What they don't tell you at subject selection night
This isn’t the toughest decision of your life, but it’s a pretty big one! Here’s some factors that no one will remind you to take into consideration!
Choosing your subjects is a pretty big deal, and schools generally seem to cram all the decision making into an extremely short period of time, giving you a week or two maximum before you are expected to sort your life out, decide on your subjects, potential future and whether you will study a degree later that requires two or three unit maths.
For my school we were expected to choose our subjects, decide if we thought we might want to do any extension units for the future years and undergo an interview where the teachers decided if those subjects were right for us all in a matter of days.
The single night they gave us to hear about our future was rushed, involved teachers dressing up and a long lecture about academic honestly.
Overall, we felt pretty ill equipped to make what we saw as a pretty life changing decision. So this article is for you if you have felt ill equipped or you are starting to think about what the next few years might look like.
It’s not as big a deal as you think it is
In the education world nothing is permanent, and no road block is absolute. If you don’t get the ATAR you need, their are ways around that. If you some how don’t do the subjects you are supposed to do, there are ways around that too. While we have written about what prerequisites are for certain degrees, there are always summer courses, catch up units or the option to transfer across degrees.
The perception that if you don’t do mathematics you will never have a serious career or exclude yourself from a particular profession needs to be challenged! Even medicine - notoriously hard to get into - is now being seen as a post-graduate degree open to undergraduates from a variety of fields.
On that note, don’t do a subject only because you have heard that it scales well. This is a key myth which is persistently perpetuated by students and parents alike. If you absolutely hate maths and have no interest in it, don’t choose to do extension to get that ATAR. Your misery is likely to impact your marks, diminishing the boost scaling could have given you.
Play to your strengths
At some level, school (particularly the HSC) is a competition in which you want to do well. It’s not a good idea to pick all subject areas that you are terrible at, whether its because you think you are likely to get a better result or because of some misguided attempt to broaden your horizons. When you are choosing which subject to study, take a look at your skills and at the subjects you have done well at in past years.
Remember that choosing subjects for year 9 and 10 is a bit different to choosing subjects for year 11 and 12 at this point. Year 9 and 10 are ideal years to experiment! Take food tech, or drama, or a higher level of maths. Learn a bit more about yourself and your limits, and push your boundaries. This level of risk will almost always pay off.
There are still opportunities to challenger yourself in senior school, but it is a bit more risky. This is the time to play to your strengths, and recognise if you are going to need a bit more help for a particular subject. Remember, there are resources out there.
Pro tip: at this point, it really does matter who your teachers are. If you are stuck with someone who you really don’t respect, or who is unable to control a class that will really put a damper on your marks and attitude. Too often students mistake an incompetent teacher for their own inability to do a subject. If you are in that situation, remember that there are ways around it. Ask to transfer out, or perhaps consider supplementing your learning with tutoring.
Do something fun!
So far our advice has been pretty serious. But it is important to do something that allows you a chance to relax and look after yourself. A break from the monotony of the school year and particularly preparing for your exams. Make sure you allow yourself an area of fun or self expression. Something you enjoy or that allows you to get up from your desk.
Honestly, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else tells you to do or thinks. It’s your life, your exams and you who has to show up at school each day. Hopefully this advice has helped you out a little, but at the end of the day - it’s up to you.