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Ben Graham Jones is Director of Strategy at AEGEE Election Observation.

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Choosing which course to study at university is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It is a decision with decades of potential implications for your future. Here at Cambridge Immerse, we empower students to craft the best possible future for themselves. Today, we present 10 pitfalls to avoid when making this all-important choice:

pexels-photo-120641. Not understanding the difference between school and university. You may have enjoyed studying your subject all your life – but university-level study can have significant differences with pre-university tuition. Do not make the mistake of not understanding the differences pertaining to your subject of choice. The best way of making sure you understand the differences is to gain a taster of university life, for example at a summer school.

2. Not spending time in an academic environment. 
You might thrive in class – but the seminar room is a very different environment indeed. The transition to university can be quite a shock to the system – make sure you are prepared by spending time in a university environment prior to starting your course.

3. Not understanding disciplinary diversity. A subject is a subject, right? Not necessarily. That glacier formation process you really enjoyed at A-level will be of little use on a degree focusing on human geography. Have a passion for politics wedded to Marx? Make sure you are aware if there is a compulsory module entitled ‘A brief history of neoliberalism’! Academic disciplines are far wider than any one degree can cover – make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into.

photo-1444703686981-a3abbc4d4fe34. Not aiming high enough. A wise person once said ‘the pain of failure is less than the pain of regret’.You can minimise the chance of both by aiming high whilst undertaking extra preparation to put you one step ahead of the competition. Don’t leave yourself wondering ‘what if’ forever – be ambitious!

5. Not researching non-traditional degrees. Courses such as Law, or Oxford’s Politics, Philosophy and Economics draw on disciplines that you may not have studied prior to university. Here at Cambridge Immerse Immerse, we offer the opportunity to study two subjects at once in order to get a taster of these pathways at university level. Looking at PPE? Consider Philosophy and Economics at Cambridge Immerse Immerse. Love words, but unsure which degree to go for? Consider a combination of English Literature and Creative Writing. The obvious choice is not necessarily the best choice!

pexels-photo-389406. Not talking to current undergraduates. The people who understand what it is like to study your subject at university better than anyone are, unsurprisingly, those who are studying your subject at university. There is no substitute for talking to those currently engaged in the course you wish to pursue for gaining an insight into what it takes to succeed before, during and after the university admissions process.

7. Not preparing for the interviewMany universities, including both Oxford and Cambridge, interview prospective students. Too often, students put an extraordinary amount of effort into every aspect of their application, only to fail at the all-important interview stage. This is why Cambridge Immerse Immerse offers interview preparation workshops to empower our students to display their best side under pressure. When it comes to interview, there is no substitute for practice.

pexels-photo-2616648. Not considering the admissions criteria. There are differences in each university’s requirements. Strong on critical thinking? Perhaps consider applying to a university which asks prospective students to provide a Thinking Skills Assessment. Poor with numbers? Perhaps avoid that course which requires an A in Mathematics. Cambridge Immerse Immerse hosts specific workshops to empower our students to thrive in all parts of the application process, from interviews and personal statements to subject-specific tests such as the LNAT, UKCAT or the TSA.

9. Not visiting. Do you actually like the location? Does the university feel like somewhere you could live? A university is not just a place to study – you will be living there for several years at least, so don’t wait until your first day there to visit the place.

pexels-photo-2428910. Not breaking with habit. Investment products are required to state some variant of ‘past performance is no indication of future performance’. This is no different when it comes to investing in your education – just because you are comfortable with a subject does not mean it is the right choice for you. Are you challenged, excited, and thrilled by an ‘obvious choice’ subject? If not, then it might be time to think outside the box. There are over 9,000 universities in the world, and far more courses -so choose wisely. If you want to make the most informed choice possible, consider getting a taster of university life on one of Cambridge Immerse’s summer schools. We offer 15 different subjects, so there is something for everyone. Find out more here.

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