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Careers and University Guidance: Choosing a course 

15 February 2019

What to study is one of the most important decisions you need to make. You are choosing to continue studying a subject for 3 years (4 years if you go to the USA or Scotland) so it is vital that you have a passion for the subject chosen. You may already know which area you definitely wish to make your career in e.g. Law or Business, but even if this is the case, you should have a passion for that topic. 

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The importance of passion and interest 

In the UK university system and in many others all over the world, such as the Netherlands, a very important part of your application is explaining why you want to study your chosen subject. Your passion and interest in the subject as shown in an essay or personal statement (UK) is a very important part of the application process. You cannot effectively ‘fake’ interest in a subject and universities need to know that you are wholly committed to studying the subject that you have chosen. If you have no idea of the career area you wish to go into, then as you study your passion, it is very likely that an area or a range of options will reveal themselves as you continue your studies. 

However, do not feel constrained by the exact subjects that you are studying. Nowadays there are many stimulating and wide-ranging degrees that allow you to combine areas of interest e.g. International Relations where Politics, History, Current Affairs, Economics and History combine. And of course, with some subjects e.g. History or English, there is a vast range of possibilities post university if you study these subjects. The most important thing to remember is to follow your academic passion! 

IB subject choices and university course choice 

It is likely that the subject you wish to study at university, or at least the academic area, will come from one of your Higher Level IB subjects as you study these in markedly greater depth than at Standard Level. One element in helping you choose your Highers is a greater interest in these subjects than those you chose for Standard level. 

If you have already chosen an area for university study then that may well play a part in your IB subject choice. If you were looking at Medicine or Dentistry, for example, HL Biology and Chemistry would be needed. If Engineering, then HL Physics and ideally Mathematics. For Law, HL subjects in essay-based and analytical subjects like History and English would be best. For a Language degree, then obviously that HL language 

However, there are subjects that you could choose at university without having taken them at IB or which you have only taken at SL e.g. Psychology. IB students have an advantage over students coming from other educational systems in that all basic curriculum areas are covered in the 6-subject IB Diploma programme.

Mr Simon Bird
Career and University Guidance