Subject Selection and Work Experience | Open Day Panel

Do you know what you want to become? Are you unsure about choosing the right subjects to help you achieve this? Are you unsure about work experience? Don't fear! This article explains it all.

Written by:
Matrix English Team
subject selection and work experience panel shot of panelists

Do you worry about what you want to be when you escape High School or what you need to study to get there? We recently had a panel about this at our Hurstville Open Day. In this article, we’ll help figure out your dream career and show you how to approach subject selection and work experience so you can achieve your goals.


What’s in this article?

work experience panel with crowd



Subject selection and work experience: an overview

On Saturday, 13th of July 2019, 4 Matrix staff, graduates and friends were invited to speak to a group of Years 7 – 10 students at our Open Day at our Hurstville Campus overview.

We know that many students don’t know which career they want to go into.

That is normal!

This panel set out to inform junior students, especially those in Years 9 and 10, to think about their future career choices, and the importance of subject selection and work experience to help set them on their career paths.

We gave useful advice to help students discover their dream career and tips to achieve it. We also discussed their Year 10 work experience, important High School subjects for their Uni Courses and what it is like working in their fields.

subject selection for work experience panel chef


How did we decide on our goals?

It is ok to be unsure of what you want to be. Some people don’t realise their dream careers until they are in their 20s or even 30s!

However, you need to set yourself a goal in your senior years. This will give you direction and compel you to build good study habits.


So, before we get to the panel, let’s look at our panellists’ 3 main points for choosing their ‘dream career’.


1. Look at your interests!

Pay attention to your emotions when you carry out certain activities. Identify what you enjoy doing and feel good about.

Which subjects do you like? What are your hobbies? Which career fields sound exciting and rewarding? 

Make a list!

subject selection for work experience panel list

2. Research

Now, that you’ve figured out your interests, it is time to research them!

Find industries and fields that relate to your interests. See what these industries and businesses are about.

You can even call up some businesses, ask them questions or even visit them to learn more.

What do you have to do day-by-day? Can you imagine yourself doing that every day?


3. So, how does work experience help us figure our dream career?

Work experience gives you the chance to dip your toe in the pool to check the temperature before you dive in.

Work experience is useful because it gives you a practical perspective of the field.

So, what should you do?

Visit these industries and/or businesses and see what the job really requires.

Is the job/field different from what you expected? Can you imagine yourself doing this? Do you enjoy it? 

The good thing about work experience is that you can find out what you enjoy through trial and error!

Don’t think the job is for you? No worries! Just find another work experience placement in another field of interest!


subject selection for work experience panel hero banner


What should we focus on in High School?

It is the day for you to choose your Senior subjects. You’re a little nervous and unsure. How do you know if you are choosing the right subjects?

Well, don’t fear! These are some tips that will help you make your decision.


1. Select subjects that aid your course

Once you figure your goal, see if there are any prerequisites or recommended subjects.

If you are unsure about this, you can check out the UAC WEBSITE. Just type in your course and the university on the left-side bar and see if there are any subjects you should do!

For example, if you want to study a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) at UNSW, your assumed knowledge is Mathematics Extension 1 and Physics. They also recommend that you study Math Ext 2, Chemistry, and Engineering Studies.

Whereas, if you want to do a Bachelors of Fine Arts at UNSW, you will only need to study Visual Arts.


So, it is important that you choose your assumed knowledge subjects for your preferred University course.

However, if you choose not to, that is ok. But remember, you WILL need to do a Summer Bridging Course before your University first semester begins.

Bridging courses are basically short and intensive classes for High School graduates, who do not meet their assumed knowledge.


Also, you should always consider doing your University course’s recommended subjects if it seems interesting. These subjects will help you ease into Uni and understand their content.


2. Select the right subjects for you

You should always choose subjects that you are interested in AND good at.

If you aren’t interested in a subject, you won’t feel motivated to study. So, you’ll likely end up doing badly.

On the other hand, if you choose a subject that you consistently struggle with, you will waste too much time trying to improve. This will affect your other subjects.

So, it is essential that you have a fine balance between interest and ability.


3. Research the other requirements

Pay attention to any external tests that you need to do to do your course!

For example, if you want to study Medicine, you need to consider the UCAT Exam. On the other hand, if you want to study Law at UNSW, you need to do well in the LATs Exam.

You can find more information about external exams on the UAC WEBSITE.

Remember, these external exams are just as important as your HSC and school assessments! If you don’t do well in them, you cannot make your course.

