By Camila De La Cruz
Disclaimer: This is just a personal opinion and may not be right for everyone. Everyone is different.
I know subject selections seem so far away for a lot of you. But, if you’re in Year 8 or especially, in Year 10, be warned that they come creeping up very quickly. And I know you will hear many things from everywhere, from teachers, parents, other students, siblings, cousins, the neighbour’s cat, everywhere.
I’ve compiled a few of my general tips about picking your subjects. These are meant to be honest and I have to admit some of them are quite brutal and some that even teachers might disagree with, but I think that being honest here is important.
1. Don’t be intimidated by hard subjects. Imagine how I would feel picking up Maths Extension, Physics, Chemistry and Chinese. Yes, I did have the thought “Isn’t that a bit too ambitious?” and to be honest it probably was, but at the end of the day I still enjoy them.
2. Trust me, you will regret your choice one day. It’s just inevitable, especially if you are taking subjects that you haven’t taken before. There will always be that one point or that one annoying assignment where you will regret choosing a specific subject, where all you want is to go back in time and choose something else. My best advice is to give it a proper go but also have a backup plan. If you are in Year 10 choosing senior subjects, perhaps it would be a good idea to consider any extension subjects for Year 12 allowing you to drop a subject.
3. Trust your gut. This might sound weird, but I feel like your gut instinct is one of the best indicators you can use to figure out what the best decision is for you, not only for subject selection but for important decisions in general.
4. Be aware of the factors that shouldn’t count towards. There are so many factors that you may consider, and it can seem very overwhelming. So, it's important to know what kind of advice you should ignore. For example, things like which teachers are teaching that subject, how many of your friends will be doing it, disappointing a teacher because you’re not continuing a subject, believe me, they all do not matter. Don’t pick harder subjects because it will sound cool. I know that saying you do both Maths and English Extension sounds like you are an absolute academic weapon, but all that extra load of combinatorics and Margaret Atwood may be for some, but not for everyone (and if you don’t know what combinatorics is, be grateful). Don’t overload yourself by doing too many subjects if that doesn't work for YOU. For some it may work, for others less so. I know it can be hard to choose which subject to drop, but believe me it’s worth it if you need to.
5. And this may mean ignoring advice from certain people. Ok, I know this sounds really harsh, but from my experience it's true. I know sometimes people will over-exaggerate the difficulty of some subjects. Trust me, I am not the greatest English wizz that ever existed, and I am certainly not reading 10 books a week or anything crazy (in fact I barely read 10 books a year, but that’s another story). Still, I was able to finish the English Advanced course and I didn’t fail and my teacher hasn’t kicked me out of Advanced yet.
And even harsher, perhaps you need to ignore the advice from the people closest to you, like your friends or even your parents. I know, harsh! But some parents want to push a certain career path, and in the end, it will just not work well. Also, sometimes your parents may be confused about how the HSC or Year 9 and 10 subject selections work, especially if they didn’t grow up in NSW. If your parents are recommending something that you know will not work, trust your gut, and do what you want.
If a teacher is begging you to keep a subject, but you know deep down that keeping it would just be too much, then drop it.
And yes, this advice also means that you can ignore all my advice from this article. You do you.
6. Variety is good, but not super important. One of my biggest regrets from my subjects in Years 9 and 10 was the lack of variety. I did art and music in Year 9. So when I started choosing my senior courses, I did not learn my lesson and chose to do two sciences. Contrary to what I initially thought, I actually found that doing both Physics and Chemistry along with Math Extension was actually a good idea. My physics knowledge helped me with my maths and vice versa. But keep in mind that I did these with the variety of a language, something that would give me a break from all those number-heavy subjects. Personal lesson learnt; a bit of variety is necessary, but overlap is also good.
7. Block out any noise, but listen to advice and do your research. Talk to students from other year groups, but also trust what you think you will enjoy from all the subject selection information you have been given.