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Deciding which degree to study is probably one of the most important decisions of your life. Your education, your skills, your preferences; everything influences your decision and everything is crucial when it comes to making the final decision. We'll provide you with a series of tips aimed at helping you weigh your options and guiding you on this exciting path to choosing your future.
What's the first thing you need to know?
Making a decision as important as choosing a degree program requires prior thought. To achieve this, and throughout the whole process, you should gather as much information as possible. The information should relate to the following points:
Knowledge of yourself: capabilities, skills and interests.
Knowledge of the professional environment.
Knowledge of the training pathways that prepare you to practice certain professions.
Knowledge of the training pathways that prepare you to practice certain professions. Your center of studies may offer you the chance to carry out psychometric tests related to any of these aspects. These are worth doing and can be a useful tool, especially if accompanied by interviews and visits to the university centers.
How can you identify your abilities and skills more effectively?
Choosing a degree that suits your abilities and personality, and that you genuinely like, will guarantee success in your studies. That's why it's so important to gain more in-depth knowledge about yourself.
The most reliable indicator for assessing certain personal qualities tends to be your academic record. Analyze your performance in subjects that are directly or indirectly related to the degree programs that most interest you, and talk to your teachers and tutors; they can help too.
Other personal characteristics you should consider when deciding between one degree program and another are creativity, initiative and responsibility. You will certainly develop these qualities further during your time at the university.
Are you sure about your preferences and interests?
Sometimes, knowing what you really like isn't as easy as it seems. Especially when you don't know the alternatives. In these situations, you need information that stimulates your curiosity.
In general, you can define your preferences or interests from two perspectives:
o Interest in the content of certain degree programs. For example, if you are particular interested in the subject of biology at the moment, one of your university options is a degree in Biology. If you determine your preferences this way, you should consider all the employment opportunities for the degree whose content you find most appealing. Family members or friends who have done these studies are a good source of information when doing this. It is also essential to take advantage of any opportunities that arise to make contact with professionals and teachers at the university.
o Interest in certain professional fields. If you're attracted to practicing a certain profession or working in a more generic professional field, such as business, find out about the different options that would prepare you to practice this profession.
If you're not sure what your interests are, try to find the answer in the careers of those around you. Look around you. Ask family members and friends. Find out about the career paths of people you admire. Look in the media. Be curious. Sometimes the solution is closer than you think.
It's good to know that the key factors for success in a university degree are the student's hard work and dedication. The driving force throughout your time at the university will be your interest in your chosen degree and your future career.
How can you find out about your employment prospects?
The university years are key for developing and shaping your personality and basic professional skills. The employment prospects of a degree are important, but your attitude during your time at the university is even more so. The truth is degrees don't have prospects; people do. The university is so much more than "training for a job." It's the start of a personal and professional project.
There are many more professions than there are degree programs. Learn about them, analyze them, make inquiries. Try to work out which ones appeal to you the most, but don't close doors before you've even started. Keep them open.
It's also useful to know that university rankings in terms of the job placement of graduates shouldn't be taken at face value. In reality, when employing people, companies assess their initiative, their creativity, their ability to work as part of a team, how service-minded they are. These qualities are not the result of a degree; they develop as a result of your activity.
Where can you find information on the degrees that interest you?
Making a decision without information increases the chances of making a mistake. Request and search for information on the degrees that interest you. The Internet, the Library Services and the advisor in your center are all key information sources. Compile the documentation on each degree systematically: the content, its duration, the student profile, the class hours, the level of difficulty, the employment prospects. Analyze the information, compare it and make inquiries. Don't be left with any doubts!
How can you find out the level of difficulty of your degree?
The level of demand and dedication can vary greatly depending on the degree and/or university chosen. Also, the level of difficulty of each subject can be hugely subjective: how easily you grasp the subject and how well a discipline suits or interests you. Everyone is different.
However, the time commitment and personal work required by the different subjects can be measured roughly using the following scales:
A subject considered "difficult," with five class hours a week, may require between seven and eight hours of personal study a week.
