It’s that time of year again! A time of uncertainty, of stress, of questioning your future – it’s time to pick subjects for next year.

Unless you’re one of those lucky people who knows exactly what they want to do, it’s like one big guessing game, gambling on your future. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to pick five or six subjects from all the options available, trying to balance what you enjoy, what you’re good at, what will get you a job, what credits you need, and what your friends are taking. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to make the process a bit easier:

Do I enjoy it?
This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself. If you do subjects that you’re really interested in and want to spend time on, then you’ll do better and be more motivated to get work and revision done. Of course not every one of your subjects will be ‘fun’, but I can promise you that a 2000 word essay will be so much less painful if it’s about something you enjoy.

Is it the right level of difficulty?
Picking subjects you do well in will obviously make your life easier, and it’s common sense to go into subjects with a reasonable chance of success. So, taking calculus if you really struggled in math this year is not a great idea. You need to look on the flip side too – is it challenging enough? Perhaps statistics is the easier maths, but if you’re sitting in class bored for several hours a week is it really worth it? If a subject is too easy you’ll be bored and unmotivated, but if it’s too hard you’ll be frustrated and stressed – it’s about finding that balance.

What university courses/apprenticeships/careers can it lead to?
If you know what you want to do, great! Research different university or careers websites to find out what the mandatory or recommended subjects are for what you want to do. Many science and maths courses have quite strict prerequisites, while arts and humanities based courses usually are quote open. If you don’t know what you want to do, then picking subjects is a lot harder – you’re best to just try and keep your options open, and taking things you enjoy will lead you to a pathway you enjoy too!

How many credits/right credits for UE, literacy, level 2?
If you’re aiming for UE, then you’ll need 10 literacy credits at level 2 or above, and 10 numeracy credits at level 1 or above, in addition to getting NCEA 3. It pays to double check that you’ll gain these doing your chosen subjects.

Do I like the actual content the class will be covering?
It’s a great idea to have a chat to the teacher to find out what they’ll actually be doing in class. If you love history, but hate the time periods the class will be studying, then maybe it’s worthwhile picking something else instead. I loved the idea of physics but as soon as I learned it would be all about vectors and resistors and the like, I realised that I really didn’t care that much.

What do others think of this subject?
Older students be able to give you an invaluable insight into what the subject is really like – the content, the teacher, the workload, and helpful hints. There’s no better way to figure out what a subject is like than to talk to those who have done it, so grab a sibling, older friend, or prefect and ask for some advice.

What’s the workload like?
Overall, make sure that you’ll be able to handle the workload that your subjects will have. For example taking two portfolio subjects (like art and graphics) or lots of essay heavy subjects (like history, media, english, classics etc) will require a LOT of time and effort. Remember to factor in all your other extracurriculars and commitments, and seriously consider how much you can handle.

Can I customise my course to suit me better?
NCEA and your school are way more flexible than you may think – you don’t have to stick to the prescribed course choices. It’s possible to do one fewer subject, or do other subjects by correspondence, or do a subject at a higher or lower NCEA level. Within subjects you can drop standards, or pick up extra ones. Just have a chat to your dean or teacher, so you can figure something out that works for you!

Overall, remember that YOU know yourself best, and at the end of the day it should be you that picks your subjects. Don’t feel pressured by your friends, parents or teachers – you do you.

Kate is a Year 12 student from Canterbury. She enjoys music, languages, sunny days, and a good book.

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