How to choose your high school subjects and university degree?

by Jessica Holsman

Dear Jess,

Do you have any advice on choosing your career pathway or deciding your subjects in your final high school year? I have one more year of school and I don't really know what I want to do, or what I'm interested in.

Anonymous x

Hi Lovely,

When it comes to choosing your subjects, the best advice I was given as a student was to choose subjects that I genuinely enjoyed, because this is often an indication of the types of careers you will likely pursue in the future. For that reason, two of the subjects I decided to study were biology and psychology. Okay, so studying biology wasn't always heaps of fun, but I love nature, animals and understanding life itself. The same goes for psychology. I didn't always find every lesson incredibly engaging and stimulating but I was interested in learning more about human behaviour, understanding the mind and different personality styles and I also loved the idea of helping people through their problems. I think it's a lot easier to feel motivated and apply yourself to your studies when you can see past each assignment and exam and feel like you are adding new and important skills to your tool belt. 

In saying that, I also kind of wish I studied a few other subjects like media studies, dance or drama because I am really creative and I think I would have loved those classes. I guess I decided to focus more on academic subjects because I thought it would 'look' better and keep my options open. I don't regret the subjects I studied, and I knew that English and maths were pre-requisites for my desired uni degree, but I think I might have swapped something like history for a subject that was more creative, just to balance things out and make sure I was studying for the love of learning. 

I also think it’s a good idea to select a couple subjects to keep your options open (e.g. English and a math if you think any courses and careers you may want to pursue would require them). Have a think about the subjects that are your strong points and also that you are interested in. Often, it’s the subjects we are genuinely interested in that we apply ourselves fully and succeed in.

It can be difficult for a lot of students to have their futures figured out when they are still so young. Many of us are still figuring out our direction even after university! I certainly never saw myself being a YouTuber and running my own business when I was a high school student! That said, I’m glad I chose to study psychology in university first, because it gave me with a lot of the necessary skills I use in my current work.

Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to have your career path all figured out before you've even graduated. It's important to have some direction, but also allow for flexibility. Things change. Our passions and interests change and opportunities can knock on our door when we least expect it. As long as you focus on one step at a time and know your next move, that's all you really need to do. 

Also, if you haven't already, it can be a great idea to talk to a careers counsellor at school to get some further insight into the sort of careers you might like. I remember doing this at one stage and found it really helpful! Oh, and internships and speaking with people in a certain profession to find out more about their work can be great options too :)

Best of luck and I hope you find the clarity you are searching for very soon!

Love, Jess x