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Pursuing your interests when studying

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How important is it to be pursuing your interests when studying in Higher Education?

Posted on: 27/08/2019 | Written by: Alyson Hyslop, Marketing Assistant

I saw a captivating Ted Talk by Benjamin Todd recently on whether pursuing your interests makes for a more successful and/or fulfilling career.

This area has long been a fascination of mine, one of the opening lines of the talk really resonated with me, “I had a lot of interests, but which interest should I pursue and turn into a job.” For someone like myself who has a varied range of skills, I have only just really begun to answer this question and I know there are many more people that feel the same. When you have lots of interests and skills how do you commit yourself to just one?

There are numerous considerations for students when choosing to study in Higher Education; ‘Am I choosing the right subject area? Will this course support my future career goals? Will this path lead me to financial independence?’ However, could the motivations behind these reasons play a part in the outcome of their results? Our recent Student Voices research, discovered that “60% of students are studying to pursue their interests.”



My close friend has a Master’s degree in Clinical Exercise Sciences and when I asked for her opinion on this she introduced me to the ‘self-determination theory’. This explores how external and internal factors can help to shape our motivations. Allowing autonomy is important, giving freedom of choice allows you to process information on your own terms. This has an impact on your sense of purpose. Structuring the learning path in an interesting way is key in assisting students with their external motivation.


When choosing a course to study there are a wide variety of reasons why a student may select an area to specialise in. Our Student Voices research showed that “41% of undergraduates are studying for financial prospects.” When choosing your area of study, it is only natural to consider the financial implications of how your future career can potentially support you. It is important for students to know how the specific elements they are studying are going to assist them in a real workplace scenario. Employable skills are a high priority for students and employers alike. When stepping out into your chosen career you want to feel assured that the skills you have studied are going to support you and give you the confidence to pursue your future career goals too.


My fascination in the subject of interests has led me to the New York times best seller Grit by psychologist Angela Duckworth. In this she explores how long-term commitment, experimentation and the slow development of passion allow you to foster the skills to succeed in a fulfilling career. During Benjamin Todd’s Ted Talk he proposed, the path that may lead you to long-term fulfilment may not be your primary or current interest area. For example, my friend who had studied Clinical Exercise Sciences found inspiration for her subject choice in her desire to help others live healthier lifestyles, something that would provide her with both long and short-term career fulfilment.

Feeling satisfaction with your learning is also important. You want to feel like you have learnt a skill that will make a marked impact on your future abilities. Confidence in your level of skill and the potential for what you could do with it opens future options and could turn an interest into a passion.

Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit says, “passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.” This, I think, sums it up perfectly. Just because something isn’t an ‘interest’ now doesn’t mean it won’t develop into something more in the future.


Find out more about our Student Voices Research