Should You Specialize, Or Keep Your Studies Broad?

By University of Waterloo Modified on November 20, 2023
Tags : Academics | High School

You'll need to make lots of decisions during your university career, and this is a big one!


Choosing what to study after high school can be daunting. It seems more complicated when you're given a variety of options to customize your degree — majors, minors, options, specializations, and more!

You may feel overwhelmed and unsure about whether you want to keep your studies broad or find your niche. There are benefits and drawbacks to both, so it's best to take your time and decide which one's best for you.

Keeping your studies broad

If you're thinking of keeping your degree more general, it's important to know the pros and cons of doing so.

Pros of keeping your studies broad

  • Flexibility. When you generalize, you might find you have less required courses, giving you more time to take elective courses that aren't directly tied to your degree or program.
  • Focus on your major. By sticking just to your major or program, you can really take the time to focus on your main area of interest without worrying about other academic distractions. Most of your time studying will be focused on your courses for your main program or major.
  • Make course selection easier. If you're keeping your studies more general, then it might be easier to fit your required courses into your schedule. When you add components to your degree, it might be tough to ensure you're taking the right courses, and they might not be offered when you'd like them to be.
  • Leave room for different options. If you're in university and want to attend a professional school after graduating, such as pharmacy or medicine, then keeping your studies more general might be a better option for you. Keeping your studies general means you have the room to complete any required courses a professional school wants, while also giving you the flexibility to enter other career pathways if you'd like.

Cons of keeping your studies broad

  • Trouble deciding what's next. If you keep your studies general, then you may find it difficult to narrow down exactly what you want to do in the future. You can always seek out advice from your academic advisor.

Specializing your studies

Thinking of specializing during your time at university? Here's a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of this choice.

Pros of specializing

  • Study in depth and gain expertise. If you choose to specialize your studies, then you'll be able to develop a much deeper understanding of the subject. You'll have a more focused education, giving you a more specialized skillset, setting you up to be an expert in that area.
  • Discover new ideas. If you choose to specialize, you might seek out opportunities to help with research in your area of choice. Who knows — you might discover something new!
  • Focus on your future. If you know exactly what you want to pursue in the future, then specializing might be the path for you! Whether it's graduate school or a very specific career path, specializing can help you get there.

Cons of specializing

  • Less flexibility. By specializing, you're trading off space for elective courses in order to fit all your required courses in. This means that most, if not all your time studying will be dedicated to the areas you're specializing in, which might lead to academic conflicts. If you want the ability to explore different topics, then specializing might not be for you.
  • You'll take on a heavier schedule. Whether you're adding minors, options, or specializations to your degree, you'll also be adding more required courses. You might find yourself taking more than the suggested number of courses a term or taking courses during your co-op terms to meet all the requirements.

Whether you choose to specialize, stay general, or do something in between, it's important to take time and research all of the options available to you!

Learn how to pursue multiple interests at university

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