High School retrospective: The HSC

As some of my long term blog followers will already know (haha, that’ll be the day…) last year I did my HSC and spent a great big chunk of that time hating my life.

That was also the reason I started blogging, as a means of procrastination from the life draining activity of study. So thanks exams! At least I got something out of it.

But now, with a year’s healing time between now and then, here’s some thoughts to share with any of the Yr 12 graduates about to do their exams and faced with the prospect of having to make choices and work out their lives.

Number one: You should know this
Maybe this was just me, but my greatest fear when it came to exams was sitting down and not having a clue what the paper was asking me to do.
It’s irrational, but it’s a fear I suspect was born from my disastrous year 10 history exam when they quizzed us on a topic we hadn’t studied. Ever since then, before every exam there was a moment of panic “oh god what do I do if I don’t know what to say or if i’ve forgotten something i haven’t studied enough oh god oh god oh god…”
Which is a completely irrational fear, because the chances of that happening were next to nil.
Fact of the matter is this: the only questions you will be asked are the questions you should know the answers to. That is, the information you learned in class.
Honestly, if you’re memory is good enough you don’t have to study at all. it’s just handy to revise so you feel confident and are able to pull out a few textbook lines that sound kick ass when strategically placed in an essay.
If you put the work in, paid attention in class and at least read over your notes again before an exam, you will be okay.

Number two: study is not the most important thing
You can go over the information a thousand times but that means jack shit if you don’t know what to do with it.
Practice writing essays, practice doing papers. There are hundreds of old exams available online, and they are the best way to know what to expect when you walk into an exam and the best way to get good at writing a lot of information in not very much time.
Yes it’s boring as hell, but that brings me to

Number three: less is more
Lets be honest here, you’re not going to be doing ten hours of study a day. Even the most prolifically nerdy nerd isn’t going to use STUVAC as well as they possibly could. I remember I was determined to do at least an hours study on each of my subjects every day up until the exams, and of course that never happened.
So what’s better is to take it easy and do the stuff you actually should be doing. Set small goals, for example, I’m going to finish one english paper today, before two o’clock.
It’s not much, but it’s a whole lot better then sitting down to do six subjects worth of study and absorbing nothing because you’re so stressed out and overwhelmed and looking for distractions.

Number four: distractions
I’m a firm believer in procrastination, but it’s good to have a strategy. So here are what I call, timed distractions.
Don’t pick a distraction that has no certain end, for example, watching youtube videos or reading a book or messaging a friend. That one hour break can so easily stretch out into a whole day.
So choose distractions that have a definite finish. Cooking is an excellent one. Procrastibaking is a great and delicious way to take an hour off study, do something else, and then go back. Working out is good too, an hours swim or gym time then back to the books. Listening to ONE cd also works (but never hit shuffle on your iPod because that’s counterproductive).
It’s okay to take time off, but make sure that time off has a definite end.

Beyond studying for exams, finishing high school has many fun and awesome things to look forward to.
But again, the get the biggest kick, some words of advice:

Number five: don’t become bridezilla
Your graduation is a lot like getting married. There’s a lot of fuss about the dress and the decorations, the guests, the after party and in theory, you’re only going to do it once.
And there’s kind of this obsession with making it perfect.
I can only really speak to the ladies here (but let me know if guys do this too) but seriously, relax. If the dress isn’t perfect, don’t matter. If the shoes aren’t quite right, who cares? If you can’t get a limo to your grad or the photos aren’t quite right or you haven’t got a date, it isn’t the end of the world. And above all things, if another girl is wearing the same dress as you, LET. IT. GO.
Obsessing over perfection is going to result in a seriously shit evening. Relax, have fun, enjoy being young and fancy free and enjoy graduating. You never have to see any of these people ever again if you don’t want to. Just enjoy the goodbyes and have fun.

Number six: be nice to the deso driver
If you go to the after party and plan to get smashed, find out who isn’t drinking and be super nice to them. It will pay off. Seriously. When you get something in your eye and are too wasted to get it out yourself, or when you’re friend starts crying and needs someone to drive her home, you want to be on this persons good side.

Number seven: the beginning and the end
The best and worst part of the next few months is going to be when the exams are over, the graduating is over, the hugs and sentiment and crying is over and all that is left, is the results.
This is the best day, because it’s the definite, pen and ink, final full stop, set in stone end. The feeling of relief is like nothing else.
But, it can also be the worst day, because there’s always that chance that the end is not what you wanted it to be.
But here’s the thing. Not getting the results you want is not the end of the world.
It’s easy to say, and I didn’t believe it either, but here’s the thing:
Firstly, you don’t know the score wasn’t good enough until university offers come out. There’s still hope.
Secondly, even if you didn’t get into your first choice of uni, chances are you will get into a uni. If you’re that determined to get a higher education, the system works so that there is more then one way. High school results don’t dictate everything.
Thirdly, this video says it perfectly, but even if you get the results and feel devastated and like it’s the end of the world, it’s not the end of all the worlds. It’s the end of one version of the future that you may have imagined and desired, and losing that is certainly sad-making. But even as that world ends, others are still there. A different university, different friends. Or an opportunity to travel, to work, to see the world or to find new opportunities. Life goes on, even as your plans alter and change.

Last but not least: you will start feeling a bit weird right about now. That doesn’t even stop. 

Good luck! Have fun, all the best, and be cool.

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