5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Choosing My Degree

sydney unis

I distinctly remember the moments before opening my ATAR score, and believing that those four numbers would unequivocally determine the course of my future. Then came decision time. Which degree? Which university? And of course, all the ‘what ifs’. Little did I know that my university experience would be far from what I had planned. As a new cohort of young Muslims deliberates over their degree preferences, I hope that the lessons I drew from my own experience will be of benefit.

  1. Intention is everything

“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended.”

Sahih Al-Bukhari

When choosing your degree, it is tempting to allow the Western corporate ethos to creep into your decision. However, as Muslims, we understand that questions of wealth and prestige are not guides to success. Imam Al-Ghazali advises: ‘You must seek out the truth about yourself.’ Whilst deciding upon your degree, be candid with yourself and your parents about the reasons you have opted for a certain field. Are your intentions to aid the community, or are they to impress relatives? Will this degree be a means of earning a halal income, or will your Islam be jeapordised? It is essential to constantly reframe your intention to be that which is for Allah’s sake.

2. Quantifying your future is limiting

The ATAR is not categorically definitive of your future. Achieving a high ATAR does not automatically limit you to studying Medicine or Engineering, and a lower ATAR is no reason to despair as there is an abundance of options available. The ATAR is simply the first stepping stone in a range of fortuitous and winding pathways on the journey to your dream career. 

I have encountered many students miserable in their seemingly top-tier degree at a world-class university, of whom only found contentment after transferring to their degree of interest at a lesser-known institution. Selecting your degree based on scores and rankings not only imposes unnecessary pressures, but is restrictive, and you may unknowingly dismiss the option most suited to your skills and passions.

3. A degree is more than a job at the end of the tunnel 

Choosing a degree depending on job availability implies that a degree is a means to a necessary pecuniary end, when in actuality, it can be far more meaningful and enduring than that. My peers who find genuine joy in their studies have aligned their degree with for example, their religious or advocacy goals. Select a degree that compliments both your academic and personal interests. This enables you to volunteer, participate in research, and partner with community organisations within your field or industry. Such experiences not only boost your employability but inspire you to pursue a career that extends beyond yourself.

4. Do not fear change

Cliché, yes, but crucial. It is a misconception that changing your degree mid-way through, or taking a gap year will affect your career prospects. After one year of studying law, I was certain that my heart lay with the health sciences. Despite being out of my comfort zone, switching degrees was incredibly less daunting than I had anticipated, and has imbued my current studies with a newfound sense of purpose and peace. 

Always remember that you carry the precious key to resolving uncertainty and doubt – istikhara dua. Hold this remedy near, and have conviction that Allah will guide you in the direction that is best.

5. Failure: friend not foe

Whether it be in gaining admission into your degree initially, or during your degree itself – you will confront failure. At first, I did not pass one of the entrance exams required for my current degree. I was reminded of Allah’s presence and power. He instructs us: ‘Do not lose hope, or despair” [Quran 3:139]. Failure is an opportunity to reflect on your iman, persist in pursuing your goals, but ultimately, surrender the outcome to the Almighty. 


In technical terms, failure is not an insurmountable roadblock to being accepted into your preferred degree. If unsuccessful initially, most universities offer alternative undergraduate or postgraduate pathways into each degree. University websites detail these pathways, and have student support lines that advise as to which pathway is most suited to your situation.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and conclusions presented in these pieces are strictly those of the authors. MYA does not necessarily endorse the personal views of the authors.

Aisha Abdu

Aisha Abdu

Aisha Abdu is a medical student at UNSW, who enjoys cooking, writing prose and playing sport with her brothers.

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