For basketball player Kenny Wong Lai-hung, that dilemma has posed a special challenge.
The Form Six student from La Salle College has decided to skip the HKDSE exam and enrol instead in a foundation course at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, which began in October.
Yet he is still here in Hong Kong. That's because he chose to delay his studies abroad just so that he could participate in an inter-school basketball final.
Kenny is a shooting guard who keeps a low-profile off the basketball court.
"I chose a wrong stream in the New Senior Secondary curriculum and I couldn't catch up with my chemistry studies," he says.
"After I talked things over with my family, my parents decided to send me to Australia to complete foundation and undergraduate courses. But we have disagreed over the planned date of my departure."
His parents wanted Kenny to begin his studies in Australia at the start of the current term, which began in October. Kenny has insisted he will start studying in the new term, which kicks off next April.
"I told them I wanted to complete my participation in the inter-school basketball competition. They eventually accepted my reasons as they know how much I love the sport," Kenny says.
Kenny was a key player for his team when they beat league powerhouse Ying Wa College to capture the Grade B inter-school title in the 2009/10 season. Kenny now plays a less prominent role on the team.
Yet despite being a reserve player, he is eager to help his team make history. "La Salle has missed out on the [Grade A] basketball team title for decades. Our players all believe it is time we finally won it," Kenny says.
"It's true the team can probably win the title without me.
"But I would regret not having been part of the team when it makes history."
La Salle made it to the final last year by narrowly beating Diocesan Boys' School, 34-33. "This boosted our confidence but we tripped up in the end," Kenny says.
In the final, his team lost to Ying Wa by 10 points. Kenny insists that failure is not an option this year.
"Since that defeat, we have been more determined than ever to capture the title this year," he stresses.
"We have been training very hard throughout the year.
"In addition to our three training sessions after school, we also have quick lunches every day in order to spare some time for short training sessions led by our captain Andy Yee Hon-fai during the lunch break."
Every afternoon, the team members spend an hour practising their shooting and passing skills. They also boost their fitness by doing sprints and longer runs.
Yet Kenny acknowledges that despite his team's determination, other teams could spring surprises on them.
"I had the experience of being upstaged by a weaker team during the group stages when I was in Form Three," he notes.
"But I am positive that we are going to win the title this year. Personally I practise shooting every evening on the basketball court near my home. I want to perfect my game."
During previous matches, including the semi-final against Diocesan Boys' School, Kenny came off the bench and played.
"My coach believes in my ability when our core players are not performing well," he says. "I will do my best to improve my consistency and be in top form for the final."
Kenny and his teammates will face off against Ying Wa College in the Grade A inter-school basketball final, which will take place at Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai at 8.30pm on Friday.
"We are ready to face Ying Wa again!" Kenny says.