It’s something that may take years to do, will cost you money, and will in some way, shape your future. With this in mind, you want to make sure that the decision you make is a good one.
When making the decision, not only do you have to decide on the general field of study you’re going to undertake, you also need to select a specialisation, where and when you’re going to study, how you’re going to manage the rest of the commitments in your life, and, how you’re going to use your degree to get you closer to the future you want to lead.
In this guide, we try and shed a little more light on the 7 key considerations you should make before selecting a degree, so you can make the best decision possible.
1. What are you passionate about?
"You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you're not passionate enough from the start, you'll never stick it out." - Steve Jobs
It’s no secret that doing something you’re passionate about is much, much easier than doing something you hate. With this in mind, having your passion inform the degree you undertake is a very sensible idea.
How do you identify your passion, you ask? Well, asking yourself the following questions can be a great start:
- What is it that you choose to do with your spare time?
- If you could do anything you’d like, knowing you couldn’t fail, what would it be?
- What do you and your friends always end up talking about?
- If you could only do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Once you know what it is you’re passionate about, then figure out how your degree can leverage it.
- Is there a degree that is centred on your passions?
- Is there a way you can use your passion as the basis of your study?
- Will your degree bring you closer to you building a career around your passion?
If you can find a way that your degree works with, or contributes towards, your passion, even the most challenging times will still be enjoyable.
2. What are your goals?
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” ~ Pablo Picasso
"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." – Lewis Carroll
Only if you know what your goals are for your professional life, will you be able to choose a degree that helps you achieve them. You certainly don’t want to spend years learning, understanding and mastering something that isn’t going to contribute towards the future you want.
When you set these goals, make sure you’re true to yourself and who you are. Be ambitious, push yourself and strive for greatness. The world needs leaders, why not you?
Do you want to run your own business?
Do you want to become a recognised leader in your field?
Do you want to change the world?
Whatever it is that you have in mind, make sure that the investment you put into study – both time and money – is one that will be worthwhile.
3. What lifestyle do you want to lead?
“Don’t confuse having a career, with having a life” – Hillary Clinton
The reality is, there’s more to life than work and study. Like everything else, hard work needs to be balanced.
It’s been proven many times that happiness leads to great work, not the other way around. The same is true with university.
Be honest with yourself and before you start studying, figure out what sort of lifestyle is going to make you happy.
Are you someone who likes highly-structured environments with timeframes and deadlines that are set for you? Or are you someone who prefers the ability to set timeframes and deadlines that work for you?
Will you be happier blocking off set-chunks of time to prioritise study over everything else, or will you be happier adjusting your timetable to work around other priorities?
Whatever it is, make sure you pick a degree that will work for you and your happiness. At the end of the day, unless you’re happy, there’s not much point to anything.
4. What does your future look like?
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein
“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details….” Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
The world moves at a faster pace than ever before. So fast in fact, many world leaders state that the only constant these days, is change.
Keeping this in mind, it’s unreasonable to expect that nothing will change in the future. That means, what works now, may not work later. You may move house, start a new relationship or a new job, it could be anything and it could be out of your control.
But there’s no reason to worry, with change comes opportunity.
However, the opportunity is only as good as your ability to take advantage of it and therefore, ensuring you have the ability and flexibility to respond in a way that makes most sense to you, is really important.
Before you commit to any degree, make sure you consider what options it will provide for you to change direction, move faster or slower, or, leave when the time is right. There’s no point doing something for the sake of it, so having the ability to complete your study when it suits you, with something to show for it, is very important these days.
5. How do you like to learn?
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
Learning is one of those things that everyone does differently.
No doubt at some point in your life you will have learnt something more quickly and easily than something else. Chances are it was because you were interested, were able to get involved in the process and engage in a way that suited you.
It’s unreasonable to expect that one style of learning suits everyone and there’s nothing more frustrating than having a style that you that doesn’t suit you, forced upon you.
Before you select a degree, spend some time reflecting on whether you prefer reading, writing or doing in order to learn, and then make sure that the degree you choose will allow you to do exactly that.
6. Who and what do you want to learn from?
“The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein
“If you want to know the road ahead, ask someone who has travelled it”. - Chinese Proverb
“Knowledge gained through experience is far superior and many times more useful than bookish knowledge.” – Mahatma Ghandi
It’s more than likely that at some point in your life you’ve realised that the best way to learn, is by doing things yourself.
When you choose a degree to study, make sure that you can get a balance of education from people that have actually been there and done that, and, education that can only come from doing things yourself.
Not only will it be more interesting and fun, it will be far more memorable.
7. What else do you want to get out of your degree?
“Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can't buy friendships.” – Lindsay Fox
When it comes to getting ahead in life, there’s no single answer. It’s all about developing a wide range of skills in a wide range of areas, and building relationships that will help you leverage them.
When completing a degree, something that takes plenty of time and energy, it would be a shame to leave only with a qualification.
Look for programs that will give you the opportunity to develop relationships, experiences and networks so when it comes time to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, you’ve got a wide range of perspectives, skills and experience you can leverage to make the most of them.
More importantly, look for a program that will help you get ahead in the real world.