As we enter the first week of the HSC, Jack reflects back on his time at the pointy-end of his school career.
Ahead lies four weeks of pain, repetition and stress for Year 12 2014 as the HSC exams are looming. This is the culmination of students’ school careers, where they are tested and measured before they move on.
As far as this cohort is concerned, the biggest and most crucial month of their life lies ahead of them. But they’re wrong.
The finish line marks one of the biggest reliefs of childhood life, as teens leave school and move onto bigger and better things.
Around this time in 2012, much like my mates, you would not have found me anywhere except in a library or sleeping. I had done all the research on how exhaustion inhibits brain function… Ironically, I had done most of this research at three or four in the morning when I had worked myself into nervous sweats about the impending exams.
I had stayed up to date with my studies all year but I was sure that whatever workload I produced, it wasn’t going to be enough.
Due to the scaling principles of the HSC examinations, you learn to compare yourself to other students at school. You are, in effect, competing with them. But they’re not you… They don’t learn like you, so why compare yourself to them?
Most students know the feeling of properly smashing out some study and finally understanding the subject matter properly. Too many times I would sit, reading passages over and over with the words ending up as a mangled pile in my brain, not comprehending a thing. And then, eventually, it would all start to make some sense.
When I couldn’t comprehend something, I would put it down to being too tired. Coffee… it’s everyone’s answer, and its great if that’s what you’re used to. But if you are tired, you need a break, not a pick me up.
My body-clock had appropriated itself with my study routine, sleeping from two in the morning until about 10AM, which was a bit of a shock to the system when I had exams at 9…
I remember thinking about the first day of exams as the most dreaded and stressful day of my life. It ended as just another day. It wasn’t so bad after all.
I got home, had a nap and got up to recommence study early that evening, but thanks to my level-headed parents, I was told to chill out on the preparation and to spend a little time relaxing. It had become apparent to them over the preceding three weeks that I was amply agitated by what was ahead and I needed to get some head space.
This may not work for some people and if your study routine relies on cramming as much as possible at the last moment, then that is what you should do. However, as I am someone who has a finely tuned skill for stressing them self out, a bit of relaxation went a very long way.
Stress directly affects brain function. We all carefully avoid stressing ourselves on a daily basis. Why should this change for ‘the most important month’ of your life?
On days when I had the time, I found an exercise routine at the gym helped me, clearing the mind and making study-time easier.
As you hit the HSC, the best thing you can do is to get yourself into a routine that works for you. One where you walk away from the numerous study sessions content you learnt rather than frustrated at your new caffeine tolerance.
Rest is crucial, and that doesn’t just mean eight hours of sleep to intersperse a full day of study. Stopping to relax with friends will help you unwind and will more importantly give your body and brain the recuperation time needed.
At the end of the day, you have been studying the subject matter that is in the exam for the last 12 months. It is time to trust your capabilities and show them in the exam room.
When the HSC finished, I celebrated. Everyone celebrated. It’s a big relief.
But that was just the beginning of another waiting period; waiting for a number that I believed ‘decided my life path’. My ATAR.
It didn’t. I did well enough to get in to the university I wanted, which was a great relief to my parents.
Within the first week of attendance at university it became obvious that anyone has the ability to go as long as you are willing to put the effort in. It is also simple to change courses once you are at university. And once you are enrolled into a university, your ATAR doesn’t mean anything to anyone. What matters at university, is how well you do at university.
Similarly, on leaving school, one realises the infinite opportunities provided to young adults. Many people don’t need to go to university at all. Universities are crowded and they cost you a lot of money. There are many pathways for young adults these days. Look at them all. Choose what is right for you.
Keep the HSC in perspective. Just like anything in life, if you are aiming to achieve a certain goal, prioritise, set routines and remain focussed. Remember; don’t let the stress of the situation get the better of you.
Good luck, and now, kindly vacate the university library study areas, I actually pay to go to there and would like the desk back.
(Feature image published under Creative Commons)