University. The educational institution that allows aspiring undergraduates to have freedom of choice over their degree, modules and timetables. Unlike structured systems such as Junior College, university allows students to choose from a wide range of subjects. Anything—ranging from business to law to sociology—is allowed, and students are even offered the freedom to ‘mix-and-match’ modules, resulting in philosophy students studying chemistry and physics students in linguistics.
With such a wide variety nowadays, it can often be difficult to choose. Fortunately for me, I had already made up my mind before I even applied.
I had decided that I would study psychology.
But how exactly did I arrive at that conclusion? Upon reflection, I have narrowed it down to three main reasons. These are personal reasons and are not the only factors to consider, but perhaps they provide some insight and direction when it comes time for you to choose.
1. Academic Interest
To me, this was the most important factor when I was trying to decide on my course. My time in secondary school has taught me that I can only actively study the subjects I’m interested in. It was painfully clear when I took triple science, only to realize that I hated biology and no information would be absorbed, regardless of how hard I tried.
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From then on, I decided that I would only study the subjects I show interest in. So, when applying to university, I made use of the same principle. Before I even applied, I noted down a few subjects I thought I wouldn’t mind learning. At the time, that list consisted of things like law and medicine. Then, I would search up stuff like ‘law in NUS’ and read some recommended readings listed on the website.
I quickly discovered that I couldn’t stand a large majority of the things on my list. There was only one subject that seemed to excite me, and that was psychology. Even when I was reading academic papers or textbooks, instead of being bored by it, I was unexpectedly intrigued. That was when I knew I would apply for psychology.
Of course, NUS doesn’t offer a Bachelors in Psychology, but rather a Bachelors of Social Sciences majoring in Psychology. But, as long as I can do any facet of psychology, I am satisfied.
This is probably one of the more common pieces of advice. More often than not, students are encouraged to ‘follow their passions’ when making choices. The irony, of course, is that you don’t usually know your passion at the young age of eighteen, and so this piece of advice is more theoretical than practical, which is why to me academic interest was a main factor, with passion coming in second.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s out of the equation entirely. Of course, I recognize that finding one’s passion at such a young age is unlikely, and most students entering university don’t often know what they truly want to do with their life. Which is understandable. But passion (to me, at least) doesn’t always involve falling in love with a profession.
Rather, passion should be based on the activities you enjoy. For example, some students despise theoretical knowledge and would rather be doing applicational activities instead. Meanwhile, others prefer abstract concepts and ideas to tangible things and can spend hours discussing them. Some students enjoy knowledge but only if applicational, while others would much rather memorize information. All these things can point you in a direction. Applicational activities are more for business, engineering, or architecture, where the readings are few, and the focus is on applying important concepts. Abstract concepts can refer to politics, sociology, or even economics. Memorizing information can lead to subjects like medicine or law.
I disliked memorising information (particularly biology), but I enjoyed discussing theoretical concepts and how the conclusions of such concepts could affect the real world. I managed to find this in psychology. In psychology, there are many academic discourses among experts, and there are often more questions than answers. This, to me, was the theoretical appeal. In terms of application, psychological queries have very important real-world applications, and can affect a wide variety of events ranging from the diagnosing of a disorder to day-to-day attention.
3. End Goal
This is the final factor, but the most important one (in my opinion). I think one should go to university with a final goal in mind—whether that be a specific job or a generic field you might want to enter, it is always good to have a goal.
Of course, it is understandable if you don’t. As stated previously, it is difficult to know what you want to do at such a young age, and it can change even throughout university or beyond. But for those who do, this will likely be the deciding factor on what you choose to pursue for your undergraduate degree.
For me, I want to enter the field of forensic psychology. It’s not a very well-known field in Singapore, but I do want to study it overseas. Although I still employed the first two factors in deciding my degree, I sat down for a few hours to map out the potential areas I could enter if I chose any given subject on my list. And after eliminating fields like medicine (I hate biology, and I really don’t like blood), I was left with psychology.
At the time, I didn’t know what forensic psychology was, and it wasn’t until a work experience in a law firm that I came to hear of it. I was researching jobs related to law, and I happened to chance on a website suggesting this particular field. After reading through the job description, I began to feel excited over the prospects of what this area would offer, and I began to read academic papers to test if I was genuinely interested (aka going back to number 1). Fortunately, I was, and so I have decided to make that my ultimate end goal for now.
That goal may change, and it may not. But in the end, regardless of what happens, I aim to end up in a field of psychology, one way or another.
And with that, we’ve come to the end! Those were the three methods I employed when deciding on my university major. I hope it has helped in some way, whether it be providing useful tips that you could use, or simply giving insight into my thought processes.
Thanks for reading!