How to Choose University Courses When You Don't Know Where to Start


  1. What is a course in university and is it different from a degree? 
  2. How to choose the right university 
  3. Choosing the right degree
  4. What are the most respected A-Levels?

Ok, so maybe you do know where to start, or maybe you don’t: either way, it is important to approach applying to university in a clear, structured and reasonable way. Knowing how to choose university courses and applying to university can be super scary – trust us, we’ve been there! 😱 From choosing the right degree to finding a university that fits you, the options might seem limitless. So to help, here is our advice to help you make the best choices when deciding for your future… 


What is a course in university and is it different from a degree? 


This might sound obvious, but if no one explains it to you then how are you expected to know? It is made a little bit more confusing by the fact that some people use the two words interchangeably. 

So what is a course in university and is it different from a degree? 

A course is what you study and a degree is the name of the qualification people get when they complete a course (or multiple courses) at university. To make it more confusing, some courses are not a degree. Many universities offer courses that are not degrees. For example, the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education offers courses from archaeology to leadership and coaching. You get a qualification at the end of these courses but they don’t count as a degree (you can see a degree a bit like an uber course). 

If you haven’t got any A-Levels, there are still some good options out there for you. You can have a look through our post about whether you need A-Levels to go to uni. 


How to choose the right university 


Did you know that, according to government statistics, people who went to university earn on average £10,000 a year more than people who didn’t? The drive to be rich and successful is a big factor for many people when choosing a university but you have to remember that money isn’t the be-all and end-all. Before choosing the right university you need to ask yourself is university right for me

Uni is often presented as being the ultimate goal (especially by pushy family and friends), but the truth is that for many people it is not the best option. Maybe you don’t need a degree for the line of work you want? Maybe it is not the right time in your life? Don’t forget that you can always go for it later. 

There is always the option to earn while you learn with an apprenticeship. These are becoming increasingly popular so definitely worth considering! 

If you decide that university is the right path for you, knowing which university is right for you can be tough. So here is a list of some of the things which you might want to consider: 

  • Where will you be happiest? 

Whilst the point of university is usually to get a degree if you’re happy, you’re much more likely to get on well. 

You might not like to think about it, but many unis have placed a greater emphasis on going back to face-to-face teaching whereas others have decided to keep elements of their courses and programmes online. 

  • How easy will it be to get home if you’re having a difficult time? 

Sometimes university can feel isolated and lonely and knowing that you have family or friends nearby can be a valuable comfort. 

Some are better than others whilst others might be notoriously bad! 

  • How safe is the area and/or campus? 

This isn’t a nice one to have to think about, but the truth is that some campuses are safer than others. 

While we don’t suggest that you apply purely based on the league tables it is worth knowing how the university is viewed by prospective employers. Make sure to read our post all about the top ten universities in the UK

It sounds silly, but some universities are happy to let students live in squalor  

  • What is the social scene like? 

Some people will shun the prospect of looking at the social side of a university as they believe it is all about ‘academic rigour’; however, it is much easier to succeed if you’ve got good friends and a good social network. We strongly suggest that you check out the students’ union at your university of choice and see what societies they have and the vibe it gives you. 

If you’re thinking about applying to Oxbridge (either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge), you might want to check out our post about how to get admitted


Choosing the right degree


Alongside choosing the right university, the next option is to choose the right degree. There are hundreds of degrees you can choose from – and some of them are pretty niche! One of the University of London colleges offers a degree in Puppetry where you can study everything from the creation to the theory of puppets! If you want something a little bit more sciency, another great option is the Heriot-Watt University’s degree in Brewing and Distilling. 🍻 Our point here is that whatever you are interested in, there is probably a closely related degree for it – academic study is not just limited to Maths, Geography, English and the other ‘conventional’ school subjects. 

If you want to work as an architect, then puppetry might not be the most suitable degree. Make sure that you pick something which is related to the job you one day hope to have. 

How to choose a uni course: choosing university courses and choosing the right degree 

Here at GoStudent, we get that making choices is one of the hardest things to do – it’s terrifying! Knowing how to choose the right university courses or the right degree isn’t easy so we’ve put together some points you should consider before making your choices. 

Before making any big decisions, remember to read our blog posts about choosing the right university and whether university is the right choice for you

But read on for our advice on things to consider when making these big life choices…

How to decide what to study at university

Before making a decision about what you want to study at university we strongly suggest that you consider the following question: 

  • What job would you like to do (think about both the happiness factor and the amount of money it could get you)?
  • Which degree would most likely land you your dream job
  • Will you be happy spending the next three years of your life dedicated to studying this one area of knowledge? 

Money is often the driving factor behind the decisions that we make when we decide what to study at university. Running the risk of sounding too philosophical, the drive for money needs to be balanced out against the pursuit of happiness – it sounds cheesy, we know! At the end of the day, your happiness is the most important thing. 

If you’re thinking about history, you can read our blog post about which UK history courses are best

How to choose a course that fits you

The emphasis of this question should be on ‘fits you’. Carved onto the Temple of Apollo in Delphi are the words ‘know thyself.' The implication of this famous maxim is that we need to know who we are before we can choose the right things.

When choosing what course/courses to take at university, we need to consider who we are and what we want to achieve; otherwise, you might end up applying to a university you don’t have strong feelings for to study a subject you're apathetic about – a combination which will lead to a very unfulfilling three years. 

Take time to reflect on this. Perhaps ask some of your family, friends or teachers what they think you’d be good at – sometimes those around us can have different perspectives which help us better understand our own skills and positions. 

Whatever you choose, make sure that it is what feels right! 


What are the most respected A-Levels? 


‘Respected’ is a matter of opinion and will differ depending on the university you apply to and the course you are aiming to take. Having said that, there are some A-Levels that are universally considered to be harder and therefore worth more. These subjects are usually the ‘core’ subjects from GCSE and a few others. 

Here is our list of the ten most respected A-Level subjects which are likely to help you land a spot at uni: 

  • Maths
  • Biology
  • Further Maths
  • Chemistry
  • English Language 
  • Foreign Languages 
  • Psychology
  • History
  • Physics
  • English Literature 

People often want to know what are the easiest A-Levels? The A-Levels are designed in a way that none of them are particularly easy – they all expect a certain amount of academic rigour. 

The important thing for you is to think about which A-Levels you most enjoy and then think about how that can help shape your decision. 

If you’re interested in the politics of A-Level and university applications, you might be interested in our article about the narrowing of A-Level options choices and the impact it has on young learners. 

From writing a personal statement for university to choosing a course, we have an abundance of helpful articles on the GoStudent website to help you transition from sixth form to university. Don’t forget that we also offer tutoring in preparation for your A-Levels and you get a free trial session! Book now.