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How I chose my degree

For those of you in year 12, the time has come to decide what you are going to study for the next stage of your educational journey, how long you want to study it for, and even how you want to study it. I was in this situation 3 years ago, and it’s a difficult decision to make with so much choice out there.

Choosing the right subject

It would be wise to start with your A-Level subjects (or equivalent) and consider what you enjoy the most, after all, you will be spending 3-4 years studying the subject.  It is also important to think about what you are good at, you need to get the grades! For me, the decision was clear cut, I was doing 4 STEM subjects (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) at A-Level and it was obvious that I enjoyed the Physical Sciences, but what was not so clear was which degree to choose.

I would recommend some extra reading into the different subjects you might be interested in studying;  your school lessons don’t always tell you about the most interesting aspects of a subject such as Quantum Mechanics for example. You may not even know the true nature of certain subjects such as Engineering, which don’t really make a debut until you start looking at university. It was after some extra reading and going to summer school that I decided Physics was the subject for me. Don’t be surprised if you end up choosing a subject that you never dreamed of doing, I would never have thought that I would be doing Physics, I never entertained the idea before, from Year 7 I always thought that I would do Computer Science.

What if you can’t decide?

You may like Physics and Chemistry just as much, Durham is one of the few universities offering a Natural Sciences degree, where you can study up to four subjects, there are different combinations you can choose. A  similar provision exists in a degree called Liberal Arts within Arts and Humanities, so if you can’t decide between English and History, you can do them both!

You may be surprised at the variety of degree types available. There are the standard 3-year BA, LLB, and BSc programs, but these can be extended to 4 years with a business placement. There’s also the option for a year abroad, this is compulsory in the Durham Modern Language degrees, on other degrees you can take advantage of the Erasmus year abroad programme. To see the different study options at Durham take a look at the website

Durham offers some 4-year degrees where you graduate with a Master’s degree. I chose that option because I am considering doing some form of research after I graduate.  Some courses offer you the option to switch to these degrees part way through your study.

Durham city summerWhere will you study?

Just because a certain university does an English degree, it will not be the same course as another university. Unlike school where nearly everyone studies the same thing, universities have different specialisms associated with the research interests of the lecturers who work there. You can usually see what modules are on offer when looking at courses on university websites and in Prospectus’.

From looking into the courses in detail at Durham, I found that the STEM degrees are very broad, in the first two years if you sign up to do Theoretical Physics, Astrophysics or Physics, there is no specialisation until level 3, everyone does the same modules. I think that is advantageous because you get to find out what you enjoy the most, this may turn out to be different from what you liked at school, or maybe something you never studied before.

What else is there to do?

It’s also very important to consider what you may do outside of your studies. Many of you will be moving away from friends and family, even to a different country to study, so it’s really important to think about how you will make friends.  This is what Durham really excels at, at Durham you are a member of a college and every first year student is guaranteed a room in college if they want it. The Colleges mean you are part of a smaller community so it’s easy to settle in, just take a look at some of our other blogs for the type of things Durham students get up to.OPen Day studnets

Go and visit!

One thing is for certain, if you can, you should go to the open days of the Universities you want to apply to, it is important to get a feel for the place as opposed to just looking through a prospectus or website. After all, you’re spending the next 3-4 years of your life doing a degree so it’s worth spending time considering all the options and doing as much research as you can.  Best of luck!

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Gabriel Callaghan

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