Choosing your university is important, yet often half-assed. Some people allow outside factors to influence their decision which university they should attend. Such factors may be relationships, friends and family. While it is important to nourish these relationships, one shouldn’t substitute a good education for friends or a partner. Too many times has it been seen that someone chooses a university they’d rather not go to in order to satisfy a loved one. And, without causing offence, high school friends do not last forever. In some cases, high school friends keep in touch for many years, which is great! However, in most cases, people move away, get a new circle of friends and get on with their life. One shouldn’t base such a huge decision on whether or not they are closeby to old friends. The same stands for a partner. Oftentimes, relationships are fleeting, and it would be wise to choose a university one will be truly happy with which will provide great opportunities and education over a boyfriend or girlfriend with whom one isn’t really serious. Again, this idea does not extend through all relationships and friendships, so if you have something special and long lasting, your loved ones will understand and support your decision of university instead of convincing you to choose another.
Choosing a major can sometimes be a daunting task for the undecided student. It seems to be the case at American universities that one can study general subjects for the first little while until they discover their desired major, however, a lot of European universities do not offer this option. The university I attended in Dundee, Scotland, made it very easy to change one’s major, but there was some prerequisites for doing so; As a general rule, one must study three subjects (we call these modules) while at university, and at least two of these must be taken up until third year, which would ensure all classes are completed before progressing to the next year. The issue here, however, is that one must have taken, for example, first year classes before uptaking a subject in second year. Because of this, whichever subjects are chosen in first year are the ones you will be stuck with. It is therefore, important that one chooses their subject before progressing up the years towards graduation. America, however, seems more forgiving. Take advantage of this and throughly research majors which would provide the most menaingful experiences, but more importantly, which will ensure a great career at the end. I had pursued a joint degree in English Lit. and Philosophy, which does not provide many career prospects. I was unaware of this when I started studying, of course! The advice I was given when selecting my university and my major was to study something you love, that you are good at and that you feel you will enjoy the most. I did so, but for some reason I failed to realise that I should aspire towards some sort of career insted of chosing to go to university because everyone else was (learn from me!). The past two years have been stressful ever since, and I still have not landed a solid post-graduate career. For this reason, ensure you have some aspirations when contemplating which major will best suit your needs.
Another thing to consider is finance and general stability throughout one’s education. Some people prefer not to move far from home, while some want to get as far away as possible and experience new cultures. Alternatively, some may be supported financially by family, while others do not have that luxury. There is nothing that worried me more than student expenses. I chose to live at home and attend the univertsity in my hometown, and I saved a lot of money doing so. Some of my friends had come to the university from all over and were either supported by family, scholarship or through a job. It is essential that time is taken to consider how one may support themselves while studying, and you should look out for local jobs and/or scholarships to help you through. In addition, if one considers moving elsewhere to obtain their education, they should pay close attention to crime rates, transport systems and cultural norms in the area of their chosen university. I had partaken in a study abroad programme, where I studied at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. Luckily, there were amazing and cost friendly student apartments within walking distance to the university, with great bus and train systems which were free with the student card (up to a certain, but still substantial, distance). There were some problems which had arisen in the community which made it unsafe to walk around areas around the main city alone. Be sure to keep yourself safe and ensure you have people who will look out for you when away from home.
Following from this, it is important to gain relevant experience during, and perhaps even before, university. As it transpires, my degree is one which is most useful coupled with experience, and you will begin to notice that most jobs will not accept a bachelors degree on its own. Some careers, however, may accept graduates with little job experience outside of their education, and you should be lucky to find such careers! Realistically, however, it is important that you take on internships and part time, relevant jobs while you are at college. As my father always told me, no experience is irrelevant, so enhance your abilities and resume while you can in order to compete.
Finally, and essentially, accept that your mind will likely change over time! Realise that you may graduate and still have no clue what you want to do with your life. I have changed my mind more times than I have changed my socks (well not really, but it has happened pretty darn often!). I have decided strongly upon psychologist, then changed to teaching, then to law, then to governement work, then research, then writing, then military, the list may carry on over a few pages! There are endless career possibilities, all of which have their own prestige, and it can be an enormous task to sift through them and find one which sticks in your mind. Keep searching for opportunities, gain experience in a lot of areas and learn as much as you can manage both through books and travel. It is okay to be open minded and unsure about the possibilities of the future. The more hurdles you clear, the more experiences you have to chose from which will help you determine your true passions and sift out those jobs you would never be happy to have.