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4 great ways to find the right degree for you

James Davis

Careers Commentator
It’s really hard to know whether or not a university degree will suit you while you’re still in high school. That’s why we’re here to give you the inside info.

The Federal government released some statistics late last year that revealed only two out of three Australian university students are completing their degree in under six years.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham commented on this in 2017, explaining that these drop-out rates were partly to do with students being unhappy with their degree. He sympathised with “students who didn’t realise there were other entry pathways or who started a course with next to no idea of what they were signing themselves up for.” So, here are some tips to help you know exactly what you’re signing up for when applying for a degree.

1. Check the contact hours

If you work part time, you need to know if the units (university-speak for ‘subjects’) you’ll be taking have offline options. Can you watch the lectures online? Do tutorial times clash with any commitments you might have? Most universities offer a healthy amount of options for you to choose from, but in case they don’t, you might need to look at another institution for your degree program of choice.

So what if you don’t even know what subject you want to do? Well fortunately, there are ways to figure that out.

2. Contact the faculty

No matter what you’re planning on studying, each faculty at a university can be contacted to answer questions about degree programs, even if you’re still in high school. Many universities even have help desks set up around their campuses too. If you have a lot of questions, you can just go up to them in person and they’ll be more than happy to answer them.

What sort of questions should you ask then? Here are a few good ones.

  • What careers can this degree lead to?
  • Do I need any special skills or knowledge before I apply for this degree?
  • What would you recommend I do to prepare before entering this program?
  • I’m currently doing (XYZ) in high school. Do you think this program would suit me?
  • Are careers in this field very competitive? Am I likely to get a job?

If you ask these five questions, you should be well on your way to understanding exactly how a program’s career prospects and subject matter might suit you. That still leaves a few things unanswered though. Although you might be good at a degree and are satisfied with the job prospects, whether or not you enjoy it is another thing altogether. Fortunately, there’s a way to find out.

3. Get into student-run Facebook groups

Just about every university in the country have Facebook groups run completely by students, including general pages where anyone in the university can enter, to student clubs and societies dedicated to specific disciplines. Interested in Commerce? Have a look for the business society and ask the administrators for an invite. Want to get into Law? You bet there’s a law society full of students already in the exact program you’re thinking about.

This is a great way to get some brutally honest advice on what the campus lifestyle’s like, what subjects are most difficult and how to prepare for them. You’re bound to run into a torrent of memes and who knows what else because it’s the internet, but hey. That’s just more information on the university experience, so it’s a win-win.

4. Take a closer look at your units

Every university publishes details on what you actually do in each of the units. Take the University of Melbourne and their Bachelor of Commerce for example. All you have to do is click on ‘course details’ and you’re presented with a list of units year by year, with links to more detail for each.

Having a good look through available units, majors and assignments can be an excellent way to get a feel for how everything is structured. If you see a lot of units describing topics that aren’t familiar to you, don’t stress too much because you’ll learn about all that during the course. What matters most is figuring out if you have the right foundation. If you didn’t take Specialist Mathematics through to year 12, for instance, you might have a harder time with those introductory units in engineering computing during that physics/ telecommunications double degree.