Will I still tell my 16 years old me to choose the subjects that I have taken for my A’ level?

Many thought races through my mind when I was first tasked to write this article, I was thinking hard about the approach to write this.

There were mainly two ways about it in my head. Firstly, it is to introduce the individual subjects available in Junior College (JC). Secondly, it is to go through the right process to go about choosing your subjects. I decided that you could do the former on your own and could have already done that multiple times. Hence, I went with the latter.

Based on my experience, I felt like one of the worst and best decisions, possibly, that I had made in my 22 years of life so far, was my subject combination.

To start off, I will first share what my subject combination was in JC. I took Higher 2 (H2) Biology, H2 Chemistry, H2 Mathematics, H2 Knowledge and Inquiry (in replacement of the H1 General Paper GP)), H1 Economics and of course, H1 Project Work. The usual Academic Unit (AU)s JC students take will be 10, however, I was taking 11AUs in this case. It means that Economics may not be necessary or that I could have taken GP instead. However, I remembered making my subject combination decision with this strong idea of wanting to challenge myself.

I later deemed this as one of the worst decisions because this challenge failed and I ended up not achieving my desired university course in Singapore. A course that I had truly and passionately felt for. A career I would dedicate my entire life to.

However as I penned down my thoughts for this article, I also figured out that this may possibly be one of the best decisions I had made in my life. It had led me to a course that should have possibly suited me more.

Here is my story:

1. Shortlisting of Subject Combination by looking at University Course Criteria

Source: Taken from NUS Website

Firstly, JC students would set an aim of which university course(s) they would like to embark on as it is a natural next step of their education pathway. Hence, after looking at the subject requirements for my desired course in the universities I wanted to go to, I knew I had to choose a Science stream with 2 H2 Sciences. It was an easy decision as I was always a more Science-y person. My desired course allowed me to choose either Biology or Physics on top of a compulsory Chemistry subject. This marks my first dilemma.

For me, Physics was always my best subject in Secondary School. Once I take the time to understand the concepts, it flows to me naturally and easily. While my Biology was good too in Secondary School, it always required extra effort put in to remember the content.

Most of my friends advised me logically that if I would hope to get an A for A’ Level, I should just go for Physics. While I was very tempted to do so, I decided that I wanted to challenge myself to take up Biology. This is because I believed strongly that learning this subject would be beneficial in the course that I would dedicate my entire life to. I ended up taking Biology bravely, knowing that my 2 years in JC will be an inte.

2. A curious mind – Special Subjects

Next, most of the students in Singapore (based on my personal observation), will usually choose the common routes. For instance, BCME (Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Economics) and PCME (Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Economics) are probably two of the most common combinations in JC. It is rare that Science students will explore a Humanities subject other than Economics. I guess, it is more comforting to know that most students are taking Economics together with you, you are not the minority. Of course, there will be quite a number who may choose otherwise such as Literature, Chinese Literature, Translation, History or Geography. These people usually have a strong passion or liking for these subjects. Usually, most of the students do not have any special interest in specific Humanities subjects, so the good majority will go with Economics. Why? Because, that is deemed to be the common and safer route! It is unlikely that the group of people who do not have any special interest in any of the Humanities will choose a subject that is not Economics.

While I could have easily chosen Economics as my contrasting subject, an interesting lecture in Knowledge and Inquiry (KI) briefing got me fascinated in this subject of Philosophy. While I had zero prior knowledge in Philosophy and KI was a subject that required an excellent command of English, I decided to go for the selection test as I was interested in this subject. I later was selected and went on to study it.

As KI was a H2 subject, its difficulty level and depth was much higher than that of GP. However, I once again took up a challenge to study this interesting subject.

My takeaways from KI really did offer a much broader perspective to the world that I never imagined myself to be seeing.

However, I know that a part of me may have also preferred if I had chosen the more common road of GP as the kind of brain-churning for KI (in my opinion) was not easy to take. But, I did it!

Hence, if you were stuck in a similar situation of either wanting to explore, challenge yourself or to choose the road more commonly taken, ask yourself this question – do you want to or see the need to go through the torture of the former? If your answer is no, I would say then just go with the flow or the one you would deem is easier.

3. Going with your heart

My Secondary 4’s Physics teacher told me this statement when I asked him for advice. I wished I could comprehend what he meant then, but I think I did not. Looking back, I often wondered what it means to go with your heart. However, as I went through many hardships and decision-making dilemmas, I now seem to appreciate this statement with just a little more understanding. Of course, I have a feeling that my interpretation may change years later. But for now, going with your heart means to choose the subjects that will make you happy studying for it.

It is truly as simple as that!

You will, however, just a warning, be faced with a lot of “noise”. It could be advice from seniors, advice from friends, rumours, stories, forums sharing, societal expectations, etc. The art to following your heart is really to cancel out things that were not your beliefs and stick to what you think you will enjoy the most.

To me, achieving that is your way to choosing the “right” subject combination for JC.

Final words

Disclaimer: My interpretation of how to choose the subject combination in JC is purely based on what I went through, which I had genuinely shared in this article. I believed these are 3 key factors contributing to choose the right subjects to take. Everyone has different weaknesses and flairs. Hence, I hope that the 3 pointers that I had pointed out can be applicable to you whether you are a more artsy, science-y, a little of both, conservative, daring or whatever-you-are person. To me, this is applicable across the board. However, this may not be the “right” way to choose (if there is really even a correct way to choose your subject combination). To me, based on my personal experiences, these 3 factors will be what I would tell the 16 years old me.

Comment in the comment box below if the 3 factors have helped you in choosing your JC’s subject combination! I would love to hear from you.

This article is written by Ho Kar Yern a Year 2 accounting student from National University of Singapore who loves a good cup of coffee and weekly mala sessions ~ She is passionate about serving the needs of the elderly in Singapore and participates actively in delivering her service and time to them whenever she can.