Options - Routes and Alternative Routes

There’s a lot to think about when choosing a university course. After all, in Scotland alone there’s 19 universities to choose from…and hundreds of possible courses within each one.

Don’t be overwhelmed though. There’s plenty ways you can narrow down your choices. We have lots of tips to help you.

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Bullet 1 (small) Think about the job you’d like to do (if you know)  

  • Do you need a university degree to get into that career? If so, what subject do you need a degree in? 
  • Find out by checking the ‘Getting In’ info for the job you’re interested in here

Bullet 2 (small) Think about the subject(s) you enjoy most at school  

  • What do you like about them? Could you study them or something similar at university?
  • Use our ProgressionGraduate Job Matcher to match your favourite subjects with jobs.
  • Remember, there’s lots of subjects you can study at university that don’t relate to one specific job. A degree will open up many different job opportunities for you, as well as giving you skills and experiences that will help you whatever you decide to do afterwards. 

 Bullet 3 (small) Consider new subjects 

  • There are all sorts of subjects you can study at university that you won't have experienced before. For example, you might have enjoyed Chemistry at school, but have you considered related subjects like Chemical Engineering, Pharmacy, or Forensic Science?
  • Explore the options out there by visiting university websites, reading prospectuses, and attending Open Days. 

Bullet 4 (small) Think about the grades you’ll need to enter different university courses 

  • Because of the limit on student places and the challenging nature of the work, some courses are harder to get into than others. Will you get the Higher grades required to enter the course you want? Are you taking the subjects you’ll need to get in?
  • Find out the subjects and Higher grades required for your chosen course by using our Subject Choice Subject Chooser.
  • Remember, if you’re not on track to get the grades you need for university right now, there are lots of other options for you. Many people go to college first; others go straight into work. If you take part in the FOCUS West Top-Up Programme in S5 or S6, you may also have the chance to boost your Higher grades. 




Bullet 1 (small) Compare universities 

Are they in a good location?

There are universities all over Scotland, the rest of the UK, and abroad. Some, like Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian, are in the centre of big cities. Others, like Stirling, lie outside towns in quieter, more self-contained campuses.

Think about the kind of place you’d like to go.

Will you be able to travel from home or will you have to move out?

This could be an important factor for you. Many Scottish students stay at home and commute to a university nearby. However, if the best university for you is further away, you might decide to move out and stay in student accommodation. Lots of people choose this option. In fact, many consider this a big part of the student experience.

Have a look at our advice on Moving Out and think about what will suit you.

As well as comparing different courses, find out what other opportunities the university offers.

  • What kind of clubs and societies can you join?
  • Do they have good sports facilities?
  • Do they give you the chance to study abroad?

Websites like What Uni? and Push let you compare different universities, drawing on feedback from current students on everything from the standard of teaching to the price of a drink at the uni bar…

A lot of these things come down to personal opinion but it might be a good way of finding more info and weighing up your options.

Every university and college runs Open Days that allow you (and your family) to visit, have a look around the campus, and speak to staff. They’re a great way to get a feel for the place and to find out more about the courses, the clubs, the catering, the accommodation…everything.



 Bullet 2 (small) Compare courses 

Once you’ve narrowed down the subject or subjects you’d like to study, start researching what courses are available at different universities. 

The best place to do that is through UCAS – the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Using their Search tool, you can filter your results by course title and by location. 

SEARCH for a course and check: 

By selecting the course within UCAS or by visiting the relevant university website, you’ll be able to read about how the course is taught.

The content and style might vary between different universities so find out which appeals to you most.

For example:

  • How much practical work is involved?
  • How is the course assessed?
  • Can you choose to focus on a specific area?

In lots of cases, you’ll be able to study more than one subject in your first two years at university. That gives you a lot of flexibility once you’ve started. In fact you might decide you want to carry one of your extra subjects on into your final years at uni.

If you’d like the opportunity to pick an extra couple of subjects, check if that’s an option.

For example, you might be interested in studying Biology. But did you know that you could study a more specialist subject like Biomedical Science, Biochemistry, or Marine Biology instead?

This is true of a lot of subject areas so make sure you look into all the courses that are available to you.


 Bullet 3 (small) Compare entry requirements 

Different universities have different entry requirements. This means that if you don’t quite have the grades you need to get into one university, you might well be able to get into another one. 

For example, if you want to study Politics at the University of Glasgow, you’ll need AAAAAA in your Highers. But you could study the same degree at the University of Dundee with AABB... 


Use UCAS to search for courses, then check the 'Entry Requirements' information for each one.

Remember to click on ‘Scottish qualifications’ to view the Higher grades required.

Many courses will also ask you to have a Higher in one or more specific subjects. You can check this on UCAS or use our Subject Choice Subject Chooser.

'First sitting'

Make sure you check the entry requirements carefully. Some courses will require you to have achieved the necessary grades BY THE END OF S5. This is often called your 'first sitting'.

'Adjusted offers'

Some universities will consider applicants whose grades fall just short of the entry requirements, if they meet certain criteria. Have a look at each university website and read their information on 'Widening Participation' and 'Access'.

This isn’t an easy question to answer but try to think realistically about what you’ll be able to achieve by the end of S5 and S6.

You won’t be able to enter a course unless you have the Higher grades and subjects required by that university. So thinking about your predicted grades might be another way to narrow down your choices. 

The good news is that, when it comes to applying, you’ll be able to apply to 4 or 5 different courses. This means you’ll be able to include a mix of universities, some with lower entry requirements than others.

Most courses only ask you to achieve certain grades in your Highers. But some others might require you to sit a test, attend an interview, or submit some examples of your work: 

  • If you’re interested in studying Law, Medicine, Dentistry, or Vet Medicine, look at our advice on Accessing the Professions.
  • If you’re interested in a degree in the performing or production arts – music, dance, acting, film, or production – make sure you visit Accessing the Performing Arts.



Once you've made your choices, find out How to Apply.