Changing your Mind About what to Study

by Ella Greenwood


It was the time when everyone was discussing their university plans, attending open days and deciding on their futures. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do, with my friends knowing what they wanted to study and their ideal universities for years already. I had narrowed mine down to 3 subjects – chemistry, physics or maths, which were simply my A-levels. Realising this was not going to be a quick, easy decision, I started researching and visiting universities, and quickly decided that physics and/or chemistry was what I wanted to do. The main question was whether to study one or a mixture.

Eventually, I visited Oxford on an open day, where I attended talks on studying both chemistry and physics. Especially at Oxford, it seemed that everyone had known what they wanted to study for years, and a comment made by a chemistry professor really stuck with me. He said, “if you haven’t always wanted to study chemistry, there’s no point applying here, go for Cambridge instead”. At the time, that finalised my decision – I would apply for natural sciences at university, since no single department would want me as I had made my decision so late. In the summer after year 12, I was on a train on the way back from a ‘chemistry conference’ continuing to write my personal statement. I realised it was largely chemistry focused, and I was struggling to justify my passion for, and reasons for wanting to study physics. It was then that it hit me that chemistry was the degree I wanted to pursue. At this point I was torn as to whether to apply to Oxford – it was the dream, but having heard what the professor had said, was it a wasted application? Speaking to members of staff at my school, friends and family, I decided to give it a go, and a year later, here I am about to start my first year as a chemistry student at Oxford university.

Deciding on a subject to study at university is difficult, and everyone decides at different times, so if it feels like time is running out, don’t panic – just keep an open mind. You won’t be the only one feeling this way. Visiting universities and even starting to write your personal statement (or even one for each subject) whilst you make your decision is invaluable and can really help to make a decision. The most important thing, however, is do what you think is right, no matter what you are told. Remember, it is always ok to change  your mind.

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