Term 3 tends to be an important time for students making decisions, and for some, possibly the first time they have really had the opportunity to make a decision that could impact the course of their future. Year 8 students are taking control of their academic program for the first time, being able to select their electives for Year 9. For most, these decisions are mainly about getting the opportunity to pursue subjects which interest them and the joy of not taking some subjects which really do not suit their aptitudes or goals. However, there are a few subject choices which can have long term impacts. The study of languages or music is not something that can be easily picked up in later years, and continuity in these studies is highly recommended.

For students in Year 10, considering their senior academic program and their post-school pathways, the subject selections require much more research to ensure an informed decision. There are far more opportunities that may impact their pathway through life at these important junctures. While plenty of support is provided to students, it is important that the students take control of the process. Toowoomba Grammar School supports Year 10 students through our careers program, which culminates in a Career Plan interview, an individual meeting between the family and a Careers Adviser. Year 12 students receive plenty of support through careers lessons, one-on-one meetings with a Careers Adviser as well as opportunities to explore the various tertiary institutions. Irrespective of whether students are selecting subjects for senior studies, or for their life after school, the decision-making process is similar.

When selecting subjects, it is important to recognise factors that could lead to a poor decision.

  • If students don’t have enough information, their decision could be made without any basis.
  • Don’t seek input from too many people, a lot of conflicting opinions can confuse the issue, consider who is the most appropriate person to provide advice or information to help make the best decision. Consider the motivation for the person providing advice. Does your best mate want what’s best for you, or just to be in a class together? Does the tertiary representative just want a new enrolment or are they really listening to you in relation to your goals?
  • What is the balance between “it’ll be fun” or “this subject will challenge me” and are you looking at the balance through the right lens?

To make a successful decision, the first step is to evaluate the individual’s goals. What do they want from this decision?

For students in Years 8 and 10, it is essential to look beyond sitting in a class with mates or a favourite teacher. Consider their long-term goals, as well as their interests and aptitudes. There is no point selecting a subject they will have no interest in because someone said it would be good for their ATAR. If they don’t enjoy the subject, it is unlikely that they will thrive within it, and it will not contribute well to their outcomes anyway.

Once a student understands their own goals, it is time to do some research. Gather as much relevant information as possible from reliable sources. Those sources can be a teacher, Head of House, Head of Department or other students who are already taking the subject. For students undertaking Senior Studies, the QCAA site myQCE (qcaa.qld.edu.au) provides detailed information about all the subjects. The Toowoomba Grammar School careers website Toowoomba Grammar School (twgscareers.com) is an excellent place to explore careers, tertiary courses and of importance here, pre-requisite subjects.

Once students have the relevant information, they must then weigh up the evidence to make the decision that is in their best interests. Before pressing “go”, have one final check of stage one, has the decision you have reached met the goals you established at the start of the process?

The beauty of students taking control over their academic decisions is the sense of ownership that comes with the choice. Students are ready for the change, fully committed to their new course of study and ready to set themselves up for success.

- Dr Alison Young
TGS Director of Studies

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