When should you drop a school subject?

By Bridie McArthur 

It’s a question that’s been asked for centuries: should I drop maths? Okay, maybe not centuries, but for the past few months of this year, I’ve been asking myself (and a few trusted teachers) this question.   

Ultimately, my answer was yes — and my life has now been void of a tertiary maths course for around two weeks.  

How do you know when you should drop a subject? 

If you’re in the same boat as me, try my handy checklist that can help you decide whether it’s time to drop that pesky subject. 

  • I feel unmotivated/I find it difficult to complete work for this subject. 
  • I feel bored/abnormally stressed when I’m completing work for this subject. 
  • I’m struggling to handle my workload. 
  • I don’t need this subject for what I want to do after school. 
  • If I drop this subject, my package and/or post-grad plans will be unaffected. 

How many boxes have you ticked out of five? 

01: Probably stick with it! 

2–3: Hmm, maybe think about it some more ... 

4–5: Probably a sign you should drop the subject, but make sure you’re sure. 

Does the subject stress you out? Are you struggling to get motivated? 

Most subjects will be boring at times, and motivation isn’t present 24/7. However, if there’s nothing, or, at least, barely anything, that interests you about the subject, that could be a sign it’s not for you. This is also the case if you’re struggling with a subject; again, most subjects will (and should) be challenging, but if you feel it’s too hard and you’re struggling to keep up, this could also be a sign the subject isn’t for you.  

Do you need this subject for your post-grad plans? 

These two points are arguably the most important, and your future (scary!) should be taken into consideration. If you are set on doing medicine after you graduate, you’ll probably have to take chemistry, even if you dislike it. Although, if you do dislike it that much, it might be time to rethink your after-school options. It’s best to talk to your school’s career advisor if you’re worried. For me, maths wasn’t necessary for post-grad and my package remained viable, so I was able to check both points.  

Try to think long-term. Is this just a fleeting feeling of ‘ugh, I hate this’, or is it a more intense/lingering feeling of dread or stress? Ask yourself (and also a teacher): do I need this subject? Do I want this subject? Take both the need and want into consideration. 

In summary 

This can be a daunting decision and it definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly; however, don’t stress too much about it! Try to think rationally and critically, but also tune in to your feelings.  

Everyone’s paths are different, everyone can handle different things, and everyone enjoys different things. Maybe maths isn’t your thing (I hear you!), maybe it’s just that having six or seven subjects isn’t working out. Your package is usually flexible if you need it to be. The decision is yours! 

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