How teens can make the right subject choices

Over the next few months, Grade 9s will have to choose the subjects they want to pursue from Grade 10, until they write their final matric exams.

This can be an easy exercise for some, but for those who aren’t sure what they want to study after school, having to commit to certain subjects can be daunting.

“Choosing subjects for Grade 10 and beyond requires a lot of introspection, research and asking the right questions,” CEO of Top Dog Education Claudia Swartzberg says.

“Even though their tertiary education is years away, choosing the right subjects now can steer their future, and can to a large extent determine their careers. Pupils and their parents should ask the right questions, and follow some basic guidelines to make the best subject decisions.”

These include:

  • Consult with an educational psychologist who can explain what the work world expects, and how to make informed decisions based on what will be expected of them one day.
  • Speak to tertiary advisers, or research university and college websites: pupils can get a sense of what courses are available, and what the entrance requirements are.
  • Encourage your child to not choose subjects based on what their peers are choosing, and rather on and what could open doors to their future careers.
  • While choosing subjects based on a future career is important, so too is studying what makes pupils happy, which can ultimately lead in a career choice that is sustainable and brings joy.
  • Since admission to tertiary institutions will be based on performance, it might be better for your child to choose subjects that they might do better in – even two subjects they’re strong in could boost their average.
  • Pupils should not choose subjects based on who is teaching them, as teachers come and go, and might not be teaching your child in Grade 11 or 12.
  • Since your interests and what you want to study may change over the years, it’s important to ensure your choices don’t limit your options in future or close any doors.

Maths specifically is a requirement for many popular courses such as commerce, engineering and science degrees and would be a good choice to ensure you have these opportunities available to you in future.

Other subjects, such as computer science, will not only provide you with real-world skills you can use in the workplace, but also expose you to other career avenues you may not have considered.

  • Try to stay calm and approach the decision making as level-headed as possible.

Swartzberg suggests that it is worth thinking about subject choices sooner rather than later. “Instead of thinking about subjects at the last minute, and thus adding more pressure, it’s advisable for pupils to start considering their choices from the beginning of Grade 9, and even better, from Grade 8 too.”

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