Student-voice blog: Help! Am I doing the right course?

Hand flip wooden cube with word “change” to “chance”, Personal development and career growth or change yourself concept

Welcome back again to the student-voice blog. Something I’ve heard a lot people worry about, especially at the front-end of a new academic year, is whether or not they’ve chosen the right course. Self-doubt at university is a common theme, see our other blogs on imposter syndrome, for instance (How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome?). In this blog post, I want to offer some personal insights that may help you to understand why you either may or may not be on the right course.

Why Shouldn’t You Change Your Degree?

This first point really links back to the point about self-doubt. We all experience it when it comes to university and sometimes that can cause us to think about changing our degrees. For example, in my first two weeks at university, while lectures were covering the introduction to psychology, I started to wonder about if I was on the correct course. I was wondering if psychology was still right for me, should I change it or just give up all together. That’s a classic example of self-doubt and to be honest, everyone will experience that at some point.

Then I experienced self-doubt again after my first group project, along with some other parts of the degree. I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with my degree. This was mainly because I’d identified that I was struggling to write academically in the eyes of the university markers. At a similar point in time, I saw peers around me pondering similar questions to me, but for all sorts of different reasons. Some were double guessing due to struggling with statistics, some were struggling with the scientific approach, while others were struggling to find the content engaging.

So, first things first, if you’re feeling doubtful or nervous about your course, you can trust me when I say that you ought to never feel alone in this feeling.

But, the story does not end there. I, like many others on my course, ‘stuck it out’… I persevered. Things improved, I improved at the things was struggling with, my peers found that they also improved, and I’m extremely happy that I didn’t change my degree. Everybody always talks about sixth/form / college to university is the biggest academic leap you can take – and it’s true – so give yourself some time to settle in.

That said, maybe your concerns are more intense or fundamental than mine…

Why Should You Change Your Degree?

If things don’t improve, or you know that you should no longer be on your course, your first course of action should always be to talk to your school, and the support services, at university and see if they can help you. It is important you explore this avenue so that you know the best subsequent course-of-action.

Before looking at this further, I want to tell you about an older friend of mine because she changed her degree and never regretted it. She went to the University of Oxford in the 90s to study Classic Arabic, entered the classroom on the first day where the teacher got them to speak ancient Arabic words he had written up on the board. She didn’t know a single one of them. So she went to her head of school/college, asked what else the college had on offer and she was told to write an essay on theology and they’ll see what happened. She went on to complete a degree in theology and never regretted making that change.


How Does This Apply To You?

I wanted to tell you about that real-life example because it shows one reason why you might want to change your degree. University is very different to secondary levels of education, subjects can often be very different and so, if you begin your university degree and the course is not what you expected, then maybe a change is in order. Of course, you may get used to this change and enjoy it, but that won’t always be the case.

However, that example also shows that changing your degree isn’t a sign of failure in the slightest. Sometimes you need to make a change so you can thrive.

To get the most out of your degree, an underlying passion for the subject really helps – I have spoken about this many times on the blog. For example, my love for psychology helps me through the assessments and general university aspects that I hate. Therefore, if you don’t love your subject anymore then maybe you need to change it to something else that you do love.

A final thought!

Ultimately, you need to consider, what is best for you?

It is perfectly all well and good me writing about my thoughts and opinions on changing your degree. But, at the end of the day, you need to take a step back and inspect your life to see what you truly want. You need to consider your mental health, your future, your happiness and everything that impacts this decision. I write this blog with the hope to provide comfort to nervous minds. I hope that you come away with this blog with one of two feelings: either (1) “I’m not alone in feeling this way, and things will likely get better as I adjust and develop”, or (2) “I’m not alone in feeling this way, perhaps a change in courses is the right thing after all”. The decision, as always, is yours. Just remember: do what is right for you and your future, and you’ll be fine.

Connor Whiteley

MSc Student, writer, and podcaster