A subject with an average level of difficulty, taught over four hours a week, will require the same amount of personal work time, i.e., four hours.
A simple subject, with few class hours a week, will require between one and a half and two hours of dedication.
Should you choose a double degree or supplement a degree program with other studies?
Thanks to the way the university system is currently set up, the last few years have made it possible to undertake programs leading to a double degree. In general, double degrees broaden students' career opportunities, but they obviously require a higher level of ability and dedication.
Analyze your profile and assess whether it would be worth investing your time and energy in a double degree, or whether it would be better to opt for a single degree and supplement it with languages, study periods abroad, cultural and social activities, graduate programs or specific courses.
You've got all the information you need. What do you do with it now?
Making the right choice of degree is no easy task. That's why it's important to know what to do once you've gathered all the information you need. A few tips:
Aim to achieve a balance between your interests and skills. Your preferences, i.e., your professional vocation, will help you enhance your performance. Even so, you should evaluate whether your qualities reach the minimum level required to undertake certain study programs.
Compare your high school subjects with the content of the degree programs. When drawing a parallel between subjects is not straightforward, for example, in the case of Law and Nursing, try to analyze the curriculum in detail and base your decision on how interested you are in the areas of knowledge and professional fields covered by the degree.
If you still have doubts by the end of the orientation process, you can opt for a degree that will provide you with training on the broader aspects of the area of knowledge that most interests you. For example, you could study Biology, Humanities, Business Administration or Industrial Engineering, all of which allow you to specialize later on.
Who can advise you?
The advisor or tutor in your center of studies will be able to provide you with a great deal of advice during the process of choosing a degree. Don't hesitate to approach your advisor for the best career guidance.
Also, if you get the chance to make personal contact with professionals in different fields or university professors, do it!
You can also request advice from our psycho-pedagogical department at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
What if you don't get in?
What if you don't get in? Sometimes, decisions about prospective students are delayed until it is not clear whether they are in a position to pursue their chosen degree. In these cases, it becomes apparent that the decision was not well thought out, and this could result in the student choosing the wrong degree. It is important to keep this in mind. Showing an interest in your future while studying for your high school diploma will help you achieve your objectives. Don't forget that this will be the driving force during your time at university.
Even if you're absolutely sure what you want to study, your application could be unsuccessful due to the cut-off grade or the entrance exam result. In these cases, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes, it's a good idea to take the entrance exam again the following year and use the time until then to develop your skills in other areas. At other times, the best thing to do is choose a degree program that is similar to the one you initially applied for.
Each case is different. If you can, seek advice from an expert and review the information you gathered during the process.
Given the huge range of university programs currently on offer and the fact that we are entering an era of Europe-wide degree standardization, choosing a university requires prior consideration. You should also keep in mind that choosing one university over another could be the factor that gives your professional résumé an edge over the competition. In order to make comparisons and to ensure that your choice is the most suitable one for you, we suggest that you consider the following questions.
Does the university have the degree program you want to study?
Not all universities offer the same degree programs. In some cases, the university has a better reputation than the degrees it offers. It is also possible that several different degree programs will prepare you for the same professional field. Another factor to bear in mind is that the current Spanish university system allows you to adapt degree programs to your interests through elective subjects. Analyze the range of elective subjects and the professional pathways offered by some universities.
What is the teacher-student ratio?
Sometimes, a low teacher-student ratio means that personalized assistance is not guaranteed. It is important that student advice and orientation systems are in place. The most effective approach is to talk to students studying at that university and ask them whether the teaching staff is accessible and shows an interest in their students.
Will you be able to do internships during your degree program? Where?
Internships are important to complete your training and guarantee that your entry into the job market is more straightforward. It's a good idea to do internships inside and outside the university.
University internships: It's absolutely essential to ask about the content and approach of internships, and inquire about the university facilities: laboratories, workshops, simulation rooms, etc. Get as much detail as possible and go and see them if you can.
