Should you give up on the subjects you’re struggling with?

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Choosing subjects for high school can feel like one of the most momentous decisions of your life. So what happens if you’re finding your chosen pathway a struggle?

You’ve decided on a university course (or even a few) and the Year 11 and Year 12 subjects you need to take to get you there. But what if you’re struggling with your classes? Even worse, what if they’re the ‘recommended’ ones? We know it’s tempting to withdraw, but first find out the reasons why you’re not doing as well as you’d like, and what you can do about it.

The big question: Why are you struggling?

While it’s easy to get down on yourself and think you’re just not smart enough or good enough, there are so many reasons why you might be finding it difficult.

Maybe you don’t connect with how your teacher is approaching the subject. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to speak to them and ask for clarification or pointers. Or, perhaps it’s because the study environment is killing your mojo. Is it too distracting or are you working in groups when you typically do better on your own?

Maybe – as hard as it can be to admit this – do you not like the subject, university course, or career as much anymore? You may feel like your identity is as the writer in your family, or the sporty person in your group, or you’ve always been good at maths, so you should pursue one of those paths.

Samantha Cobb is a Future Students Officer from Murdoch University. She suggests considering your interests, and the possibility of change: “It’s very important to remember that sometimes who we are and what we are interested in can change as we grow and experience new things,” Samantha says. “This means that you might find the course you were interested in at a point in time doesn’t hold the same excitement for you as it once did. This is okay and normal, and lots of people change their minds about what they want to study.”

And if there are extenuating circumstances outsideyour control, have a chat to your school. They might suggest reducing your subject load or changing to General courses or a VET qualification. 

What about prerequisite subjects?

A prerequisite means a subject you must do to be eligible to apply for a certain course at university.  But at Murdoch we have recommended subjects, not prerequisites. So even if you don’t do a recommended unit, you’re still able to apply for your preferred course.

Recommended subjects are good to take because they help you, firstly, define if this is an area you’re passionate about and, secondly, to prepare you for the subjects you will be learning once you get to uni.      

What about ATAR?

It’s true, your ATAR is important for getting into university. Many students believe they should study a difficult subject so they’ll be scaled up, but this strategy can backfire. Really, the best way to achieve a good ATAR is to choose subjects you’ll do well at and enjoy.

Read about choosing your TISC preferences.

What about the List A/List B rule?

The Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) requires students to complete a minimum of one subject from two different lists, suitably named List A and List B. If the arts spark something inside you, then the bulk of your units will likely be from List A, with one from List B (for example, Human Bio or Phys Ed Studies). Find out more about WACE requirements to help you choose.

What if I don’t know what I want to do after high school?

Lots of people have no idea what they want to do after high school and this can affect what units they choose. If this sounds like you, ask yourself:

  • What am I naturally good at, and what have I become good at?
  • What am I interested in and what makes time pass really quickly for me? Think of things unrelated to school, too.
  • Do I like to work with others and bounce ideas around a team or am I better flying solo?
  • What skills and education do I need for jobs I like the sound of?
  • Can I do work experience to help me see what an industry or career is really like?

It often takes time and experience to find out what you want in a career, so don’t worry if you don’t know yet.

Don’t throw in the towel just yet. There are all sorts of pathways into uni so you can still study your dream course even if you don’t do so well in the recommended subjects or your ATAR isn’t quite what you’d hoped for.

Explore your options after high school and come along to Open Day on Sunday 26 July

Posted on:

6 Feb 2020

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