How To Choose
Some pupils will have a clear idea of the three subjects which they will take through to A Level; others will want to delay this choice until they have seen enough of their four AS Levels to know which three appeal most. In either case the criteria outlined below still apply. Not many university subjects require a specific combination of A Levels; the obvious exceptions are Medicine (Chemistry definitely, and at least 1 and probably 2 other sciences) and Engineering (Maths and Physics); and in subjects such as French and English where there is an A Level, universities will expect it to be part of the combination. Otherwise, there are obvious advantages in studying certain A Levels in order to pursue new subjects at university (e.g. Art for Architecture). If there is a need to check please consult the Director of Sixth Form Studies.
Interest in a subject is the obvious place to start the process of choice. This should be taken to mean interest in a particular form of study, not an idea that a particular subject is 'a good bet for a job afterwards'. Remember that A Level courses in some subjects are markedly different from those for GCSE Level, even though they bear the same name, and that one or two subjects are studied beyond GCSE Level for the first time. Discussion with the relevant Head of Department is obviously sensible.
Relevance to a possible career is another starting point. Some subjects relate directly to a career, most to a Course in Higher Education which leads on to one. The selection of a career is a lengthy business involving frequent changes of decision and even direction for most people. Most students at this stage will not have narrowed their choice to a specific career but will have an idea of the general direction in which they are likely to go. This may exclude some subjects and indicate a set of three or four others to be studied.
Ability should be carefully weighed against interest and career-potential. You will often find that interest starts high but can reduce if the frontiers of your ability are reached. It may be sensible to consider the level of achievement eventually required: will you need only a pass in a particular A Level, or do you require an A grade?
Coherence versus contrast is a final consideration. Subjects complement each other most obviously when they appear in the same category, either Arts, Sciences or Social Sciences. Subjects within these categories share a tradition, methodology or subject matter and so study in one is often of use to another. This may affect the choice of the first three subjects. But you can usefully choose a fourth subject in a different area, for contrast and breadth.
Information about careers will also be available at the Parents' Meeting. Aim to gather as much information as possible from teachers, Heads of Department, tutors, Housemasters, Careers Advisers and the Director of Sixth Form Studies. Then weigh up the pros and cons. Remember that this is only the first stage in a decision-making process.
Finally, with so much talk of careers, it is easy to focus attention on education as a means to an end. Remember that education is an end in itself and that end is never reached. The point, therefore, is to travel as far and see as much as you can.
Pupils are prepared for university entrance by the Director of Sixth Form Studies in the Lower Sixth year. Careers advice has already started.