I recently came across this post, which prompted me to summarise our current thoughts on how to pick an undergraduate degree.
I’d like to caveat that most of the following is just a judgement call, based on listening to what thoughtful, successful people have said about the topic (e.g. see here, here), my experiences of coaching, and thinking through the issues. Where there is further research on the claims, I’ve linked to it. Otherwise, assume it’s just my judgement call. Note that I don’t think I’m going to say anything that’s particularly controversial or against common sense.
In summary – what’s best?
It’s highly important to go to a prestigious university, do something you’re good at (which probably means picking something enjoyable and motivating) and use free time to meet people and learn useful skills.
With this constraint in mind, and if you broadly want to keep your options open, try to do the most impressive subject you can, ideally one which gives you skills in applied maths, statistics or programming. Top subjects would be things like: Maths (especially if combined with applied courses), Physics, CompSci, Engineering, Economics and Pre-Med. If you’ll hate these subjects or find them really hard, however, it’s probably best not to do them!
Note that there’s a tension between academic success and gaining connections, work experience and other skills. If you’re interested in a research career, then go for academic success. Otherwise, concentrate on getting ‘good enough’ grades (a 2.1 in the UK or a GPA around 3.4 in the US), and use the rest of your time to meet interesting people, get useful skills and do something impressive. That’s because our impression is that most employers value these traits more than good grades.