Year 11 pupils receiving their results this week may wish to review their A level or IB choices before the start of term.
It’s very tempting to be swayed by strong results in some subjects, but you need to think very carefully about the combination you are choosing, so that you don’t close off any future pathways. Equally, don’t be persuaded to take subjects you really don’t enjoy because you have been advised that they are necessary.
It’s certainly true that some professions require particular subjects. If you want to become a doctor you really do need to study chemistry. Similarly for many biomedical courses. For a degree in maths, further maths is critical and if your school doesn’t offer it you might want to think about switching institutions even at this stage. For engineering and computer science, maths and physics are the core choices. Many university courses have no required subjects, however. Law, for example, is completely open, though I’m always surprised by how much admissions tutors favour maths even here.
Many universities now publish lists of ‘facilitating’ subjects, indicating the A level or IB higher level subjects they regard as being more rigorous. They also publish essential and desirable subjects for specific courses, so if you have an idea of what course you wish to study at university, it is certainly worth browsing through these.
There is a lot of publicity around the science and technology (STEM) subjects, and the worldwide shortage of students with these skills. Students and parents might well be swayed by this, with good reason. But if you are a more creative or literary person, there is no point in trying to force yourself into a programme you will simply not enjoy or succeed at. It’s the most important choice you are likely to have made so far and it’s very important that you follow your own ambitions and interests. The UK is still a world leader in the creative industries and there are many opportunities for those with flair, talent and determination.
Many able students study a language alongside other subjects such as sciences. This is clearly an advantage in the international world of work and is often looked on favourably by university admissions officers. Universities find it increasingly difficult to recruit students to languages courses, which seems so short-sighted in this global age.
Overall, a combination which suits your interests, grade profile and aspirations will work out best in the long run.