We asked the following questions to members of Stemette Society:
- What did you consider when picking your GCSE options?
- If you could choose again, would you choose differently?
- What advice would you give to a Year 8 or Year 9 who is about to pick their choices and wants to continue on with STEM?
Here are the responses…
1. What did you consider when picking your GCSE options?
Some universities require a language at GCSE level e.g UCL. Keep your options open. Consider taking a language – regardless of how good you are. Many of my friends who want to go UCL now have to cram a language GCSE alongside their undergraduate which can be pretty difficult. Also, having an extra language is super useful.
Pick subjects you enjoy. My school sets out that you have to choose:
– a humanity
– an art
– a modern language
– the mandatory subjects (everyone had to do triple science)
– and two free subjects.
I chose the subjects I loved the most or was most interested in (History, German, D&T, Drama and Ancient Greek).
When choosing your GCSE’s, consider: which subjects offer me the widest range of choices? It is important to choose options that don’t close you off too soon. Keep your choices varied and choose “enabling subjects” ie. the ones that give you the most options going forward.
When choosing your subjects, make sure you enjoy them and are willing to study for the next few years. Don’t pick subjects just because your friends are. These choices will decide YOUR future.
With GCSEs, my main advice is to choose subjects you enjoy the most. Don’t worry too much about it narrowing down your A-level choices or University application yet. Focus on whether you’re good at the subject and whether you enjoy it.
I only picked the subjects that I liked and would nicely lead to the A levels I wanted to do. If you’re undecided about the future (which is absolutely fine, it’s still early days), keep your options varied. Many places prefer a language, a humanities and a technical subject. It’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t force yourself to do something you won’t enjoy or aren’t good at. I sucked at Humanities so didn’t take any. I think this was a good decision as I had fewer exams and had more time to revise for my other subjects.
Listen and consider all received advice. Ultimately, make your own decision. Remember that your parents don’t fully know your capabilities, nor does a teacher. It is your future and your life. If you enjoy a subject and you are good at it, go for it.
2. If you could choose again, would you choose differently?
If I could choose again I would do a unique subject like Electronics, as it’s something I’m currently interested in but wasn’t sure of then.
If I could choose again, I would choose more creative subjects. Life as a teen is hard enough, so choose subjects that will make you happy.
If I could choose again, I probably would have done Computer Science. It was a subject I was good at but I was rather frightened of it so I chose German instead. I enjoyed German but I wish I did computing as well as German.
Keep your options open. I would recommend you choose: a humanity, creative and language GCSE. This will qualify you for an EBacc (English Baccalaureate) and make you seem super well rounded.
Diversity your choices. Try to include different GCSEs from different categories (humanities, STEM, languages etc).
3. What advice would you give to a Year 8 or Year 9 who is about to pick their choices and wants to continue on with STEM?
If you have a profession/university course in mind, research into it. Maybe a particular subject could be useful for the future. To be honest, GCSEs won’t affect career ambitions that much. STEM subjects are mandatory anyway. Choose a variety of subjects that you like. When I chose my GCSEs, I was convinced I would be an architect so chose accordingly. Now, I want to go into Computer Science. My future hasn’t been affected at all by my GCSE subjects. If anything they helped as by doing subjects I liked I got the grades I wanted. Choosing subjects can be daunting but it’s honestly not the end of the world, whatever you choose. Just make sure you like what you’re doing, because you’ll end up doing A LOT of it!
Think about what YOU enjoy. I was a jack of all trades at school so I had quite a few teachers trying to persuade me to take their subject. If you’re in a similar situation, ask your form tutor or a teacher that doesn’t teach you for a more objective opinion. I don’t personally believe that your GCSE options determine whether you can go into STEM. So pick subjects because you enjoy them.
As long as you enjoy the subjects you do, immerse yourself with your passions. For example, if your passion is STEM-related you can start a club for example, a Stemillions club.
Is your school particularly good at certain subjects? Some schools excel in certain areas. Look out for subjects with strong support.
One thing you should remember is that there is no perfect combination. Choosing French rather than Spanish is not better or worse than doing the converse. So try not to be too sad about leaving subjects behind.
If you didn’t want to stay in STEM subjects, then that’s alright too. If you’re interested in the field but not the exams, there’s still lots you can do to stay involved. There is not only one path to get into the STEM industry.
This piece has been written by members of Stemette Society.
Want to discuss this with other young women? Join The Stemette Society