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How not to choose your first bachelor’s degree

James Davis

Careers Commentator
There are plenty of good reasons to pick up a bachelor’s degree… but what are some of the bad ones? Here’s what to avoid.

It’s almost time to put in your uni preferences. Your teachers have given you pamphlets, recommendations and advice. Some friends are pulling their hair out over their choices, while others are completely sure what they want to do. So how do you choose? Our previous article went over a few ways to find the right degree, but this article will give you some of the ‘don’ts’. We’ll walk you through some common traps when choosing a degree and how to avoid them.

Don’t choose solely based on pay

Some popular contenders with high ATAR requirements (like medicine or law) are famous for being high paying professions, but they aren’t for everyone, even for those with a high enough ATAR. Choosing the right degree should also be about finding if it’s a good fit. Consult people in the profession you’re interested in before getting too deep, or just talk to school career counsellors. After all, what’s the point of having money if you’re spending most of your time on something you hate? If your interests line up with one of these professions, more power to you! Just do whatever you can to make sure that’s the case.

Don’t choose solely based on enjoyment

The other end of the spectrum! Plenty of students take degrees without consideration for economic viability. Don’t get us wrong; plenty of students aren’t in it for career development and simply want knowledge for its own sake, but these same students may not have to worry about the return on investment. 

If you’re someone looking for a job when you graduate (and to pay off that HECS debt!), you've really got to assess the market you’re entering. 

Consider the future viability of your degree. Do you see it being replaced by automation in the next twenty years? Is there a need for the skills in my degree? Is there a shortage? Can I name a specific job title where this degree is mandatory? This is another one where it’s worth consulting professionals, teachers and counsellors. 

Don’t choose based on where your friends are going

This is another temptation. Even if all your friends are going to the one university, keep your options open and go wherever your desired course is offered. You’ll make new friends and you’ll still be able to contact old ones online. It’s no good for anyone if you’re making sub-optimal choices to be with your friends. 

To some extent, this counts for significant others too. If it’s a better decision for both of you to go to different universities, seriously consider it. It’s hard; we know. But this is your future after all. Give yourself the best chance at success. 

Don’t choose solely on what your parents say… or anyone for that matter!

This could either be tied into the first or second pitfall, depending on the type of parents you have! Your parents are likely a huge influence on you right now, for good reason. For this kind of decision, it’s totally fine to take their input, but don’t let them make this decision for you. It’s your life after all. Do your own due diligence in the confidence you’re doing the right thing. After all, they’re not the ones who’ll have to study through all the exams and then work a career in that field (or suffer the lack thereof!). 

This all applies to what your friends or significant other thinks too. It’s up to you what kind of say they have in your decision, but if your career advisors and teachers are saying one thing and your mates are saying another, go for the more credible sources. We’ll give you a hint: it’s probably not Dave from the footy team… unless he’s also the school career advisor!

Don’t get too specific

You get several degree preferences when you apply to uni. Think about all the things you can accomplish with each of them, so if you’re turned down for one, you’ve still got plenty more great options. It’s often possible to be eligible for all kinds of diverse jobs with just one degree. It just requires a bit of research to find out what kinds. Basically, don’t put all your eggs in one basket and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Don’t panic

At this stage, it’s possible to transfer into similar or even entirely different degrees if you end up not liking your first choice. You can even apply for credit toward whichever new degree you choose. So long as you get a foot in the door to any university degree, horizontal movement is possible as early as the second year in many cases. Nobody expects you to have all the answers and neither do universities. Yes, it’s good to have your chickens in order to the best of your ability, but we’re only human. Use the information at your disposal and adjust if you feel it necessary. In other words, you’ll be fine.

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