Helping your child to decide what to study at sixth form is a big moment. Their sixth form subject choices will inform their options for further education and ultimately have an impact on their career path.

There’s lots of things to consider in the decision-making process – from their strengths and interests, to their future goals. Here are some steps you can follow to support them in making informed decisions.

Consider all the options when it comes to qualifications

In the UK, there are several choices of qualifications for students in their sixth form studies (typically between the ages of 16 and 18). The first step is to consider all the options with your child, before making a decision.

A levels are subject-based qualifications that are widely recognised and accepted by universities and employers. A levels provide in-depth knowledge and are commonly required for entry into higher education.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is rapidly growing in popularity as it’s internationally recognised and opens up the possibilities for studying, working, and living aboard. Offering a broad and balanced curriculum, the IBDP includes six subjects, including languages, sciences, humanities, mathematics, and the arts.

Other qualifications to consider include BTECs, the Cambridge Pre-U, and T Levels. If your child is unsure, look for colleges that offer several different options and a flexible approach.

Wellington College, for example, is distinctive in that it offers both A levels and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. They have a 50/50 split among pupils taking A levels and the IB. The College also has an exceptionally wide range of subject choices.

Explore your child’s interests

Reflecting on your child’s interests, strengths, and aspirations should play a key part in the decision-making process. Sit down with your child and discuss their favourite subjects, hobbies, and potential career paths.

Don’t forget to take into account their academic performance and any subjects they excel in or enjoy the most.

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A bedroom in Wellington College’s new Sixth Form co-ed house

Research university and career requirements

Research the university courses and careers your child is considering. Look into the recommended A Level subjects and equivalent qualifications for those courses and fields. Some courses may require specific subjects, while others may have preferred or recommended subjects. Take note of any subject combinations that can keep multiple options open.

Choosing a school or college that prepares your child for the next step is also important. In 2022/23, alongside 17 Oxbridge offers, Wellington College pupils had 20 offers to top US universities – including Yale, UPenn Wharton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, and Stanford. 

Wellington puts a huge emphasis on supporting pupils on the path to their future career. For example, ‘Welly Connect’ provides LinkedIn-style networking opportunities – with over 5,000 members made up of old Wellingtonians, peers, and parents. 

Speak to your child’s current teachers

Have a chat or set up a meeting with your child’s subject teachers or school careers advisor. They will be able to provide valuable insights about your child’s abilities, potential, and the suitability of certain subjects based on their academic performance and interests.

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A state-of-the-art Sixth Form building at Wellington College will open in 2024

Attend subject presentations and open evenings

Attend any subject presentations or open evenings organised by the school or college(s) you are looking at. This will give you and your child the opportunity to gather detailed information about each subject, including the syllabus, coursework, and assessment methods.

Talk to your child about the skills they want to develop

Encourage your child to think about the skills they would like to develop. Some subjects may provide specific skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, or creativity. Discuss the transferable skills that can be valuable in various fields.

Consider well-rounded choices

While focusing on their interests, help your child consider a balanced combination of subjects. A well-rounded selection can keep their options open for further study or career choices.

A mix of humanities, sciences, and practical subjects can offer versatility and open up more possibilities for further education and careers.

Take co-curricular and extracurricular activities into account

Take into account any co-curricular, and extracurricular activities, or commitments your child is involved in. You’ll want to make sure that your child’s chosen subjects are manageable alongside their other interests and responsibilities.

Considering co-curricular and extracurricular activities alongside sixth form subject choices is also a good strategy. Co-curricular activities go hand-in-hand with sixth form subjects – as what children learn outside the classroom can enrich their studies. Co-curricular and extracurricular activities also can provide opportunities for children to explore passions that are not covered by their sixth form subject choices.

Wellington College offers a broad range of both academic and co-curricular choices – which is really appealing to young people. The College offers world-class sporting, music, arts and drama opportunities. There are 150 clubs and societies and over 25 different sports, which are played with national and international success.

Wellington’s aim is to support pupils to become well-rounded global citizens, acquiring the skills (beyond exam results) that future employers look for.

Stay open to change

Recognise that sixth form subject choices are not set in stone. Your child may change their mind or discover new interests along the way. Encourage them to keep exploring and adapting their choices if necessary.

At Wellington College, there’s a huge focus on supporting you and your child through the decision-making process. The College is known for its sector-leading pastoral care, wellbeing, and mental health provision. The curriculum, facilities, and teaching methods at Wellington are also constantly adapting to help young people make the most of their sixth form experience and prepare them for life after college.

This is a sponsored post created in collaboration with Wellington College, a coeducational boarding and day school in Berkshire for pupils aged 13 -18.

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