Finishing high school is an absolute minefield. The stress, the hormones, the gossip–and that’s before you even consider the actual studying side of things. So on top of an already pressurised situation, dumb choices you made at the beginning of the year can mean you end up keeping a subject you’ve since grown to despise.

Whether the content has started to run further ahead than you’re able to keep up with, the workload has started pile mercilessly high, or the teacher’s turned out to be a bit of a drag, it’s totally reasonable to feel like dropping a subject will solve all your problems. The thing is, most of your friends probably dropped subjects before starting Year 12, or at least earlier in the year like the decisive brats they are. Is it too late for you to drop a subject?

Why it isn’t too late

The number one thing you should consider before dropping a subject is if you’ll be left with enough units to qualify for an ATAR (if that’s what you’re going for). This varies state by state: in NSW the minimum is ten units, while in Victoria it’s four scaled scores (though 10% of a 5th and 6th score can also be included if available). Students are generally required to study more units than this in Year 11, so there’s usually the option to drop something.

studyingDoing more subjects than the minimum amount can be a good idea because it gives you leeway. If you end up choking in one of your exams, or your performance is otherwise hindered, that subject can be simply disregarded and you’ll still have enough units to get an ATAR. However, if one of your subjects is clearly going to be your worst and you know it won’t count, it may be smart to cut it loose early.

There are loads of reasons why dropping a subject is a good idea, and not all of them are so you can binge watch Netflix. Less subjects means you’ll have more free periods at school, and this means more time to focus on your other subjects, or simply relax. You’ll also have more time at home for these things. Plus, your mental health will benefit from having less things to worry about, not to mention the peace of mind you’ll have from shedding the subject that’s been causing you grief.

Some people will advise you stick with a subject if you’ve already spent some time learning the content and completing assessments, saying you might as well see it through and see what you get. This is a fallacy, and dropping a subject can benefit you no matter how much time you’ve invested in it. I waited all the way until I got my trial results back before dropping a subject, but was still totally relieved I had less on my plate until my final exams.

What can you do if you can’t drop a subject?

If you’re already studying the minimum required number of subjects, then unfortunately you’re going to have to stick it out. Another situation where it might be best to keep all your subjects is if you have two subjects that you’re struggling in, and you’re not sure which one will end up counting towards your ATAR.

Your other option is to simply suss out non ATAR pathways, which means you can just focus on graduating high school, without all the stress that comes from a final ranking.

Either way, being forced to keep the subject is not the end of the world. Just because you’re getting 40% in Biology doesn’t mean you’re going to get a mystery mark ATAR. Your school marks will go through a bloody lengthy process of scaling and moderation before turning into an ATAR, which is of course a ranking rather than a score.

There’s also still time before your final exams to work things out and get a better handle on the content. Trust me, it gets easier the more you throw yourself at it, and even if you’re a disorganised mess like me there are ways to study.