At this time of year, high school students are deciding on their subjects for next year and it can be a minefield for parents helping them decide, particularly for Year 10 students about to enter the world of NCEA.
Tracey Beard from Career Matters works with students from age 16 (Year 11) through to age 25 in their exploration of career and tertiary study options.
10 things to consider when choosing subjects
Our interests in the world of work aren’t typically fully formed until we are around age 16. However, I do get a lot of queries about how to navigate the subject selection maze in Year 10, so I wanted to provide some general themes to think about. Each school’s subject list and each child is different, but here are some of the key things to consider:
- Breathe! It’s not the end of the world if they end up picking a subject they don’t enjoy. Year 11 is a time to keep the subject list broad, so they can try out new things and be open to possibilities.
- Year 12 and 13 are the years where their results matter, so don’t be freaking out about results in Year 11. Instead, focus on helping them build their study habits (organisational skills, priority setting, study-exercise balance, etc) and their personal confidence/mental wellbeing.
- Encourage them to reflect on what is INTERESTING to them in terms of subjects (not what they are necessarily good at, because they might not be actually interested in it), before picking subjects.
- Ensure they aren’t picking a subject just because their mates are doing it or the teacher is ‘chill’.
- If they find lots of classroom work confining, ensure they are doing some hands-on (or outdoors) courses that could keep them focused and balance the classroom courses.
- Now is the time to identify or answer any issues about their learning needs or challenges, so they are set up for Year 11 in terms of reader-writers, more time for assessments etc.
- Remember it’s not about you – you might love science and want your child to be a doctor, but is it worth getting them to do all three sciences in Year 11 if they aren’t showing any great love of it now? The “if s/he just does it, they will come to love it” is a risky strategy. Be realistic.
- From the Year 11 subjects they chose, track them out to Year 12 and 13 and see they have options to continue them if they love them, or pick up another subject if they don’t enjoy it. That way, they don’t get trapped down a dead-end path.
- Remember that they have lots of other needs going on at this teenager stage, so encourage/role-model the building of good character (supporting others’ achievements, personal responsibility, interests outside of academics, positive network of friends, etc)
- Get them to identify their goals for the year – what they want to look back on at the end of Year 11 and feel proud of (academic, sporting, cultural, personal). They don’t have to be awards, just personal growth targets/achievements that are important to THEM.
The right time to look at options
Ideally, I encourage Year 11 students to work with me in July or August. That way, they have a half-year of NCEA work behind them that they can reflect on, and they are motivated to pick the right subjects for Year 12. I’ve created a tip sheet to help parents support their child through NCEA. Click here to find out more.
This article was written by Tracey Beard of Career Matters.
Tracey Beard is a Career Expert. As the Founder and CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of Career Matters, she is changing the way that young adults across New Zealand explore their career and study options. Using powerful, contemporary career search tools and personalised career coaching, Tracey empowers young adults to know themselves better, which enables them to make better decisions about their future. And when these young adults are happy and living their purpose, we all benefit. Career Matters was recently awarded the 2019 Social Conscious Excellence award from Network New Zealand.
Follow Career Matters on Facebook @careermattersnz.