Choosing the right course for you

Undergraduate Study at Cambridge


Choosing the right course for you

The first step when thinking about applying to university is finding a course you love. Whether you already have a shortlist, or you have no idea where to start, we've put together some top tips to support you along the way.


Whatever and wherever you choose to study, through the experience of going to university, you will acquire many transferable skills that employers actively seek. As a graduate you will have a range of opportunities and possibilities ahead of you when you are looking for a job in the future.

Choosing what to study at university is a big decision, as you'll be spending at least three years studying, and your course choice may steer your future career direction. Some courses are linked to more vocational careers - for example Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Engineering. When you're looking at courses you could find out what recent graduates have gone on to do. You may be surprised by some of the careers that some courses can lead to.

If you have a specific career in mind, you should research what people in those careers have studied and whether you'll need to have any particular qualifications to pursue a career in that area. This will help you to decide which courses are right for you.

Cambridge graduates of all disciplines are highly employable. If you don't yet know what you'd like to do after university, you'll find that, no matter which course you choose to study at Cambridge, a range of careers will be open to you.

Where to start?

Here are some questions you can start to think about. Even if you have a clear choice in mind, it may be useful to go through the process to confirm your decisions:

1. Which subjects do you enjoy?

What do you study at the moment? And what do you enjoy the most? Choosing a subject that you already enjoy means you're more likely to want to learn more about it and getting out of bed to study won't feel like a chore. You'll find you get much more from your academic studies if your course inspires you.

Don't just think about what you study now at school or college. For example, you may be interested in Ancient Egypt, material culture, and biological anthropology, in which case you might want to study Archaeology at Cambridge. There are many courses out there that cover subjects you may not have had a chance to study before, and that you don't need an A level background in. At Cambridge you can study courses as wide ranging as Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, History of Art and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

2. Which subjects do you excel in?

If you have found that you have a particular talent in a subject, it's likely that you'll do well in that subject at degree level, so it may be a route to consider when choosing your course.

However, being good at something doesn't always mean that you love it. Even if you are successful in a subject, the main thing to ask yourself is whether you can see yourself studying it for a few years.

Don't forget the things you do outside your studies. For example, if you're interested in building things and are inquisitive about how things work, then Engineering could be for you. If you follow politics, culture and international relations, then you might be interested in Human, Social and Political Sciences.

3. Have you considered alternatives?

Are you curious about culture, philosophy and language? - If so consider Linguistics, Classics or Modern and Medieval Languages.

Perhaps you are passionate about education and social issues? - You may be interested in our Education course.

Are you interested in the Law and Economics? Don't just consider the named routes, Land Economy combines both disciplines.

You can only apply for one course at Cambridge in a year, so it's important to consider your options. We offer 30 undergraduate courses at Cambridge covering more than 65 subject areas so you may find it tricky to find your subject. If the subject you wish to study doesn’t appear in one of the course titles, you can use the Course Search to see which course(s) covers the discipline you're interested in studying.

Also bear in mind, how NOT to choose your degree course. Your course decision should be based on what you want to study. You shouldn't feel pressured into your choice by your parents, carers or teachers. And you don't need to follow or copy your friends.

What next?

Whichever course you choose, make sure you know why you want to study that course and why the subject sparks your interest. You'll need to include these things in your UCAS personal statement, and if you apply to Cambridge and are invited to an interview, you will need to be able to talk around your subject with passion and enthusiasm. Now is a great time to do some further reading around the courses on your shortlist, and explore your interests in more depth.

Once you have a good idea in mind, it's time to continue your research. If you're comparing courses at different institutions, remember to check the course content and subjects covered; even if a course has the same title, it could be very different in practice. Prospectuses are a great starting point and provide a great introduction to undergraduate study with brief overviews of all courses offered. The University of Cambridge 2023 Entry Prospectus will be ready in March and we'll let you know when you can order your copy. You can also find more information about all our courses and departments by exploring our virtual tour.

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing. For the most up to date information about undergraduate study at Cambridge, visit our website.

Last reviewed October 2021