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The 6 things you need to consider when picking a degree

How do you choose the right university, or the right degree? What should you focus on? How do you weigh up all the different elements involved? Do you want to stay local or move far away? Do you want a degree that gets you job ready ASAP or are you ready for the long haul?

Scarily, students and their families often choose to focus overwhelmingly on only some of the crucial aspects of choosing the right university and course post school, meaning they miss the other equally important issues.

So without further ado, here’s what to remember when picking (or advising) a university course.

Don’t pick a university, pick a degree.

It is a risky move to pick a university before you choose a course because you’ll be inclined to settle for an obtainable course at your university of choice rather than really considering what’s right for you.

In Australia we’re lucky enough to have an extraordinary range of high-quality universities in just about every city. In fact, many are in the top 1 per cent of universities worldwide. This means that you don’t need to try and discriminate between universities based on their ‘prestige’.

So instead of worrying about what a university will look like on your resume, you should consider the value of your degree. A business degree from most universities will hold the same value as any other, same for law or science. Essentially, if you choose a course with a lower entry mark (one that you can obtain more easily) at a university which you perceive to be better on your resume, you’re limiting yourself. You’ll be weighed up by employers by your course type, not the university name.

Your final score isn’t everything (no, really).

Maybe the biggest lesson to remember is that courses with higher entry requirements aren’t necessarily better. Having a law degree doesn’t mean that you’ll make more money/be happier. Equally, just because media communications is worth 98.5, doesn’t mean that you’ll find it any easier to get your foot in the door in a media role post-university.

Often students are told by their parents or friends not to ‘Waste their ATAR’ but put simply, there could not be worse advice. We implore you, don’t make the mistake of just trying to match your course to your ATAR.

Don’t get us wrong, performing well in your high school exams is something to be very proud of but as universities continue to confirm, entry scores are a signal about the demand for a course, not its inherent quality. The entry requirement is a result of the number of places available and the number of students who are expected to apply for the degree.

This doesn’t inherently mean that degrees with lower entry scores aren’t less prestigious, less difficult, or require less time. Quite the contrary. For example, technology and science degrees often have lower entry scores than law, media or arts degrees but research shows that the faculties housing those science and tech degrees are ranked just as highly as those with higher ATAR ranks (like law and media). And sometimes, even higher.

Understand your course.

This means you’ll need to research and make no assumptions. For most students the bottom line is to find a course, subject or combination of subjects that you will enjoy and be successful at.

So rather than choosing a course you think you ought to do, choose a course you want to do.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming what the course will involve, or where it will lead you. The world’s quite big after all. Equally, courses with the same title can vary considerably in terms of subjects from one university to another, so it’s really important to check out the course content. This information is conveniently available on their websites.

Make sure you explore scholarship opportunities.

Universities are investing more than ever in scholarships and support for future (and current) students. A big tip is to ask early and often about the financial support on offer and pay close attention to scholarship webpages as they’re frequently updated. Don’t be shy and don’t consider the scholarship application process out of reach. Universities offer scholarships for sports, creativity, academic merit, as well as for community work, living situation and unique talent.

Do remember that job-ready skills aren’t everything.

Try to remember that university is not always meant to be a job-training centre. While it’s perfectly understandable that you’ll want to draw a tight connection between your degree and future employment, you don’t necessarily need to approach your course selection based on this theory.

Many of the jobs that will be available when you graduate haven’t even been invented yet.

This means that a narrow, vocationally focused degree will not necessarily set you up best for the future. If you are interested in a generalist degree, like arts or technology, don’t be deterred by the lack of immediate jobs titles that come to mind. Remember, the fastest growing salary in the next 20 years is for the role of a data scientist. Which certainly didn’t exist a few short decades ago.

If you want to be become an accountant, a nurse, a teacher or a lawyer – it’s obvious that you’ll need to study the relevant course to get a job in the industry. But apart from specialised roles like the above, the world’s your oyster.

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