Quick disclaimer: I’m a Finance student undertaking Bachelor of Commerce so my advice might not be suitable for your circumstances.
First off, you need to check your degree’s requirement and make sure you take what’s needed to graduate. If you’re unsure, contact your academic advisor to help you with it.
If you have electives within your major, keep reading. If not, stop reading this.
Ideally, you know what you want to do after university. When you know what you want to do, you just need to choose units that support your future aspirations. For example, if you want to be an investment banker, choosing an investment banking unit is a no brainer. Confusion arises when you are like me, you know your major but have no idea what to do after graduating.
There are six ways to find out more about a unit to help you make the best decision.
1. Unit Syllabus or Unit Guide
This should be your first go to source. They outline what the unit is all about and will help you determine whether or not it’s suitable for you. What I look out for:
- The syllabus: whether the content is useful or interesting
- Assessment type: I prefer exams compared to assignments, so I would avoid subjects with high weighting on assignments (i.e. over 50%)
- Unit coordinator or lecturer’s email: to clarify and ask for more information. I don’t think many people know this, but emailing the teacher is helpful. If it’s a free elective, you can ask whether they require prior technical knowledge to undertake the unit.
Once I emailed a professor that had written “There are complex math in this unit.” I’m not keen on that, but I’m interested in the unit since it’s practical. I emailed him about it and he explained that complex math means applied math, so I ended up taking the unit. It was the best Finance unit I took in my 3 years course.
Questions you could ask yourself when reading the syllabus: “Is this unit worth the fees $5k (real example lol) ?” or “Can I learn this on my own?”
Most students’ go to source but you have to realize that friends’ advice is subjective. What’s hard or annoying for them might not be the case for you. I ask my friends last, and unless their dislikes are in my “NO!” zone, I wouldn’t take their advice.
Example of a “NO!” zone for me is when 90% of the subject is us reading the textbook. I didn’t pay the university that much for them to tell me to do something I can do on my own.
You are lucky if you can find someone you look up to or in a position you would like to be. You can send them the unit syllabus and ask for their opinion on which subjects would be most useful.
For instance, I asked a family friend who’s been successful in the finance and banking industry for over 10 years. He gave me advice about taking debt and international finance units when I thought weren’t helpful, but I’m so glad I followed his advice. Those units were fundamental to my finance career compared to technical knowledge like modelling that I can always learn on my own or on the job.
For those of you who don’t have friends that took the units you’re eyeing for, check out students’ ratings on the internet about that specific unit. Specific to Monash students, you can check SETU (student’s survey about a unit), and if the rating’s bad, it probably depicts the actual situation. When I tried taking a unit that had a bad review, I was frustrated with the teaching staff.
Actually, the reviews are more directed toward the teaching staff rather than the subject itself, so consider this advice if you are reliant on them to get good grades (i.e. you can’t learn only your own). Pro tip: check the students’ page on Facebook (e.g. Monash Love Letters) to get raw and honest feedback about the unit.
5. Teaching staff
It’s like winning a lottery. You buy them knowing there is a small chance of winning. The difference is you pay the university NOT knowing that there are only a handful of staff that cares about your future and learning experience.
If you’re lucky enough that these staffs teach you, you can ask what other units they are teaching and follow them (if you like that unit). This strategy works best if you love to learn by asking or by interacting with teachers instead of reading books. Another way is to ask for their advice or unit recommendations. There are only two teachers who have offered me this opportunity, so take them if it exists.
6. Academic advisors
My last resort as they’re advising based on the academic path. They don’t know you and aren’t a professional. Personally I don’t recommend them as I’ve never used them. Let me know if you’ve used their service and found them useful on the comment below.
These are the tools, not a definite guide because ultimately you are the one who is going to learn, so choose units that you’ll enjoy. If you have questions, feel free to comment below!
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