University Subjects: Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?

What do I study at university? How can I choose what is the best fit for me? What if I cannot decide?

Ask anyone who knows me personally, I can be somewhat indecisive. However, when it came to choosing what I wanted to study at university – I knew that I wanted to study both English Literature and History.

For those who need clarification on the degree structure, here is how it works. A Dual Honours degree with ‘AND’ in the title is roughly a 50/50 split between your two subjects – for example ‘English and History’ like me.

Secondly, there is a Major/Minor degree path, that includes a ‘WITH’ in the title. For this instance, there is more of an emphasis on your first named subject such as ‘Chinese Studies with Japanese’. This split is usually around 70/30.

You will (finally!) receive a credible honour in both subjects to be awarded one undergraduate degree. This can be reviewed throughout your degree if you decide a subject taken is not for you or enquires into changing the structure, ask a member of the lovely administration team for advice. Here at the University of Sheffield, we have a huge range of subjects that you can pair with studying English. If you want to learn more about what your options could be, please check out this link from the School of English: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/english/undergraduate/dual-honours-courses

View from window
View from my flat window in Endcliffe Village 

It still surprises me that there is little common knowledge about the availability of dual honours degrees. Of course, this is not in every case; my older sister Alex studied History and Sociology at the University of Worcester finishing last year. I am aware of the cruel irony that my sister and I study the same second subject, oh how she loves to torment me. However, this aided me to follow the route of a dual degree.

What is so good about studying a dual degree?

The passion. By knowing it was an option to pick more than one subject allowed me to realise I did not have to choose between my favourite subjects. I love English Literature and History unconditionally, so getting to study both at an in-depth undergraduate level is wonderful and challenging. I get to learn about such a wide range of topics and interests, without being limited by one discipline. My subjects often complement each other, intertwining my knowledge and learning. I feel that I am procuring a more sophisticated perspective of the world than I ever would with just one subject.

Likewise, it always me to entertain more possibilities for my prospects. For myself, I knew early on that I would like to study English. By studying both, it allows me to decide what path I would like to take within my degree and career choices. I have great support from my respective subject tutors to ensure I am doing my best in both. It gives us the facility to try out more of our options.

The people are second to none. Imagine the fun of getting to meet two sets of likeminded students in a wider community of university study. I have made friends on many different modules, often having happy surprises when we would get in the same seminar. Plus, if two sets of subject socials and clubs are not enough to encourage you – then I do not know what is!

Now as we all know, honesty is the best policy. So, in an effort to help prospective students come to the right decision, it is also important to hear the disadvantages of a dual degree. Warts and all.

The major point is that it can sometimes be a logistical nightmare. When choosing your separate degree modules, you will have to take into account the core modules required for that year. This does limit the amount of choice you get on optional modules. You are getting access to two fantastic departments and resources at Sheffield, but it does limit the scope of what you can study individually. It can somewhat feel like a balancing act of choosing acceptable modules that facilitate your critical skills and your own personal taste.

Another issue can be the scheduling of your modules. The University makes an effort to ensure the students to have sufficient time between seminars and essays, but that sometimes this cannot happen in practice. For example, semester one of my second year I had two essays due within a week of each other. That was a long week of coffees (and crying) at the IC for me! This can occur in single honours degrees, but it is always something to be aware of.

One last point is I feel a lot of university students can forget is the application process. The daunting UCAS login has long been forgotten in our minds. It does offer unique challenges to dual students, tailoring your personal statement to show passion for two subjects and essentially applying to multiple departments can be tough. The reward is in my opinion very worth it, but I understand it can feel like extra added pressure to impress, on top of that fun A-Level work.

I hope this post has been useful in looking at dual honours degree study, with all the bumps and challenges, I would recommend it to anyone. My favourite gem of a Dual Honours degree I saw on my university search was Astrophysics and Music – you really can do anything!

– Hannah (Third Year  English and History)

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