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11 Ways to Help You Decide Which Subjects Are Right for You

29 June 2022   |   by Explore Careers

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Throughout your school years, it probably feels like you don’t get much say and then all of a sudden – it’s all on you!

You might be introduced to deciding on your subjects in Grade 9, as you’ll need to make some concrete choices before the end of Grade 10, ready for what your final years will look like. In some schools, you might make subject choices for Grade 10.

For some, this is exciting! For others, it can be really daunting. Not least because this is just the first stepping stone in what could potentially shape ongoing decisions for your immediate future after school.

So, how do you make the right decisions for you?

Why You Need to Make These Decisions

Except for one compulsory English subject, you’ll usually have a significant say over what you study.

This is your opportunity to consider the subjects you feel will support your ongoing journey after school. Having this choice probably sounds exciting, but when you start to weigh up the bigger implications, some other questions usually come up:

  • What do you want to do after school?
  • What careers do you have in mind?
  • Which subjects align with those careers?
  • Do you want to go to university, do an apprenticeship or get stuck into work?

Plus, you’ll need to study the right combination of subjects to qualify for a certificate of school completion.

If you want to get into an apprenticeship, you might want to explore what VET qualification options are available in your later years – and even look into a school-based apprenticeship. If you want to go to university, you’ll need to think about ATAR and the subjects that help you get the score you need.

11 Ways to Help You Make a Confident Decision

There’s lots to think about, but sticking your head in the sand isn’t the answer. Here are our top tips to help you make these decisions with confidence.

1. Start with the easy bit; what do you have to study?

First things first, check what subjects are compulsory. You might have some options around the specificities, making this a quick – and motivating – decision to make. Once that’s out the way, you can focus on filling in the rest of the blanks.

2. Work on a process of elimination.

What subjects have had you rolling your eyes and wishing you could escape in the past year? Now’s your chance to make your exit! If there’s anything you know isn’t going to add to any initial ideas you have for post-school plans, wave a happy goodbye!

3. Make a list of your favourite subjects so far.

Now you have the subjects you have to study and those you don’t want to study, you can focus on the good stuff; what you DO like. Start by making a list of the subjects you’d be excited to study, and if you can, rank them in order of preference.

4. Take a moment to create a Future Vision.

Ideally, your subject choices should align with any ideas you have for your future – no matter how general those ideas might be right now. Spend a little time reflecting on what you want this future to look like; what type of work do you see yourself doing? Does university feel like a good fit? How do you see studying fitting into your life long term?

5. Don’t panic if you’re not sure.

It’s totally fine if you can’t pinpoint one clear future vision or if you just don’t know what it might look like yet. You could follow so many exciting things and opportunities at this stage – it’s not easy to narrow things down! Instead, stay focused on what helps you feel engaged. The subjects you can’t wait to get to class for or that genuinely make you feel curious are the ones to pursue now.

6. Do a bit more research.

Before committing to any subjects, it pays to do a bit more practical research. No matter what you’re plans are – whether university, apprenticeship, other studies or working – knowing what prospective institutions or employers will need from your high school education will steer you well for success. University courses and apprenticeships all have pre-requisites and preferred subjects – they all differ!

7. Focus on what YOU want, not what you think others want.

When you’re uncertain, it makes sense to turn to those you trust for ideas and inspiration. It’s a great idea to ask for input from others but don’t let them make these decisions on your behalf. You could regret it further down the line.

8. Don’t just pick the subjects you think will be ‘easiest’.

Tempting as it may be, focusing on what you think will just be easy to study won’t help you long term. You might find that what ‘looks’ easy turns out to be much harder than anticipated – or that these subjects have no relevance to future pathways you want to pursue.

9. Stay flexible with a Plan B.

Remember we said to rank your preferences? This helps you get some prioritisation in the subjects you might want to study, so if for ANY reason you can’t do the first-choice subject, at least you’ll be clear on your next steps.

10. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

Now’s a great chance to see how you could step up your knowledge in a specific subject so don’t be afraid to grab hold of the opportunity – and think outside the box. If you’re interested in engineering, for example, you might think maths and science subjects make sense – but something like woodwork or art could also aid those creative thinking and analytical skills.

11. Ask yourself: What would future me thank me for choosing?

Take a moment: think about what future you would be think of your choices right now. Would they be proud you made the best ones you could with the knowledge you have right now? Or would they be shaking their fist at you through the space-time continuum for being lazy and taking the easy route?

And One Final Tip

Don’t overthink it.

That probably sounds a bit contradictory given we’ve just given you ELEVEN tips on making these decisions, but if all else fails – listen to your gut and go with what you think YOU will enjoy the most.

Yes, these decisions create a foundation for what comes next for you, but nothing is set in stone, and you’re going to grow and learn a lot in the next 2-3 years (let alone the next 5-10!). If you get a bit down the line and change your mind, that’s totally okay.

Focus on what you think you’ll get the most out of, and you’ll always be setting yourself up for success.


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