“Major” and “Minor” Decisions

Okay, I’ll admit it… I’m a bit of a nerd. I’m also horribly indecisive. And a chronic worrier. That combination of traits meant that for me, personally, it was very difficult to decide what I wanted to study post A-level.  I enjoyed all of my subjects and simply wasn’t sure which one to choose.  I couldn’t imagine abandoning any of them. Equally, the thought of a future career seemed to loom large – how could I make sure that I gained all the necessary “employability” skills? What if I picked the wrong course and spent three years regretting it?

£9,250 a year sure feels like a lot of money if you don’t get it right.

Eventually, I decided to take some time out and worked for a while at a school, where my former boss noted my enthusiasm during the school’s academy re-branding, as well as my aptitude for updating the school’s social media and blog – and suggested I study Marketing. Nonetheless, even this decision still felt pretty terrifying. I hadn’t studied business at Sixth Form. What if I found it too challenging? What if it was too dry? Or exponentially worse… what if there was too much maths? It felt like such a gamble…

Luckily, Lancaster offers the perfect solution for those as risk-averse as me.

In your first year, in most degree programmes, you’re not restricted to studying just one subject, you can pick three! Yes, you heard right… three! But hang on, before you start panicking about having to re-write your entire personal statement – the process is really simple. Although you apply for your “major” subject during the UCAS process, once you arrive at Lancaster, you are then able to choose modules from two additional subjects – known as your “minors”.  This allows you to keep your options open. As well as studying your major subject, you can opt to try something new, to pick something that complements it… or merely to continue with a subject that you enjoyed at A Level. If you find that you prefer your minor subject, you then have the option to swap courses at the end of the year.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about struggling with my Marketing course: I’m really enjoying it. However, I’ve found the topics that I’ve studied in my minor subjects – Sociology and Media and Cultural Studies – to have been incredibly relevant; really enhancing my understanding of Marketing.

For example, in MCS, we’ve recently been exploring the theme of power in the media; looking at the dominance of corporations such as Google and Facebook and Viacom, thinking about the influence that they have over the content that we see. For example, did you know Google is used for 95.3% of search on mobile in the UK, whilst Google and Facebook between them owned 9 of the top 10 most used Apps in the UK in 2015? Although not blindingly obvious at first, this has big implications for the world of marketing. When these organisations have such a wide potential-consumer reach and high revenue, it can perhaps make it more difficult for companies to demand change regarding issues such as brand safety and inappropriate content. Will Google really notice if M&S withdraw their adverts from YouTube?

Studying the representation of minority groups in a previous block also made me think about how well companies are representing and meeting the specific needs of those such as the disabled, those from a BME background or elderly people in their offerings.

In Sociology meanwhile, we’ve been looking at how human behaviour has changed and evolved over time. Observations such as an increased focus on individual responsibility for health in society, or a change towards a faster, more individualistic pace of lifestyle are definitely relevant to marketing – just look at how well McDonald’s has adapted to these developments. Marketers constantly need to consider how consumer needs and lifestyles may change in the future.

But it’s not just from an academic perspective that I feel studying minor subjects has enriched my university experience – it’s also allowed me to develop a brilliantly diverse range of friends. It means I can go from geeking-out about Nike’s latest communications campaign with one group of mates, to debating the effects of neo-liberalism with another. It means I’m in classes with people studying English and Economics and Computing and French and Politics. Luckily, it also means I’ve been able to make friends with some wonderfully kind people who study Maths as well as Marketing…

Ultimately, the minor system allows you to explore your options. You can pick a subject because you think it will enhance your employability skills, because you were strong at it at A Level or because you’ve always fancied trying it and never had the chance. Whatever you pick though, you can guarantee it will make your first year at Lancaster just that little bit more enjoyable. You can always change your mind next year…