Making decisions about University and future careers: when is the right time?

Every step on your child’s learning journey helps to shape their aspirations for what they might do in future. Each subject they explore, professor they meet, expedition they go on to visit new communities all feeds into their ever expanding view of the world and their place in it.

Schools are often asked when the ‘right time’ is for conversations at-home or in school to be had around making decisions for the future. Rather than recommend a specific time in which these decisions need to be made, we suggest parents keep in mind two key milestones in the secondary school calendar and how decisions at each of these stages help to open up potential future pathways and opportunities.

Year 9, shaping a path to University

In Year nine students encounter the first point in their school career in which they can elect to study particular subjects. At this stage it’s recommend to keep International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) choices broad and varied. The aim in Year 9 is not to place students under pressure to decide what they would like to study at University and therefore how they should shape their subject choices, but instead to focus on where their strengths and interests lie across a mix of different subject types. By choosing subjects your child enjoys and can excel in, it sets them up with a great foundation for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in year twelve and thirteen.

Year 11, identifying students interests leading to the University of their choice

Year eleven is when students make their most significant subject decisions as they look ahead to the IBDP which they will begin in year twelve. This decision process usually takes place in September and is also when students receive their most substantial university guidance from a school’s University Guidance Counsellor.

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The IBDP is designed to equip students with a broad range of skills so that their potential future pathways are widened rather than narrowed through specialism at too early a stage. One method schools use to help students approach this is to think about their education not as a specific destination, but as a journey. In practice this means that instead of encouraging a student to say that they would like to study at UCL in London, for example, schools can encourage students to think about what values and interests underpin their subject interests. Instead, they might identify that they are passionate about making a contribution to healthcare and securing an internationally recognised degree which helps them to do this around the world. A school can then help to identify what skill sets and subjects students would need to pursue that direction and achieve their ultimate goal.

Many 15-16 year old’s have a limited idea of what careers exist because they simply haven’t been exposed to them yet, so it is important that schools help young people to explore their options, particularly for those who may not have an idea yet of where their interests lie. It’s important to consider a school that offers University preparation support, such as sessions to help students think about different career pathways and possibilities, understand University systems, and gain a better understanding of which careers different University courses can lead to. Look for a school that has a University Guidance Counsellor who can provide online resources, webinars, careers workshops and career showcases in which students can explore jobs through the experiences of people who work in the field.  

Importantly, when choosing subjects specialist Sixth Form teachers can guide Year eleven’s to think about and understand the importance of gaining a transferable, interdisciplinary skill set. The world of work is forever changing and traditional pathways to a career which may exist now, may not exist in the future. It is a schools job to prepare them for this and to help them build a robust, competitive skill set which will prepare them for success in a diverse and changing jobs market.

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Regents International School Pattaya is like no other school in Thailand. As part of the family of 73 Nord Anglia schools located around the world, we provide unique learning opportunities far beyond the ordinary. We are an exciting, vibrant and inclusive school which has something to offer to every child and every family in our dynamic and diverse community.

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