Choosing my GCSEs

GCSE student Hannah explains how she chose her options.

I am 15, and am in the middle of doing my GCSEs and have just finished year 10 at secondary school. I made my GCSE choices by thinking about what subjects I enjoy right now and what I am good at.

I picked Art as one, but that doesn’t mean I want to be an Artist, I just enjoy it. I do not know exactly what I want to do when I am older, but I do have some very vague ideas, which is always helpful when it comes to choosing colleges and A-level subjects.

In school I had my first career-related meeting in year 9 when most of the year are 13 or 14 years old (though in my school, this meeting has now been changed to the end of year 8!). The teacher asked questions about our future, mostly about GCSE choices, but towards the end, they suddenly asked something like, “So, what do you want to be when you are older?“ or “do you want to go to university? If so which one?“ and “but what does X subject have to do with wanting a career in X?“ I do not want to criticise any teachers or schools, as for some people the quicker they can drop unwanted subjects the better, I just think that the system of asking a 13 year old what they will do when they are older is a bit extreme.

When I came out of that first meeting I was nervous that I would make the wrong choice as to what career path I should take, and worried that if I made a mistake on my choice of career then that would be it, and I wouldn’t be able to go back and try a new one.

Then there are the relatives, asking about what you want to be, and then sometimes parents pressuring you to do something they didn’t get the opportunity to do, or were not good enough to become. At least for me I have very supportive parents, who are happy if I am happy, and although I am sure they would like me to go to university, which I do, I know they will be supportive with whatever I choose to do with my further education and future career.

My mum began her further education by going to polytechnic and studying nursing. After graduating, she flew to Hong Kong where she spent three years working as a nurse. After coming back to the UK, getting married and having me, she decided to leave her career to look after her family. My mum then had three more children and continued to stay at home all through their childhood. After 13 years of being out of nursing, it was going to be a long way back in, so instead she decided to work at my sister’s school as a Nursery Assistant, which fitted in perfectly because she gets the time off over school holidays and finishes on time to pick up my sister from school. This shows that although thinking about the future is important, making choices that suit your situation right now is sometimes best.

At the moment I feel that if I worked hard I could achieve almost anything I want and that is a nice feeling, but with so many options, I am confused as to which direction I actually want to go in. There are important decisions to be made and I don’t want to narrow down my options too early. Because of this, I make sure I take up all the opportunities that come my way, for example, I took part in a basic first aid course, a level 1 IT exam, cycling course, working with my dad in his business, the bronze award of Duke of Edinburgh and going to Prague on tour with an orchestra I haven’t played with before.

Taking part in new things, even though I get very nervous beforehand, helps me to become more confident about my future. I realise that careers change, and everyone’s career path is completely different, and that it is becoming more and more normal to change your career path by going in an entirely different direction. But despite all this I still feel pressure to make those decisions about my future career as soon as I can.

More on Choices at 14

Choosing your options

Leave your GCSE options open and pick what you enjoy!

To see how studying certain subjects can lead to different careers, search icould videos by subject, or if you’ve hit a stumbling block, try searching icould videos by life decision for inspiration.