Fifth and sixth-year students who fret about gaining the Highers they need for a specific degree course may be overdoing the angst.
As some 2,500 freshers prepare to launch into their degree cour-ses, an analysis of Aberdeen University graduates shows that around half will not graduate in their main first-year subjects. It is possible to begin on a computing degree and graduate four years later in biology.
Many change direction as they move through university. What they think they will be doing when they fill in the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service form in school at 16 and 17 can be completely different when they don the robes at graduation ceremonies.
The university is now advising senior students and teachers to take a broad view of subject choice.
Lori Manders, director of external affairs, said: "We understand that it can be quite daunting for students to choose their career path or to decide on their choice of degree at the age of 16 or 17. When students join the university they will have the opportunity to study new subjects not available at school or college and, understandably, their interests will change and develop during their time here."
Mrs Manders said there were 630 first-degree programmes to choose from, far wider than many think. "For most degrees, students don't need to worry too much about getting it absolutely right on the UCAS form. With an honours degree, students can usually delay their final choice until the end of their second, or sometimes, third year."
Students are reminded that once they have an offer of admission there is freedom to move around. Aberdeen students will take six modules in their first year, including their preferred subject. Students may start in English but move to related areas such as philosophy or history of art after their first two years.
Many senior school students can achieve their clutch of Highers for university in S5 at the age of 16 but may lack the confidence and maturity to tackle the rigours of academic life at university. A different world can open up for them as their interests develop, the university points out.
Some courses enjoy more licence than others. Law and engineering, for example, are more prescribed because of professional restrictions.