How to choose your subjects for Year 11 and 12

Maybe you’re lucky and know exactly what you want to do after high school.

But it’s more likely that you’re not sure yet. And that’s okay.

Making big decisions about your future career while in Year 10 is daunting. Whether you plan to tackle a trade or study science at university, the subjects you choose to take for your senior years will prepare you for life after school. 

Picking the six subjects you wish to study is a puzzle that only you can solve. You might ask your parents, teachers and counsellors for guidance, but ultimately the choice is yours.

Here’s some ideas, tips and thinking points to help you decide which subjects to select for Year 11 and Year 12.

Keep your options open

Don’t hit the panic button if you’re feeling unsure about your subject selection.

If you’re reading this and you’re in Year 10, there’s a 50-plus-year career ahead of you. We’d be surprised if you could tell us what you’re doing next school holidays, let alone when you’re 35. 

Unless you know for certain which serious profession you’d like to enter, there’s a good chance you don’t know and that’s okay. It’s best to keep your options open.

Figuring out what you want to become takes work. You have to put yourself out there and try new things to discover what you do and don’t like doing. The more new things you try, the more you will learn about yourself and the opportunities out there.

Ask yourself: Am I exploring all my options? Am I being proactive about my future?

Try this: Look for opportunities in the industries you are interested in. Ask your parents and teachers if they know anyone you can speak to, and explore our virtual work experience programs in case something takes your interest.

Decide if you want to go to university

Applying for university isn’t the only pathway to a rewarding, well-paid career. Choosing to study a trade or enrolling at TAFE may be a more practical pathway to reaching your dreams.

You can always do ATAR and still go to TAFE, or take the non-ATAR path and find yourself at university later in life. You do need to choose a track now as it will help you determine the subjects you need to complete.

Try this: Some schools have compulsory subjects, especially for ATAR. Find out which subjects are non negotiable at your school.

Think about skills for the future

If you know which university or VET course career you wish to apply for after high school then that should give you clues for which subjects to pick.

Some university courses have requirements and recommended subjects. For example, if you want to study Pharmacy you absolutely must study Mathematics and Chemistry, and choosing Biology and Physics would be advantageous too.

Try this: browse tertiary study websites to discover courses that excite you. Use the study requirements or recommendations as subject inspiration

Play to your strengths

Are you passionate about history? Digital media? Biology? Picking the pathway doing what you love will make you happy now and in a decade.

Some career advice recommends choosing “easy” subjects to get a higher ATAR score, but the truth is that you should choose subjects you are passionate about and that will take your career further.

Think twice before swapping out a subject you love for one that ranks better on ATAR. For example, if you love music or art don’t trade them for physics and IT. Chances are your grades will be better at a subject you love, than one you tolerate or struggle through.

Of course, some careers and university courses have requirements, so do your research and be realistic.

Try this: Make a list of all the things you are really good at and look for careers or courses that highlight those strengths

Remember communication is universal

Be nice to your English teacher. While they might be harping on about The Great Gatsby, ideologies and writing persuasive essays about cactus, they’re actually teaching you communication skills that will help you for life.

You might think you only need English if you’d like to be a writer, journalist, teacher or marketer, but strong writing, reading and speaking skills will help you find greater success at work.

No matter the career you choose you need to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively. The foundation work you do writing a persuasive essay in Year 11 might be the grounding you needed to ask for a raise in 10 years’ time. The speech you give to your class might give you confidence when pitching to a new client. And if you’re a scientist, well you need to be able to clearly communicate your latest discovery.

Mastering how to communicate confidently will make your path to success much easier.

Ask yourself: Can future me afford to skip English class?

And so are numbers

From mentally adding up the price of groceries to making a budget to paying your taxes, maths is going to be part of your adult life forever.

Choosing maths is obvious if you’re planning to study science or finance. But beyond the practical use of understanding numbers, studying maths helps you develop certain skills such as logical reasoning, problem solving, analytical and interpretive skills. 

These less obvious skills have less obvious benefits and will help if you’re wishing to study arts, music and social sciences. That’s right. Even if you don’t love maths, consider taking a basic level of maths through to Year 12.

Ask yourself: Does future me need to study maths?

Don’t lose sleep over your subject selection

Going with your gut is the best way to make decisions like these. As we’ve said, deciding on subjects for senior years is a puzzle that only you can solve - but you don’t have to do it alone and nothing is set in stone. 

In a letter to a Year 10 student, Australia’s Chief Scientist says the time for tertiary studies determining your lifelong career are over:

“You might do science but pivot into business. You might do engineering but pivot into politics. You might do accounting but pivot into a job that hasn’t been invented yet. The critical thing is to do your initial tertiary studies really well – that’s how you hone your skills – then after that, in the workforce, it will be easy to pivot from one career to another.”

Are you feeling more confident about choosing your Year 11 and Year 12 subjects at school? If you need extra help, guidance or ideas please reach out to us here at Grandshake - we’d love to hear from you!

P.S. We offer heaps of free virtual work experience programs that might give you some clarity around what you want to do - check ‘em out.

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