Following on from my previous two blogs, here I address my last three tips - focusing on the day-to-day running of a degree, while these might not seem glamorous, I argue they are probably one of the most important areas. If you find any of my tips below helpful, or have any feedback then please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
- Follow your passion
- Know the differences between degrees
- Understand how the course fits your strengths
- Ask questions about links to industry
- Ask questions about the other opportunities offered in the programme
- Look at the modules in the programme and ask questions
- Ask questions about the course size and teaching patterns
- Be careful of well-meant but outdated advice
Look at the modules in the programme and ask questions?
In this section I’m going to suggest the following:
- Look at individual modules and ask questions about content and assessments?
- Know your strengths and weaknesses in terms of assessments
- Try to understand how similar modules on different programmes are different and prepare you for specific industries
Building upon the advice I gave in part 1 and 2 of this blog, I advise you look at the individual modules within degree programs to get a sense of how they match you as a learner. While on the surface the programmes might have modules with similar names such as “Contemporary issues in sports psychology” and” Contemporary Issues in PE and Sport” it’s important to understand the content, mode of assessment and teaching methods are potentially different. One might have exams, while another might be assessed by an essay. Therefore, it’s important on open days you ask what this means, or at least look at the module descriptions on the websites.
For example, over the years I’ve found students who don’t like exams attracted to the Physical Education and Youth Sport Development degree I teach on. At St Mary’s neither Sport and Social Change, or Chelsea Football Club Foundation Coaching and Development foundation degree have exams. While other programmes such as Sport and Exercise Science and Strength and Conditioning tend to have a mixture of exams, essays, presentations, lab-reports etc. I suggest knowing your own strengths and thinking about how this works for you.
While lots of student I speak to don’t like exams others find exams less stressful, they are over in a couple of hours, and does not involve sitting in front of a computer researching, planning and writing in the same way essays do. Assessments are different between both universities and courses, so ask questions when you attend on open days.
Furthermore, when looking at course content ask questions like “Do I want to a football coach full-time, or would I like to be a PE teacher who coaches in the evenings and weekends?”. Or “do I want to focus on the business side of sport, or do I want to be hands on in projects?”. The truth is all of these are completely valid questions, and it’s important to understand how each module and assessment on the course fit your goals.
Ask questions about the course size and teaching patterns
Some of the most overlooked questions, but important ones are things like:
- How many people are on this course?
- How often will I be taught in large lectures and small seminars?
- Do you prefer to quietly get your head down or interacting with class discussions?
- What works best for me?
This next question often gets overlooked but is something you should ask questions about. During college or sixth form there is a chance your class sizes do not exceed thirty. Some of your groups will be much smaller, and you might have a good relationship with your tutor, you may see the same person five days a week.
However, when you attend university class sizes can vary from over a hundred students for a lead lecture on a core module to about ten or so students in a seminar on an optional module. Ultimately, how many people are in each comes down to the size of the course and the teaching structure.
If you enjoy being part of a crowd and are introverted, then large lectures might be good for you. However, for others who enjoy discussion, debate and developing a bond with your lecturer smaller seminars might be better for you. Ask questions about this on open days. Even larger programmes like Sport and Exercise Science which have over one hundred students at St Mary’s have small seminars throughout the week, so don’t be scared that you will never talk to your tutor. Most universities also have a personal tutoring system too.
Nonetheless, still ask the question, on courses which have a smaller cohort and less optional modules you are more likely to be with the same people in a lot of your lectures and seminars while on larger courses this might chop and change a bit. For example, courses at St Mary’s courses like Sport and Social Change, and Sports Performance Analysis and Talent Identification largely have smaller seminars so, you would often see the same people. Some student's key relationships at university derive from their courses, while others develop the relationships from clubs and societies or halls of residence.
Ultimately, while I think choosing a degree you are passionate about is important, also think about what works best for you. Although you should not limit yourself based upon cohort size and teaching pattern and recognise everybody needs to adapt to different types of learning in the 21st Century, I also think it’s important you make choices which are as informed as possible.
Be careful of well-meant but outdated advice
In the final section I encourage you to consider questions such as:
- How has the industry changed in the last few years?
- Do new degrees exist since the person advising me completed their degree?
- Is there a degree which explicitly addresses what I want to do? Eg be a Social Inclusion Officer, PE Teacher, Sports Psychologist, Performance Analysist.
My final tip is don’t pick a degree based upon advice from family members, friends, colleagues, teachers etc. which is outdated. Degrees are becoming more specialised, and where previously a degree might have got you a job as a Social Inclusion Officer, PE Teacher, Performance Analysist, Sports Psychologist etc. now employers and post-graduate courses are looking for more specialised routes. For example, if you want to become a PE teacher, I recommend degrees with “Physical Education” in the title. While historically you could train for this via other routes, this is less common these days.
Your degree won’t always exclude you from entering a specific profession, but it can change the timeline, for example instead of getting on to a teacher training course straight after finishing your degree you may need to go and work or volunteer in a school for a while after completing your degree before you get on a course.
Likewise, you can sometimes build your portfolio while you are studying, through the qualifications and experience you gain outside of university. Just take a bit of time to research degrees yourself as the landscape has changed.
Hopefully, you’ve found this helpful and please feel free to reach out and drop me an email if you have any questions.
Sport degrees at St Mary's
We offer a wide range of sport and health degree courses in areas such as physiotherapy, sport science, nutrition, physical education and sports coaching.
Many of the degrees are endorsed by national industry bodies, such as:
View our sport degrees