N YEAR nine, your child chooses their GCSE subjects. Two years later, they pick A-levels or equivalent qualifications. At each step, there seems to be more at stake. Fortunately, there are ways to take the stress out of these experiences.
Perhaps the best way of helping your child plan their academic career is to work backwards from their end goal.
The aim is probably to go to university and study something that will help them forge a career. With that in mind, it is useful, even in year nine, to browse the university websites, to see what courses are on offer and what GCSEs and A-levels they require.
You will find that the entry requirements for many courses state a minimum grade required for maths and English GCSE. Sometimes they also state a required grade for the sciences at GCSE and ask for “a good range of subjects with minimum grades of A*- C”.
Some schools dictate that students take a humanity (history, geography or religious studies), a language and one technical or creative subject (such as computer science or art). Since maths, English and science are compulsory at GCSE, there may, in fact, be very little “choice”.
However, many schools do give students a free rein and do not insist, for example, that they take a language. In spite of the extra leeway this appears to offer, some universities, such as UCL, admit only those students who have studied a language at GCSE.
In practice, to satisfy the “good range of subjects” requirement, it would normally be prudent to
SUMMER 2013 pursue at least one humanity and one language. Two humanities may prove time consuming as they are knowledge-rich subjects.
But beware that this rule of thumb does not suit everyone — to take on a language if you have no aptitude could be a bad strategy. Ultimately, universities want to see that you have passed your GCSEs with good grades. Achieving a balance of subjects that demonstrates both strength and breadth is important. You may decide to seek professional guidance in order to make an informed decision.
Choosing A-levels may be easier. By the time students have completed GCSEs, they will have a better idea of which subjects they may want to take further. What may be more difficult is deciding whether to take up a subject that they have not studied at GCSE, such as psychology or economics. Encourage your child to borrow a text book and read a few chapters to see if the subject interests them.
Having a conversation about possible future careers is pivotal, as some careers require specific degrees and, in turn, some degrees require specific A-levels. Choosing the wrong A-levels could rule out some career paths at this point. Most importantly, your child should choose subjects in which they can excel. Founder of MyUniApplication.com, Natalie Lancer can discuss your career options in one-to-one sessions and give you expert guidance on GCSE and A-level choice, university applications (UK and America) and the personal statement. For more details, call Natalie on 07747 612 513, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.myuniapplication.com