Internships outside the university: Whether in Spain or overseas, the important thing is that you can choose an internship that is suited to your professional objectives and/or that allows you to broaden your horizons. Therefore, it's helpful to have someone who knows you and can advise you.
How many students enter the job market after receiving their degree? Do they receive help finding their first job?
One degree program may open the door to many professions. It's very useful to receive advice and orientation. A high employment rate is a sign that the graduates of that university are valued in the job market. Inquire about the university's employment assistance services: advice, professional development programs, job offers, etc.
What technological resources does the university provide?
Ordenador, correo electrónico, disco duro virtual, Internet... Hoy dia es imprescindible contar con todo ello. Asegúrate de que la universidad te lo ofrece sin cargo, y que dispone de suficientes medios informáticos para sus alumnos. Un medio rápido de análisis: entra en las páginas web de las universidades.
What should you do if you decide to study away from home?
Studying away from home is a huge change in your life. It's a new situation that could help you develop certain aspects of your personality and your future professional skills. Don't let yourself be taken in by trends. Choose the most suitable environment for you.
Once you have chosen the university you want to go to, you'll have to look for housing. Making a good choice will guarantee that you have the best chance to maximize your time at the university. There are numerous options that vary greatly: university halls of residence, university residences, family homes, apartments and university clubs. Gather information and request advice before making a choice.
And, above all, don't forget to find out the deadlines for applying to each university, the entrance requirements, etc. These vary depending on the university.
Does the university offer any other activities you can take part in during your degree?
Conferences, exhibitions, movie cycles, theater, spiritual care, volunteer social work, etc. Being able to take part in such activities shows that the university is genuinely concerned about your overall development. The chance to study one or two semesters abroad should also be assessed: this will enhance your résumé and contribute to your personal development. Look at the universities and countries that the university has agreements with.
How much research is carried out at the university?
This is a very important aspect. It is a clear sign of a "healthy" university. Conducting research means broadening and advancing knowledge. Furthermore, if it is carried out in an organized manner and in tune with the needs of the social and business world, the results will have a very positive influence on the quality of teaching.
Research in universities is conducted through doctoral dissertations or through specific research projects. A good level of research can be felt in the classroom. Experiencing advances in the human genome firsthand is not the same as being told about the history of the human genome.
What other facilities does the university have?
Sports facilities, a good library and a language center are all resources that will help you study and make better use of your leisure time. Other aspects should also be considered: How far is the university from your housing? Is the campus separate from the city, or are the university buildings spread throughout the city? This last point is important, since you'll have to consider whether accessing elective subjects in other degree programs is realistic, and whether you'll be able to use certain facilities.
How can you finance your studies?
Never rule out a good university because of cost. Analyze the different options for study scholarships and financial aid, both public and private, as well as the different financing options. If possible, request a personalized assessment of your chances of obtaining a scholarship or financial aid.
In order to form a more objective view, evaluate the average time you'll have to dedicate to studying the degree and information on the employment rate, in addition to the cost. You could benefit in the long term.
A portal aimed at pre-university students, with useful information and even some orientation tests. Preuniversia can be found in the Spanish part of the Universia portal: www.universia.net. It brings together 745 Spanish and Latin American universities.
The best universities. At the end of May each year, the newspaper El Mundo publishes an analysis that lists the best universities to study the 50 most sought-after degrees.
Elige tu futuro (Choose your future) Collection
Published by: Círculo de progreso. A collection of several volumes that contain detailed information about each university degree program, entrance requirements and opinions. The last edition was published in 2004.
DICES: Guide to degree and higher education programs
Published by: Círculo de progreso. This guide contains useful information for starting out in your search for a university. Once you have chosen several options, you'll need to carry out your own evaluation. An updated version is published every year.
Guide: Universidades y Carreras (Universities and Degree Programs)
Published by: Gaceta Universitaria. Comprehensive information on the different universities and the degree programs they offer. Includes a number of contact website addresses. An updated version is published every year.