Choosing your degree: the 10 most common mistakes to avoid

Melina Díaz Christiansen, Fundación CYD

Nov 10, 2021 12:20 (CET)

Choosing your degrre the 10 most common mistakes to avoid (c) CYD

There can be no doubt that choosing your degree is an extremely important moment that can determine your entire personal and professional future. This decision can trigger high levels of anxiety and stress, which, coupled with the lack of information and the expectations that your parents will have placed in your future, can lead to a series of mistakes that should be avoided when it comes to choosing a university course.

Depending on the country where you plan to study and the type of university that you are interested in, you will need to take an access examination and/or fulfil a series of requirements, such as getting a visa. Once you have chosen the university course that interests you, we recommend you check all the necessary procedures in advance.

You probably have not made up your mind what to study yet, but, in view of the wide variety of courses on offer, it is worth knowing that this is really a normal situation that all students find themselves in. Apart from a proportion of undecided students, some drop out of their course just after their first year of a university degree, because, among other reasons, it does not meet their expectations – which could have been avoided had they had enough information at the time of their decision.

Below, we will try to point out the most common mistakes when it comes to choosing a degree, in order to help you to avoid making them yourself:

1. Thinking your decision is not one you can go back on

Most of the decisions we take can be reconsidered. For this reason, the choice of which degree to study is not as important a decision as you might at first think. It is true that it will be a starting point in your degree that will help you to find your way in a particular field of study and to advance within it, or perhaps you will eventually focus on another area. However, whatever happens, it will definitely have not been a waste of time since you will have been able to learn from this experience.

2. Thinking that going to university is the only option

Going to university is definitely a rewarding experience. Not only because of the training that you will acquire, but also because of the experience and exchange of knowledge that you will be exposed to. However, if your professional calling is clear to you and you consider that you can acquire the necessary skills by taking a vocational training course, do not hesitate!

If you want to gain further training, you will be able to complement your studies with other courses or, alternatively, go to university once you have acquired your vocational qualification. Different countries have different paths for gaining access to this sort of training, so you should check the study requirements for your country.

3. Letting your parents pressure you into a decision

It is comforting to count on your parents’ opinion and their guidance in regards to what you should study to have the best possible future opportunities. However, while it is worth taking their advice into account, you are the one that must decide because the experiences you go through, the mistakes that you learn from and the achievements you earn will be yours and yours alone.

4. Being guided by what your friends think

Our friends’ opinions, especially at a younger age, can influence us a lot. From now on, each one of you is likely to decide their own path, perhaps even studying in different cities. This is normal, so we advise you to take their point of view into account, but, at the end of the day, you should trust in your own ideas about what you want to do and be guided by your intuition.

5. Letting the opportunities for employment be the only factor you bear in mind

After the previous financial crisis and the current one caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is logical that employment opportunities are one of the most important factors involved in the decision of what to study. Nevertheless, they should not be the only one. You should bear in mind that the demands of the labour market will change very quickly with the passing of the years and that even universities are not yet offering training for the professions that will be in greatest demand in the decades to come. For this reason, employability may well point towards the areas of knowledge and skills that might be most sought after, but the key to standing out in the labour market of the future will be your ability to adapt and re-train.

6. Registering for a degree that seems easy

Under no circumstances should this be a factor to consider. It might be the case that enrolling in a degree that does not require too much effort will mean less pressure when you are at university, but what next? Our advice would be to bear in mind other factors such as your own vocation and motivation so that you gain a qualification in a field that interests you and in which you see yourself developing your professional future.

7. Ruling out degrees that don’t seem to lead to a successful future

In view of likely changes to the workforce in the future, one degree or another is not a guarantee to success – particularly not in the short-term. It is obvious that there are some fields that offer better employment opportunities or higher starting salaries, and which are likely to offer the chance to carry out tasks that match your level of training, but these need not be the only factors related to professional success.

Performing tasks that give us a sense of fulfilment, make us want to learn and continue to arouse our curiosity are matters that should not be underestimated; they can be derived from studies that, in the first instance, do not seem to offer a guarantee of success. 

8. Focusing solely on current trends and demands

Universities tend to renew their academic offer fairly frequently in response to several variables, such as new demands from graduates or companies, thus trying to make the academic offer fit the demands of the labour market better. It is a good idea to bear current trends in mind, but without forgetting such factors as your own vocation and skills that should be decisive when it comes to making a decision.

9. Not making a decision until the last moment

We often tend to put off decisions that are difficult for us to make. As the weeks go by, the level of stress is likely to increase, and we may end up making decisions in a hurry without having devoted enough time to thinking them through.

You may well have heard this advice many times before, but you should not leave the decision until the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time, visit educational fairs, take vocational orientation tests, make an appointment with your tutor or the careers advisor at your centre and look for other ways to gather information.

U-Multirank is a very useful tool offering guidance on the subject of international universities. It provides information both on the university itself and on fields of knowledge; besides, you will find useful information about specific universities or about the countries in which you are interested in pursuing your undergraduate studies. 

10. Not consulting several sources of information

This is a mistake that sums up everything that has been mentioned above. Leaving yourself with just one option is the biggest mistake that you can make. So, get organised, take your time and draw up a calendar with key dates that will help you to progress towards your decision and the procedures involved.

Consult your family and friends, as well as your tutor, and visit official websites such as that of the Ministry responsible for university education in your country, together with platforms aimed at students such as Studyportals and the U-Multirank student track that can help you make an informed decision about where and what to study.


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