Choosing a college/university for tertiary education and beyond

Peter Massam


Take a subject or topic that you are really interested in or even better passionate about. You may not have studied it at school. It’s good to branch out into new territory or stick with topics you are comfortable with.

I had no idea what I wanted to do after university. I just knew that I loved languages, my own and one or two others I had come to learn. If aiming high, prepare for your secondary subject as much as for your first. You’ll be asked the why question, for sure. I did not prepare enough and failed for the first time. So took a year out and worked to earn a crust. Second time was much better and Durham accepted the challenge of a B.A in French with Russian as a general degree. I wanted something obscure and challenging. Chinese was not on offer at that time, but the iron curtain was down. I had a feeling it wouldn’t always be down and wanted to be ready to take advantage of it when it did fall.

As it turned out, I had to wait another eight years to use my French in business and another ten years after that to use my undeniably rusty Russian in Belarus. Sometimes you have to be patient.

If you think you might stay in academia for the long run, then honing your interests at graduate level will give clues as to what you might want to go on and do at master’s level.

I was determined to see the back of exams for a while, but promised myself on entering business that I would only pursue a master’s degree on the following conditions:

  1. It was to do with my work
  2. I was passionate about it and
  3. A course was offered that allowed me to break new ground
  4. Provided distance-learning as an option (family-friendly)
  5. The company (preferably) paid for my time off

Luckily, at the second attempt, the rules were relaxed enough in 2000 to permit me to pursue an MSc that did not solely involve developing a noughts-and-crosses program,  but one that involved networks.

It doesn’t matter if you have one or not. What needs to be understood is that if a career in business is anticipated and you are not entrepreneurially focussed initially, then you can always come back at some future date to do what’s required to take you further if you meet that kind of roadblock.

Hope that helps.



Leave a Reply