The later years of high school, and in particular Year 12, can seem daunting. When confronted with the increasingly high-stakes environment that is the NSW HSC, it can be tempting to take the common approach of trying to cut out everything aside except study – supposedly, to achieve better results.

The thing is, though, the journey up to and throughout Year 12 is a long road. Studying smarter, not harder, is the way that the best students get through the years leading up to the HSC as well as their HSC year; as the classic saying goes, ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’.

The way to get the best results possible, then, isn’t just through a take-no-prisoners no-holds-barred method of dropping everything from your life except study; in fact, making sure you have a balance in your life is the way to minimise your stress levels, maintain your motivation and concentration, and consequently improve your learning process, retention of information, and ultimately exam performance.

Here are some thoughts on how to balance your life in the later years of school:

Have an outlet

Be it playing a musical instrument, training for a sport, practicing for a play, or continuing to be involved in some other extra-curricular activity you’ve loved in your life so far, it’s really important to have a way to ‘switch off’ from study.

We hear time and time again from our best students that they’re able to do so well not in spite of what other activities they participated in throughout Year 12, but often because of them. Having a way to let go of everything else and have fun in a different context is a great way to remain motivated and concentrated when you return to a study context.

Therefore, rather than quit all your activities when you reach Year 11 or Year 12, consider carefully which ones bring you joy – they may be what gets you through the year in good mental and physical health, letting you perform to your capacity when the HSC comes round.

Build a community around studying

A great way to prevent what some see as an inevitable deterioration of your social life throughout the years leading up to your HSC is to make studying a way to connect with others.

While some find studying with other people to be less efficient, others find that it helps them stay focused and motivated, through ‘sharing the load’ with their peers. It’s important to find what works for you, but we suggest trying out studying with your friends; it might just be the way to get work done effectively while still maintaining a balanced social life.

Make sure to leave room for some down-time through the week

Not every minute of your week has to be filled to capacity, be it with social activities, recreation, study, or other commitments. Having some time to reflect, get back in touch with your goals and motivations, and connect with family is crucial in staying balanced all the way up to Year 12 and beyond.

All too often, the HSC is hyped up to ridiculously stressful levels; and often, the way to rise to the competition isn’t just to try to do more than everyone else, it’s to ride out the year with your mental health, friendships, and familial relationships intact. Leaving some time through the week to reflect on what’s important is a great way of ensuring this.


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