This blog post discusses my experience choosing a university and picking a course to study. In this post, I will discuss the ways I narrowed down my choices. It is hard choosing a university, three or four years of your life is at stake. So, if you are like me, you might feel overwhelmed by the whole… uni thing.
I hope what is discussed in this post helps you make a right choice but don’t feel rushed into choosing, it is a difficult and life-changing task, so make sure you know it is the right university for you.
Choosing the right University Course?
Everyone will have
When I applied in October 2014, I originally applied for a joint honours scheme at Derby University in the following courses:
- Creative Writing
- Film and TV Studies
At the time, I felt these two degrees would help me to achieve my ambition—to become a screenwriter but did I make the right decision?
I changed my mind seconds before I was due to enrol. What changed my mind? To answer that I would need to answer what appealed to me about Derby in the first place.
What made me chose Derby was the Open Day. From the get-go, I liked it. It’s funny how first impressions work. When I walked into the University of Derby, I noticed a colourful and bright layout with a weirdly designed but highly accessible campus. The societies looked great. The
Bangor was close for the same reasons but Derby just had that little bit extra that said: This is the one.
Portsmouth, on the other hand, had a bad first impression. The accommodation smelled. Literally stunk that the poor tour guy felt the need to apologise. The staff were invariably not helpful and constantly reminded you it was a
Farnham didn’t do too badly on the open day. However, it was the campus that let it down. There was a room which the class would use—one which I would not be able to access easily. And the accommodation had bars on the window, with a lack of floor space.
York— 200 students in one class verse 30 in the other unis. It was intimidating
So it was a close call but it was always between Derby and Bangor, all I needed to do was get the grade. Derby as my first choice.
University Course Content
Both Derby courses offer two screenwriting modules—to be exact, the same screenwriting module. It’s a joint class between those who do Creative Writing and those who do Film and TV studes. This sounds perfect for someone whose ambition is to be a screenwriter.
In fact, all the universities I looked at on UCAS were immediatly rejected by me if they did not offer a module on the university course that specialised in screenwriting in any form. Universities from London or whose site was confusing in presentation and navigation was the next two aspects to narrow my choice.
I’m very creative but seem to have a talent for scripts and media production—something I realised while studying my A Levels: Film Studies, Media Studies and English Literature and Language. This is what originially made me want to do a joint honours degree, albeit more in media than in film, only this wasn’t compatable at my chosen university, Derby, so I opted for Creative Writing and Film & TV studies.
But I changed my mind and went to single honours.
This is because I learned moments before I completed enrolment that the key module I wanted to do, Writing for Screen was not available for joints. This is true despite being enrolled on two courses that have that module and the reason for this is understandable. It is so popular on both those courses that they cannot offer it to joint honour students.
When asked at the open day, both subjects said I could do the Screen Writing module as a joint honours and they both said yes. During enrolment day, this answer changed to a no.
Asking about the course
I spoke to the lecturers on both courses, asking them for more
I looked at the Film and TV modules and one of them was the Moving Image. A subject drummed into me in A-level by both the film studies A-level and Media Studies A-level. So much so that I hated the topic. I couldn’t sit through another 12 weeks of that.
All the modules in the first year of Film and TV studies looked boring aside from european cinema. Mostly theory and not so much practical that I knew it wasn’t for me.
But then I looked at the Creative Writing Modules it was a completely different story. All of which were very practical.The only downside… or so I thought… was Representation, Another topic we covered in all three of my A-levels to the death! But I could cope with that for the other modules.
I couldn’t opperate a camera, have no desire to direct but all the desire to write. What else was I going to do but switch to Creative and Professional Writing as a single honours. So while Creative Writing wasn’t my initial choice, it is not one I regret.
After a discussion with the Creative Writing Team, I switched from joint honours to single honours minutes before I officially enrolled and I can say I do not regret it for a single second. I chose right. So, I went to the library to enrol and started my course.
I was wrong about the Representation module though. It was not boring. The Creative Writing team made the topic seem new and allowed us to look into representation our own way.
I don’t think there is a single module I have taken that I can say I hated in my first year but I can definitely name my two favourites. Audience and Research: Storytelling and Representation.
Gone from a module I dreaded to one of my favourites!
The best thing is that the Creative Writing course does leak into both film studies and media studies.
In the second year, you are taught to interview, to make magazines, have the option to write screenplays and/or radio plays along with researching a topic of your own choosing in your own genre.
My chosen topic was pirates for a novel I want to write, we visited Matlock, Derbyshire’s Record office and there was an old letter addressing piracy which was helpful. You can also choose your own group topic for the magazine, our group’s topic was Disability and I believe it went well.
Focus on Genre and Focus on Writing and Responsibility were my favourite module in my final year.
Go to the open days, get a feel for the course. That will give you a sense of where you will feel comfortable. If, like me, you have to switch course, ask for advice. You may not get a gut feeling like I did, but if you do, listen to it!
If you have a disability, ask what challenges you might face. The university should accommodate you if that is what you really want to do, but if it is just a bonus of the course that you really don’t care about, make sure you’re aware of it.
Good luck choosing a university, I hope this helps and you are happy wherever you end up.
If you cannot attend an open day, there are alternative ways to help you narrow down your choices when you are choosing a university. Have a look at this post: A guide to Choosing a University.