Robert Parton | How to choose your subjects and ace your time at school

One of the hardest things about high school is having to choose your subjects. After several reads of the schools subject guide, I found that I wanted to study about 10 different subjects and of course, could choose only 4 or 5. How can anyone choose with so many options!? Obviously, everyone has to make a decision at some stage. So here are a few rules I used that might help you make the decision yourself.

When choosing your high school subjects for SACE:

  • Study things you are passionate about.
  • Immerse yourself in your subjects.
  • Plan ahead.
  • No matter what, have no regrets.


Study things you are passionate about

Some courses aren’t for everyone. I personally wouldn’t have enjoyed learning about the patterns of evolution in geology, but I loved learning chemistry and music. Each course is designed for students to find interesting, relevant and fun. Teachers don’t actually meet in secret to come up with the worst subjects they can think of! My most important tip therefore, is to find the subjects that interest you, that you enjoy and that you are passionate about. When you find a subject that you want to learn,  you won’t be staring down the clock at 3pm, because learning won’t be a chore. When this is the case, you will be more dedicated and most definitely achieve better results.


Immerse yourself in your subjects

If you are studying jazz or classical music, listen to that genre of music every single day, start a band or go out to live shows. If you are studying business, consider volunteering at an organisation of your choice. If you’re studying physics, perhaps you could watch lots of Mythbusters… The point is, be creative! By immersing yourself in your subjects you are going to have much more knowledge and material behind you, which gives you a more competitive edge than someone who only relies on the textbook.


Plan Ahead

We’ve heard it all before; planning is essential to success. Think about what you want to achieve at the end of school, and then break that down into small, achievable goals. In my case, I really enjoyed music and wanted to do as much as possible for my grades, too. So I planned very early on to study Year 12 music subjects in Year 11. Why? Because it enabled me to take on more subjects in Year 12, and I was also able to totally stuff up (which I did) and retake a subject the following year with better results (which I also did).

If you plan ahead, think about things and don’t avoid the hard questions. You can really help yourself out: not only will you be better prepared, but you will also be less stressed and restricted by poor decisions.


Have no regrets

You don’t want to regret the time you spent studying. I studied chemistry in high school and now I’m majoring in accounting. Relevant? Nope. But I had a tremendous amount of fun, learned some great things about how the world works, and all the while was surrounded by fun and smart friends and teachers. If you do wind up in a subject that’s different to how you imagined, don’t be afraid to seek support. Remember teachers are your friends and also that they are humans! Catch your subject counsellor at the right moment and they’ll move mountains to help you.


These were my go-to tips in high school. They worked for me, and I’m confident that there’s something useful in here for every student in high school. With the right approach, everyone has the capacity to be the best version of themselves and enjoy their schooling. Give it a try!

Robert Parton

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