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Subject choices at GCSE are relatively easy. Do I like the subject? Check. Are my friends doing it? Check. Am I good at it? Well that depends…
Get to your A-Levels and it’s a whole new world of choices. The questions you should be able to answer here are; What do I want to study at Uni? What job do I want? What skills will these subjects give me? How much work will they involve? What grades could I get? Would those grades be good enough for my University?
A problem students are facing at the moment is that they aren’t actually answering these questions. Recently, more and more research has been emerging on how influential our subject choices post-16 can be on our future. In a recent piece of research by Youth Sight, 28% of students wish that they had chosen a different subject at A-levels, and 41% were frustrated they hadn’t considered which subjects would have been the most useful.
It’s not the students that are to blame. One third of university applicants said that they felt their school didn’t inform them that the choices they made could have such an impact on their future. Granted, if you wanted to become a Doctor you would know not to pick Philosophy, Drama and Photography as your A-levels. However, when you’re 16 you are mainly concerned with how much time you’ll be spending at your desk doing coursework, not how helpful the subject would be for your future job.
Here are some tips for making your a-level choices with as much information as you can…
When choosing A-level/IB subjects, the best thing a student can do is explore as many options as possible. If you want to be a lawyer in the future, find out what subjects you should do and how you can become a lawyer. Yeah, university is the popular place to go after school, but be aware that going straight to uni may not be the best option for you.
If you’re ever stuck for ideas, check out these websites for inspiration:
UniStats – which university does the subject best?
UCAS – has a great new career-finder section that lets you browse all the job options related to a key word of your choice.
notgoingtouni.co.uk – Does what is says on the tin. Shows you a full list of non-university courses and apprenticeships.
Most of the adults around you will have made A-level/IB choices, so talk to anyone you can about what you’re interested in and what subjects they would recommend. Careers advisors, parents and friends are a good place to start. Even better, talk to the teachers who teach the subjects you are thinking of choosing because they can tell you what you could go on to do in the future, as well as give you an idea of whether or not you’d do well come exam time!
Some universities have a list of subjects that, if you study them, will reduce your chances of getting a place. If you’re not sure, the Russell Groups’ Informed Choices guide has some great advice on what subjects are always impressive. Picking at least one (two is best) of these subjects is a great place to start…
Remember, most universities and jobs are looking for people with lots of different skills, so if you pick three A-levels that are all scientific, then employers/university admissions will wonder how good you are at articulating yourself in an essay. Picking at least one essay subject and one scientific subject shows a breadth of ability and skill that will impress.
The above being said, don’t pick a subject just because you feel you have to. If you really don’t enjoy writing essays, then likelihood is you’ll perform badly in that subject, and a bad grade won’t impress anyone! Choose subjects you enjoy and you have a much better chance of getting those top grades. Also, going into more depth in these subjects may give you new ideas for what you want to do in the future, university or career-wise.