So, don’t leave them until the last minute. Keep practising and improving your skills!

subject selection for work experience panel hands

4. Put yourself out there!

It is not all about doing academically well. You also need to put yourself out there!

Do extracurricular activities. Volunteer. Take initiative!

These will help you achieve university scholarships because they are looking for people who are different.

Everyone studies during their HSC year. So, you have to show them that you can study well AND balance your life.



What did our experts/panellists do?

Let’s take a closer look at our panellists’ experience with subject selection for work experience.

[Note: We’ve edited these answers for clarity and concision]

how kim nguyen scored an atar of 99.35

Kim Nguyen – 4th Year, Medicine student at UNSW

Kim Nguyen is currently in her 4th year of Medicine at UNSW and has clinical placements in a hospital for half a week. She is also a Senior Math Tutor and a Teacher at Matrix.


1. Why did you choose your degree?

I always had an interest in Medicine.

However, during Year 10 and 11 I also become interested in Engineering and Finance because I really like Maths and Economics. So, I explored these options through work experience but didn’t really feel it.

To me, Medicine has always been a childhood dream, and I think childhood dreams represent your true desires.

It also incorporates my love for scientific thinking, which is great!


2. What did you learn from your Year 10 Work Experience?

I actually did 2 work experience placements; 1 in Year 10 and another in Year 11.

In Year 10, I did a UNSW Engineering Experience Week. Basically, we experienced different types of engineering. We visited a sewerage plant, designed buildings, and examined Barangaroo back when it was a construction site. We really dove into the engineering world and talked to people.

Although that week was fun, it wasn’t for me. It’s just a gut feeling. Like, when you know, you know.

This is why it is important that you do work experience; you get to trial and error.

In Year 11, I decided to explore my financial interests. I did work experience at UBS Finance Academy. Basically, 60 students lived on Macquarie Uni’s campus. We learned about different sectors of finance and what it involves.

Again, I didn’t feel like this career path was right for me. I wasn’t as interested in it as I am for Medicine.

Finance was very different from what I expected. And without work experience, I would have never figured this out.

subject selection for work experience panel person holding stethoscope pretending to be a doctor unlike Kim who is nearly an actual doctor


3. What should you focus on in High School for your course?

There are no prerequisites for Medicine in terms of subject selection. However, it is a good idea to do the recommended Science subjects.

If you take the recommended subjects during your HSC, you will find that your Uni content becomes more familiar to you.

I had to study the whole HSC Biology course in two weeks before Uni started to get a good foundation. That was very intense.


Also, UCAT is something that you can DEFINITELY prepare for!

Don’t leave it until the last minute, because you will have trials (very important Year 12 yearly exam!) at the same time. Get acquainted with the question style and invest the same amount of energy as you would with your HSC subjects.

Remember, it is basically 1/3 of your admission into Medicine!



Coco Xu – 2nd Year, Actuarial Studies Co-op Scholar

Coco is in her 2nd year, studying Actuarial Studies at UNSW. She is under the UNSW Co-Op Scholarship, is an actuarial intern at iCare and a current Matrix Maths tutor.


1. Why did you choose your degree?

I actually had no idea what an actuary was until my SRC coordinator told me.

Basically, actuarial studies is a perfect blend of Maths and Business, which are two subjects that I am interested and good at. That’s why she recommended it to me.

So, after some research, I thought actuarial studies seemed pretty cool because I get to solve business problems by using Maths. And, that’s why I chose my degree.


2. What did you learn from your Year 10 Work Experience?

Nearly everyone in my school was talking about being a doctor or a lawyer. So, that was all I thought about during High School.

But, I didn’t manage to get work experience at a hospital. So, what’s the next closest thing to a doctor?

That’s right. A dentist!

I did my work experience at Smile Concepts. I learned a lot about dental procedures and dental jargon. And they took their time to explain everything clearly to me.

It was a fun experience, but I got really nervous when they had to laser off baby’s tongue ties and lip ties. That was when I decided dentistry wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to deal with squealing babies and lots of blood.


3. What should you focus on in High School for your course?

You need to have a solid foundation in Maths to do well in Actuarial Studies. There is a great focus on probability and statistics.

Maths Extension 2 is not a prerequisite. However, doing a higher level of Maths during my HSC year really helped me ease into my course. I didn’t have to learn any brand new concepts.

subject selection for work experience panel maths equations



Importantly, to get scholarships (eg. Co-op), you need to be actively involved in extracurricular activities and volunteering opportunities. I did St Johns, played sports and volunteered during my HSC year!

