So you’ve accepted your offer… now it’s time to choose your subjects. We know that choosing subjects can be a little tricky, so we’re here to help. It’s also a good idea to attend any academic advice or enrolment sessions on offer at your institution, as these will give you detailed information about your specific course. To get you started, read on for our top tips.
Consult course guides or handbooks
The first thing to look at when choosing subjects will be your course guide or handbook. This will tell you which subjects you need to complete as part of your degree (compulsory or core subjects) and which subjects you are free to choose yourself (electives). Each course requires you to complete a certain number of units per study period depending on your mode of study (for example, a full-time course usually consists of four subjects each semester). Some courses may consist of predominantly core subjects, with little choice in subject selection, while others are more flexible and allow you to explore your interests and choose electives. The latter is common in generalist degrees such as arts, business and science. For example, in an arts degree you might focus on a field like journalism but also study units as varied as criminology, history, anthropology and linguistics. In these types of degrees, you can usually select a major or minor in later years of study. In highly regulated fields, such as engineering, core subjects are completed to meet industry and government accreditation requirements. This means that subject choice may be limited.
Explore areas of interest to you
Depending on your course structure, you can usually achieve this through electives. Electives come in two forms: some electives are chosen from a particular list relevant to your course; others can be chosen from a wide range of subjects offered across different faculties or schools. In some courses, your subject choices may lead to a particular minor or major. Some institutions require you to select a number of subjects outside your chosen field of study (sometimes known as breadth subjects) to encourage you to expand your academic horizons. This is especially common at universities that have introduced the US-style Bologna model, where students complete a generalist undergraduate degree and use postgraduate study to pursue a specialist field or qualify for professional practice. You may find a science student studying creative writing, an arts student taking a chemistry course or even an engineering student studying African drumming! This is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and might even help you find your niche.
Think about prerequisites
Some subjects cannot be taken without completing other subjects first. These are known as prerequisites and will play a part in the subjects you can choose. This may not apply in your very first semester, although some course coordinators may prefer students to have studied a certain area at school. Luckily, you will have a broad range of introductory subjects at your disposal as a first-year student — if you have a particular subject in mind for your second semester, you can choose to complete an introductory unit in semester one. It’s important to look into subjects you want to complete in the future to see if they have any prerequisites, even if this means looking ahead a few semesters. If you want to major in a certain field, you will need to complete all the necessary subjects. Don’t be afraid to contact a course adviser if you have any questions or issues.
Choose subjects for the right reasons
It’s important that you choose subjects for the right reasons — don’t ignore your dream subject just because it’s got an early morning lecture or choose a subject you know you’ll hate only because you’ve heard it’s easy to pass. Choose subjects that will maintain your interest and keep you motivated, or that offer valuable skills that will help you with your intended career path. Finally, research your options carefully, as subject names might not always provide an accurate description of what you’ll learn in class!