GCSE results 2012: How to make sure your choices are correct
TEENAGERS picking up their GCSE results today face an array of options if they go on to further education.
But how do you avoid making the wrong choice? And as universities are clamouring to attract language and science specialists, will getting A-levels in popular subjects like psychology and law stand you in good stead?
The truth is most universities won't discriminate against students because of their sixth form choices, as long as they have picked a sensible mix.
But there are some key tips so young people don't fall into the trap of narrowing their options too early.
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They could also learn from the experience of 17-year-old Alex Latham from Chell.
He began his A-levels at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College last year and initially signed up for four subjects – biology, maths, media and business.
Alex said: "I ended up dropping maths after a month because it wasn't for me. I couldn't hack it.
"I liked maths at GCSE. But the jump from GCSE to A-level was something I didn't anticipate. I've now stuck with three subjects."
He is typical of many teenagers who pick the options they think will look good on a CV or university application form.
But some students also want to try something completely new in the sixth form or at college.
Laura Tulley chose law as one of her A-level subjects, alongside geography, history and English.
The 17-year-old, from Birches Head, said: "Law is now my favourite subject and I want to study it at university.
"But it's good not to pick subjects which are all new to you. You might not like them."
Robyn Davies, aged 17, from Fenton, also tried something different for one of her college options.
"I picked philosophy. I did it because I was good at RE at school and there are similarities between the two subjects," she said.
Robyn, who wants to study medicine at university, has balanced it by taking A-levels in biology, chemistry and maths.
Medicine is one of the few degree courses to have very prescriptive entry requirements.
Students will need to have studied A-level biology and chemistry, and to have either done maths or physics in the sixth form. The same combination of subjects will be needed for veterinary science as well.
If you have a degree course in mind, the best thing is to check out the requirements before you begin your A-level programme.
The UK's top 20 universities, known as the Russell Group, have also drawn up a list of A-levels which will open up the most opportunities to young people.
They have called them the 'facilitating' subjects and recommend students take at least two of these courses if they want to aim for an elite university like Oxford or Cambridge.
The A-levels include maths, the sciences, geography, history, English literature and languages.
But Nick Foskett, vice-chancellor of Keele University, stresses that most universities will be flexible.
He said: "We accept most subjects including vocational courses. We take a broad view. I don't align myself to how the Russell Group have approached this."
So-called 'soft' subjects like media studies have become much-derided in the national media.
But Professor Foskett said: "If it's an A-level subject, it's A-level standard."
Most colleges offer BTEC national diplomas, which are the equivalent of three A-levels, and do count towards UCAS points for university entry.
At Staffordshire University, level three apprenticeships are also an accepted route to a degree course.
Vice-chancellor Michael Gunn said: "Provided they have achieved a certain standard, we would take students with a wide variety of qualifications. My advice to young people is study what you are interested in. If you are not interested in a subject, you are not going to do your best."
But as competition for university places has grown in recent years, teenagers are thinking much more carefully about their post-16 options.
At Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, the curriculum has also been revamped to help students plot the best combination of subjects. It includes advice for getting into top universities or specialist institutions for fields like sport and the performing arts.
Deputy principal Paul Mangnall said: "The best thing is to take subjects that you know you like and that you know you are good at."
Mr Mangnall said traditional A-levels such as French are now seeing a revival as students try to be savvy about their choices. But other very popular courses at the sixth form college include health and social care, sport, and subjects linked to the creative arts.