people enjoy talking about their career journeys.

Who can I talk to?

Students sitting around a table drinking coffee

While your school’s career advisor would be the most obvious choice, other people to talk to would be:

  • The teacher of your favourite subject – chances are they have the same interests as you
  • University ambassadors – they have all the important information like degree options, pathways and the admissions process
  • Current students – will be able to tell you everything about their current studies, including campus life, accommodation options and balancing work and study
  • Industry professionals – as before, they’ll know all the ins and outs of the profession
  • People you admire – there’s a reason you admire them. Find out their story.

What if I make the wrong decision?

No one’s career paths are straight forward. You’ll question yourself, doubt your passions, change your interests and probably end up somewhere you didn’t think you’d be.

But that’s all okay. Things change and there are a multitude of pathways, transfers and alternate options that will get you where you want to go.

Want more information? 

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