The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Choosing a course to study: The basics

With thousands of courses around the world to study, how do you pick the right one for you? Find out the key questions you should ask yourself when seeking out higher education possibilities abroad...

Choosing a course

As you can see on our site, there are a lot of courses to choose from. It can be difficult to decide what to study. So much rests on choosing the right course, including your time, money and your career hopes for the future.

So to make things a little easier we’ve come up with 5 questions to ask yourself which might help clear up a few things. Hopefully after you’ve asked yourself the following questions you’ll have a better idea of what you should study...


1. What am I good at? What am I not good at?

An undergraduate course lasts three to four years – that’s a long time to spend studying something which you don’t enjoy, especially at a more intense level!

First of all ask yourself what you have enjoyed studying at school. In fact your application to a related course will be improved if you can get a reference letter which reflects your current or proven academic strengths. For example if you’re a stellar science student at school, your application to a physics course at an overseas university will be stronger if your science teacher can recommend you for the course or talk about the work you’ve done in their class already. It’s likely that you have a good relationship with those teachers whose classes you perform well in.

Alternatively you can also think about subjects you definitely don’t want to study at university level and which you can’t wait to say goodbye to. Crossing these off will make your list of options smaller and less overwhelming.


2. What qualifications do I have already?

You may already have an idea of the area you want to study and find a career in, which will have dictated what subjects you’re already studying at school. However it’s good to look at the qualifications and grades you have (or are predicted to have) to see what you are already eligible to study. You should look into this two years before you plan to commence your studies abroad, so if you need to take extra classes to satisfy the requirements you have to meet, you can make arrangements to do so.


3. What are my interests?

If you can’t think of an academic subject which you’re especially strong at or one which you would want to pursue at university-level, think about your non-academic interests outside of school. It’s likely that you’re much more passionate about these but you’ve never even thought you could study a course related to these (or pursue a career in this area).

New courses are being created all the time to prepare and develop talent for growing industries, such as animation or computer game design. Projects, events and knowledge related to these interests can all contribute to a university application to show that you’re passionate about this area and eligible to study on a course which can prepare you for a related career. Look at who you idolise and what/where they may have studied to give you ideas about specific courses to study (that person may even sponsor a scholarship at a particular university which you don’t know about).

Check out our article on the ‘Top 10 jobs of generation Y’ to get you inspired about the new jobs which have emerged in recent years.


4. What do I want to do for my career?

You may have a clear idea of what you want to do for a career which makes choosing a course to study easier, particularly if you want to become a doctor or lawyer. You can search our articles section to see if we’ve already written about your dream graduate career and how you can achieve this.

In other cases there may be several routes to your dream career, some of which may allow you to study something different before transferring or. Talk to those who are already working in this area to see how they got to where they are now, including what they studied (or even what they wish they had studied).


5. What’s out there?

There’s only one way to find out: search and see! School can be quite limiting as to what you can study – usually it will come down to less than 20 main subjects like English, Maths etc. However at higher education level, you might be surprised to find a whole course built around something which you only briefly covered in your school (or a course which expands on your interests).


Search on our site using the floating search bar at the top throughout the site, or search our articles to see if we’ve written about a possible course or career path already.



Read more:

'Choosing a country to study abroad in: The basics'

'Choosing a university: The basics'

'Choosing student accommodation abroad: The basics'

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About Author

Choosing a course

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.

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