People want to see that you can balance your academic studies with life.

The scholarship comittees want to select people who are ‘different’ from the crowd.

So, don’t neglect your extracurricular activities!


work experience panel John Huang Portrait against green glass

John Huang – Final Year, Business at UTS | CEO for One Month of the Adecco Group

John is in his final year at UTS, studying Business. He is also an Ecommerce intern and represented Australia in the international CEO of the Month Competition. He is now shadowing Adecco’s CEO and travelling all over Australia.


1. Why did you choose your degree?

I always wanted to get into start-ups and be an entrepreneur. But I thought that was foolish to do, unless you actually have a solid understanding of Business and Finance.

So, I chose to study a Bachelor of Economics because I thought it would give me a broad overview of Business and Finance.

However, once I started, I found that it involved a lot more numbers than I thought. And I couldn’t imagine doing that for the rest of my life.

So, I changed it to Business.

And Business is a great choice because it allows me to grow my skillset and knowledge. So, whenever I invent a really cool idea in the future, I will be ready to go for it.


2. What did you learn from your Year 10 Work Experience?

I did a scatter-gun approach when it came to Work Experience. Basically, I applied for everything and hoped for the best.

Understandably, I was rejected by many places, like the zoo, aquarium, hospital etc.

So, I asked my career advisor for help and I ended up doing my Work Experience at a psychologist.

It was lots of fun and I learned a lot. However, I knew that being a psychologist is not something I was interested in doing.

subject selection for work experience panel suit



3. What should you focus on in High School for your course?

In my Senior Years, I chose subjects that I enjoyed doing. That way, I was interested in the subjects and motivated to study for it.


However, I believe that it is important to focus on more than just academics. Do you do debating, chess club or sports?

Always be keen and take initiative. You don’t know when an opportunity might knock on your door.

I’m going to give you an example (even though I was in Uni at the time and not High School)

During the UTS Careers Fair, it seemed like the team members from Coty needed some help. So, I offered a hand and helped them pack some boxes. We ended up doing a Boomerang for an Instagram Story, and I managed to get some free products!

Then I went home and thought that was it.

But it wasn’t.

One of their recruiters called me and asked me to apply for an internship. She liked my energy and initiative. And a month later, I got the job!

See, you need to put yourself out there!



Tammy Dang – 1st Year, Law/Media (Screen & Sound Production)

Tammy is a 1st Year student, studying a combined Laws and Media (Screen and Sound Production) degree at UNSW. She is a current Matrix Content Writer.


1. Why did you choose your degree?

I have always been interested in the creative field; film, painting, drama, photography etc.

But when it came to choosing a career path, I knew that this was not the most practical field to enter.

So, I started to think about my other interests and skills.

I debated for 7 years, being Zone and Regional Winners, State quarter-finalists and State semi-finalists AND, I always loved English.

So, I started looking at Law.


Throughout my whole High School career, I was stuck between Law and my creative pursuits.

I couldn’t just pick one.

So, in Year 11, I decided to do a double degree and combine passion and practicality together.


2. What did you learn from your Year 10 Work Experience?

I was always interested in media and film and I was really excited for an opportunity to experience the industry. However, Media is such a competitive field, and so many students want to experience it too.

Sadly, I got rejected by all the companies I applied for (eg. Girlfriend Magazine, Dolly Magazine, Actors Pulse and New York Film Academy). You really need to get in early to get a place!

So, I had to quickly think of plan B.

I ended up helping a family friend tutor primary school kids. I taught an English class and it was pretty fun.

But I couldn’t imagine myself doing this for the rest of my life.

subject selection for work experience panel judge's gavel



3. What should you focus on in High School for your course?

If you are considering studying Law, you need to take English seriously.

Although you don’t need to do Extension English, you should at least do well in Advanced English.

Law is all about critical thinking, logic, reasoning and being able to communicate that clearly through writing AND speaking. We not only write essays, but we also have a speaking component in class that is weighed 20%!

These are all skills that you develop in English. So, being a strong English student really helped me ease into Law.


And don’t forget the LAT! It comes in two parts:

  • Critical thinking
  • Persuasive writing

Once again, these are skills which you develop in your English subjects!


Want a hand getting your Subject Selection right?

Now that you have a better understanding of your career goals and what you need to do… You can learn about choosing the right subjects and developing the right study habits to achieve these goals in our Year 10 Subject Selection Seminar.



Written by Matrix English Team

The Matrix English Team are tutors and teachers with a passion for English and a dedication to seeing Matrix Students achieving their academic goals.

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