Should I drop a subject?

Senior high school is tough! You’re busy with school, extra curriculars, and maybe even working part time too. You might also be learning to drive, expected to do more at home, then there’s all the life admin you’ve suddenly got to deal with…and a social life to consider.

So it’s understandable that when you’re thinking about Year 12, you could be tempted to drop a subject. But should you?

Why do you want to drop a subject?

If you’re considering dropping a subject, be honest with yourself about the real reason behind your decision.

Could you be overreacting? Taking a step back and putting life into perspective could be a good start. Year 12 is really only another 3 full terms at school – could you hang in that long?

Do you genuinely think dropping a subject will make your life easier, or do you just hate a subject so much you can’t bear to put up with it for the next year?

Asking for some help or additional support could be all that needs to change.

Take some time to reflect

Dropping a subject is a big step and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Take a little time and talk to trusted adults (and friends) about what you hope will happen if you do go ahead and drop a subject.

Be realistic and consider the chances of your perceived outcomes actually happening. Also give some thought to what might happen if you don’t drop a subject.

Will you still qualify for an ATAR?

Before you do anything else, it’s really important to check that you will still be eligible for an ATAR and/or a high school certificate if you drop a subject. Otherwise, you could be jeopardising your future for the sake of a few extra hours a week.

If you’re unsure about what makes you eligible to get an ATAR or a high school certificate, ask your school or check below:

Will you need that subject for university?

If you’re planning on going to university, an ATAR will help you to apply easily as a school leaver.

Some courses also require you to have completed specific subjects to be eligible to apply. They’re called pre-requisites. If you don’t have them, you might not be offered a place in the course you want. Alternatively, you might have to spend time doing a bridging course or go through other pathways before you can start your degree.

Even if it’s not a clear prerequisite, you might end up doing better at university if you’ve at least covered the material in Year 12. Think of it as planning ahead.

The main reasons for dropping a subject

From what we’ve seen, here are the top reasons students tend to think they’d be better of dropping a subject in Year 12:

More time

It’s optimistic to think you’re going to free up much more time by dropping a subject – it’s probably not going to make a huge difference to your day or week.

Most students who drop a subject don’t actually spend the additional time studying other subjects, so is it really going to benefit you?

If you’re enjoying the subject and finding it useful or think that it might be useful down the track, there are always other ways you could make it work.

For example, you could get more organised, look at reducing any hours that you work, consider rescheduling some of your extra-curriculars, or maybe even just getting up half an hour earlier each day.

If you genuinely feel time poor and can’t see any way around it, or you think that dropping a subject could improve your health and wellbeing, then you should go for it.

Better marks or a higher ATAR

Sometimes if students feel they’re not doing well in a subject, it could pull down their overall results and end up with them getting a lower ATAR.

That’s usually not the case – you’re ranked on your top results anyway. So even if you’re not doing well, maybe consider changing down to an easier program instead.

Reasons NOT to drop a subject

Life isn’t always within your control. So if you drop a subject and then stuff up one of your exams or assessments in another subject, you could end up being in a worse position.

What if you get injured or sick just before exam or assessment time, there’s a natural disaster, or you lose a loved one which then impacts your performance? Yes, you can often get exemptions in all these cases, but it could take a lot of work and may still leave you worse off.

Things might change in Year 12, the subject could just “click” with you, the teacher might change, or you might be covering topics which spark your interest. Suddenly a subject you hated could become interesting, or conversely you might end up hating a subject you previously loved.

You might change your mind about your career path, and more subjects lead to more options.

Before making the final decision

Think about any long-term implications. Are you going to need this knowledge at university, a job, or for something else?

Can you get more help? Think about a tutor or speak to your teacher to let them know you’re struggling, and they may be able to help you get back on track.

Maybe you just don’t like the subject. This is probably the best reason to drop it, as long as you don’t need it for your career plan. It’s totally OK, and it’s good that you’ve learnt something about yourself. You can discount any uni courses or careers that will rely heavily on that subject.

How to go about it

Most importantly, don’t rush into a decision – think it through and give yourself time. You might change your mind or things might pick up. If you think you can stick with it for a little while longer, it might pay off in the long run.

Talk to your school – they’ll have all the information to help you understand the next steps, know if it will be recorded on your school transcripts, and can tell you what (if any) implications there may be on your high school certificate, ATAR, or future.

If you’re still determined to drop a subject, you’ll just need to follow your school’s procedures. They’ll be there to support you with that.

Lastly, just knuckle down and do your best with your remaining subjects. Remember, nothing is forever, and if you later regret dropping a subject, there will be ways around it.

Still not sure what to do?

Download the checklist below and see how you go. It could help you to make up your mind.

Checklist - Drop a subject 2022

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