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Preparing for the Senior Phase

During second and third year you’ll be encouraged to think about your future learning and career pathways. You’ll also need to make decisions about which subjects and courses to take in the senior phase.

This isn’t always easy, but it is very important!

Your choices in school do affect your future learning and career options. So, it’s worth putting in the time to think them through properly and plan ahead.

What matters most is taking the subjects and courses that will suit you best.

The range of subjects and courses open to you will depend on your school, and its partners. These may include local colleges and community, youth and voluntary groups. Each school develops a curriculum to suit the needs of its own pupils.

At the end of third year you’ll be given the opportunity to review your subject choices; your teachers will use your S3 profile to help you decide which subjects and qualifications you want to study in fourth year and beyond.

Remember that if you are thinking about science or health-related careers (or courses) you may need to take at least two sciences.

Before you begin looking at the choices for your senior phase, read this list of the do’s and don’ts of subject choice.

The 'do’s and don’ts' of subject choice


  • subjects that you will enjoy
  • what you’re good at - and can do well in
  • look back at your achievements to see what have you done well in
  • subjects that are right for you – ones that relate to your interests, abilities and strengths
  • think ahead - about what you might like to do when you leave school
  • find out about careers and the different pathways you could take to get into them
  • check which subjects and qualifications you might need, or find helpful, to get into any careers or courses you are interested in
  • think about the skills you will need to be successful in the future
  • keep your options open by taking a balanced set of subjects
  • ask for help or information if and when you need it
  • ask to see your school’s career adviser if you need help in planning your career
  • talk to your parents or carers about your ideas and options
  • remember that although you will have plenty of help and support in making your choices the final decisions are up to you.


  • choose a subject just because you like or dislike the teacher
  • choose a subject without finding out as much as you can about it – including where and how it will be taught
  • pick a subject just so you can be in the same class as your friends 
  • worry if you have no clear career ideas yet – keep your options open
  • limit your future career options by thinking that some subjects and careers are only for girls or boys.

Getting Ready to Choose

Here are some simple steps to help you prepare for making your subject choices.

  • Think about the subjects you are doing now.
  • How do you feel about the subjects and courses you’ve taken so far?

Now note down the subjects you like, and dislike, most.

subjects I like

subjects I dislike









Next, note down the subjects you do well in, and any you struggle with.

subjects I do well in

subjects I struggle with









Check with your teachers that your assessment of how well you are doing is accurate.

Exploring your career options

  • Think about three jobs or types of career you might like to do in the future.
  • Use the school careers library and PlanIT Plus - see Careers and Courses.
  • Find out which, if any, subjects you must have to get in to each career. These are essential subjects.

Find out which subjects might be useful to you in getting into this career.

My career ideas

Essential subjects

Useful subjects










List any subjects that you must take to get into the careers that interest you. Put them into the ‘essential’ column. Also list any subjects that might help you get into these careers. List them under ‘useful’.










Does it look like you might have to take a subject you are not doing well in?
If so, speak to your pastoral care teacher and career adviser for advice.

Struggling for career ideas?

If you don’t have any career ideas yet try CareerOmeter, the career interest guide on PlanIT Plus at www.planitplus.net/careerzone/careerometer

Getting the support and information you need

You can get support and information from:

  • Your parents or carers.
  • Your subject teachers. They can give you information on their subject to help you make up your mind.
  • Your guidance, pupil support or pastoral care teacher. They can help you think about what might suit you best.
  • Your school career adviser. They give advice and information on career choice and entry requirements for jobs and courses.
  • The careers library in school (or your local Skills Development Scotland Centre). You can read books and leaflets or use career-related computer programs.
  • PlanIT Plus has activities to help you choose, and tons of information on the courses and careers you may be thinking about.

My pastoral care teacher is:


My career adviser is:


My Subject Teachers:



















Option Choice Checklist

Check that you’re on the right track. This checklist sets out some action points that will help you to make realistic and suitable choices. Check off each item, or date it, as you complete it.

Action Points


Read the school Options Guide carefully.


Make sure I understand the Course Options Form and know how to fill it in.


Find out who I can ask for help if, or when, I need it.


Find out what each subject or course involves.


Talk about my option choices with my parents or carers.


Think about what I really like, and what interests me most.

(You usually do better at the subjects you really enjoy.)


Think about how well I am doing in my subjects now. What am I really good at?


Find out if I will need any specific subjects to get into the career, or career area, I am interested in. What are they?


Check if I have left my future career options as open as possible


Check that I am choosing my subjects for the right reasons.
(Wanting to stay in the same class as your friends, or liking the teacher doesn’t count!)


Check that I’ve not ruled a subject (or career) out just because people might think it’s a ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ subject.


Think about my learning style. Will the course help me to learn in a way that suits me?


Think about the skills you are good at and the skills you need to develop in the future. Which courses or other opportunities will help you develop these?


There is a separate article on PlanIT called 'Preparing for the Senior Phase: Parents and Carers' that your parents might like to read.

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