How to choose your subjects for 5th year

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How to choose your subjects for 5th year

Subject Choice is the first critical step to overcome on the journey through the senior cycle experience. Not enough attention is often given to this critical step and, as a consequence, students can often realise half way through the first year of the senior cycle that they have chosen one, and sometimes two, inappropriate subjects. In this guest blog post Berni Sheridan, a career guidance teacher and founder of shares her four golden rules for subject choice:

Think Flexibility

Most students do not know exactly what career they wish to pursue at this stage of their lives and often those that think they know can change their minds later!  With that in mind, it is important to choose a mix of subjects that provides you with the flexibility to choose any college and a wide range of courses. 

Think big picture

In choosing your subjects, while it is important to pick the subjects you enjoy and have a strength in, it is wise to look at the demands of the subjects combined, in order to maximise the number of points you can achieve.  Some subjects are way more demanding in terms of study requirements than others.  Give serious consideration to subjects with projects attached as they often they have a practical dimension, and tend not to be as demanding in terms of the quantity of theory to be studied. Also, importantly, the project component can take the pressure out of the final exam.  

Less is more sometimes

Students often look at taking on seven and sometimes eight higher subjects, with one subject often being studied outside of school.  My experience is that students doing a higher level subject outside of school find it onerous as, typically, they will get only one class/grind per week and a lot of independent learning is required.  By year 2, students with eight subjects, in  particular, can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work.  Think strategically in choosing the number of subjects taken at higher level and remember you can only use the points from six subjects.  The fewer the number of higher level subjects - the greater the time allocation for each subject.  In this instance less is often more!

Talk to someone

If I could give only one single piece of advice to students at this stage, it would be to invest in a 1:1 with a career specialist, to ensure you have a mix of subjects which are right for YOU!   Whilst we can all generalise about subject choice, the reality is, it is a very individual decision, as each student brings different strengths, different challenges and different goals.  One session with the right career specialist will set you on the right road and give you an additional boost of confidence as you set off on your Senior Cycle journey.  

Yes, the senior cycle can be a journey with highs and lows but can also represent a golden opportunity to develop key life skills – resilience – confidence – determination – confidence – the choice is yours!

About the Author

Bernie Sheridan has been working in the area of career guidance for almost 10 years with particular emphasis on the senior cycle process. She is passionate about helping students gain clarity on their career of choice - setting goals and a program of work to enable them to reach their goals. You can find out more about Bernie at her website

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