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Hello! It’s #optomstudies here again with another Sunday Study Tip on university life! This will be a multi-part series that hopefully will give a unique insight, since I can go on and on about university, and I love giving advice and helping others :)


PART 0: CHOOSING A DEGREE

Here I’ve put together a list of 20 things that you might not be told outright when choosing your university degree. @exeron

General Starting Tips During High School

  • It doesn’t matter what subjects you do in senior year, so don’t worry about bonus points, as long as you get a high enough ATAR so that you can keep your options open. Play to your strengths.
  • But! On the other hand, don’t take history and visual arts for your HSC and expect to be at the same level as your peers when you take a B Science (Advanced Mathematics) degree. You need that calculus knowledge. (Most of the time this isn’t a problem, because most people will choose a degree that aligns with their interests in high school). Again, play to your strengths.
  • Keep on top of your extra-curricular activities in case you need to go for an interview like with medicine.
  • Some degrees like optometry, medicine, law, etc. require additional exams like UMAT, so find out early, pay for the tests and mark it down on your calendar so that you don’t forget.
    • Up to you whether you want to pay extra for coaching, but anecdotally, I didn’t do any coaching and did fine. I had many friends who did coaching and ended up doing poorly. 
  • Choose a good university. Promise it actually counts at the end of the day. There are cases of people getting employed with low credit averages at big companies because they go to a good university.

Decide What Kind of Career You Want

  • Most importantly, it’s best if you pick your degree based on the job you want upon graduation. What you study at uni is just a means to an end. It’s a business decision that you are making - trading a few years to get a better career and better income at the end of the day.
  • Consider practical aspects of the job you want. For example, some of the things that I like about optometry is the fact that you aren’t sitting down the whole day, it’s a job that’s great for locum-ing and part-time work if I have kids in the future, and it makes for a good conversation starter when people ask you about optometric myths (no, looking at green grass does not help your eyes, nor do eating carrots, and having a nightlight doesn’t make you more short-sighted). These are all things that aren’t written down on a piece of paper somewhere, but are things that you can figure out by thinking about the everyday facets of the job itself.
  • Figure out your career values. These are things that you don’t want to compromise on due to personal integrity, as opposed to areas of interest. Some examples are:
    • Autonomy and independence
    • Achievement and advancement prospects
    • Creativity
    • Security
    • Altruism
    • Prestige, status and respect
    • Risk-taking and excitement
    • Material benefits a.k.a. $$$
    • Power
    • Team membership
    • Variety
    • Learning
    • Structure and organisation
    • Problem Solving
    • Leadership
    • Work-Life Balance
  • Don’t “follow your passion”, just “get good”. A lot of people also tell you that you should “follow your passion”, but most of the time you have limited experience concerning the types of occupations in the world, and most of the time there isn’t anything that you’ve developed a strong passion for. You might have a bunch of interests like me; when I was in high school, I enjoyed every single subject, because I just enjoyed learning in general, so the only thing I could think of was literally to become a full time uni student. This video really sums everything up quite well, so I’ll quote from it.

When you work hard at something you become good at it.
When you become good at something you enjoy doing it more. 
When you enjoy doing something, there is a good chance you will become passionate about it.

Start By Choosing a Good University and Faculty

  • Choose a Commonwealth-supported university. Don’t saddle yourself with excess debt from a private university unless your grades were so bad that you needed to pay money for a university degree. If you have the choice, don’t opt for these.
  • Go to open days! I seriously think I wouldn’t have chosen optometry if I didn’t go to the UNSW Open Day. The guy was just really persuasive about the benefits of the career.
  • Ask graduates! If you’ve got a retail job and have the opportunity to chat with people about their jobs, see what they like about their job and how they got there.
  • Opt to specialise. For example, if you are aiming to be a financial data scientist, then go for a B Economics and major in econometrics. Sounds simple, but people always argue about choosing a general degree like Commerce so that you have a broader choice and keep your doors open. This is only good if you don’t have an end goal in sight. Specialising shows employers that you have direction and are driven.
  • However, if you have absolutely no idea what you want to study then at least choose a faculty that you find palatable, try and do your research, or take some core courses that allow you to discern your major. If all else fails, just get the UAC book of degrees and cross out what you don’t want to do LOL

After Starting the Degree

  • If you start a degree and you find the first semester or two isn’t what you were imagining, unfortunately that’s what happens to a lot of people. Uni isn’t a vocational school that jumps straight into the professional skills. So if you want to be a pediatrician who nurses cute children to health at the end of the day, sorry but you’ll have to start with basic sciences. I’ve seen a lot of people jump ship just cause they didn’t like the first few courses.
  • Go for Honours if your degree has the option. Just looks a lot better in the eyes of an employer that you’ve tried challenging yourself with a research honours project. A 1 year trade off in studying is worth it.
  • Don’t worry about the length of the degree. Three years will be over before you know it, trust me! And honestly, university is actually a really great time period. Many of my older cousins reflect on it and say that in a way, it was some of the best times of their lives, because you don’t have the responsibility of the household bills and full time work just yet.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your degree after the first year. Some microeconomics - it’s a sunk cost.

Don’t think: “Oh I’ve already spent this much time studying this degree, it will be a waste if I change degrees”.
Think: “if I spend any more time in this degree that I don’t actually want to study, then I’ll be wasting my future”. 

  • You aren’t “wasting” your ATAR by choosing a degree that has a much lower cut-off point. For example, if you wanted to shape the future of children by becoming a teacher, you aren’t “wasting” your 98 ATAR by going into teaching, even if the cut-off is 81.
  • Don’t let other people influence your options. Look, if you’re going to change your uni choice just because someone you don’t like is going there… you’ll barely see anyone except for the people in the same degree as you after 1st year is over. Likewise, parents give advice, they don’tshouldn’t mandate life choices like what you study. 

Good luck with your university applications. Hope you all get into the degree that you’re hoping for! Hit me up if you have any questions :) 


MY WEEKLY STUDY TIPS

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN BEFORE UNIVERSITY STUDY TIPS SERIES

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