As a university student still relatively new to the concept of university, I am hardly in a position to offer any prophetic guidance about studying or work.
One year on from my high school graduation and one year into a journalism degree, what I can share is some self-reflective advice about your final year of schooling. These are the 12 things Year 12 taught me:
1. Treasure your friends.
Being able to spend five days a week hanging with your friends is the greatest thing ever. After Year 12 everyone disperses: different jobs, different universities, different cities and even different countries. Organising catch-ups soon becomes like coordinating your own G20 Summit.
Be sure to soak up the time you spend enjoying lunchtime gossip sessions, even if they are occasionally interrupted for a Maths class.
2. Ditch the negativity.
Year 12 is hard enough without being preoccupied with someone else’s amazing grades, supportive family or $2000 formal dress. Being grateful is not always easy, but mastering the art will make you a lot happier.
An easy way to do this is to write down the things you are grateful for at the end of each day. At risk of sounding like a walking cliché, I did this most nights throughout Year 12 and have no doubt that it helped me get through the year.
Some days it can be hard to find things to get excited about. You might be writing ‘Work was busy so my shift went quickly’, and that is perfectly okay. By the end of the year, however, I found I was able to write 10 things each day that made me happy and I was all the more grateful for it.
3. Have realistic expectations.
You spend a lot of time in Year 12 focused on one number. Your ATAR/OP/VCE score determines if you will get into your university degree of choice. It is a big deal and we all know it.
You need to work hard on your assignments and study for your exams, but you also need to realise that berating yourself over a C+ grade is pointless.
Even if you don’t end up with the university entrance score you were hoping for, there are many alternate pathways to tertiary education and a plethora of career options that don’t require a university degree. Let us not forget that Ellen DeGeneres, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Bill Gates all dropped out of college and things seem to have worked out just fine for them.
4. Make the most of your teachers.
The homework, assessment tasks and tough marking dished out by teachers can make them seem like the reincarnation of all things evil. Those at university though will no doubt have encountered lecturers who click through black and white PowerPoint slides for two hours. Universities are big places, making it near impossible for the same level of personal attention. High school teachers suddenly seem like the bee’s knees, so be sure to appreciate their support while you still have it.
5. School friends are not the only friends you will ever have.
High school is prime time for friendships, but odds are you will also encounter people who make you feel cruddy. Those people? Not your friends.
You shouldn’t feel like you cannot be yourself around the people you socialise with. It might take a while to find people you are truly comfortable with, but THAT IS FINE. You will.
Using high school as a benchmark for success is a really, really bad idea. When things are not so rosy, remember that life in the ‘real’ world is supposed to be better and it no doubt will.
6. Embrace work experience.
Deciding what you want to do after school is all kinds of daunting. There are just so many options and I would have appreciated them presented multiple-choice style. Alas, the world does not often let you pick E for ‘all of the above’ and you actually have to make decisions.
Work experience is a great way to narrow down the options. Before finishing Year 12 I spent time at magazine offices and in the marketing department at a local theatre. This helped me better understand the media industry and what kind of university course would suit me.
How you get work experience varies depending on the field you are interested in, but always be proactive and remember that it never hurts to ask.
7. Procrastination can be productive.
Everyone is guilty of procrastination. Sometimes it sucks, but sometimes it is a really useful way to get stuff that isn’t your assignment done. Stuff like organising your bedroom, the kitchen cabinets or your iTunes library.
My personal favourite procrastination method is exercise. The more stressed I am, the longer I will run for. I like to think I may eventually end up with the cardiovascular fitness of Usain Bolt, which is definitely productive.
Exercise doubles as a brilliant way to de-stress and also improves brain function and recall. I told you procrastination had its benefits.
8. Be nice to your family.
If you are anything like me, you might relate to feeling grumpy and short of temper around exams. It is an unfortunate truth that Year 12 will be filled with lots of exams and therefore lots of grumpiness. Sadly family members are often the first targets for our emotional outbursts.
It is easy to forget that it is your family who will help you get through the year and will also be there for you after graduation.
Having a child finish school is no doubt a big deal for your parents as well. Spending quality time together is a nice way to apologise for everything you put them through during your 13 years of schooling.
9. Look after yourself.
Stress and lack of sleep are a combination almost guaranteed to equal study burn out. Avoid scrolling for kilometres on Facebook and instead take time out for yourself, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly and aim for at least eight hours sleep a night.
Studying is important, but so is seeing daylight and maintaining your energy levels. I can assure you that Vitamin D deficiencies are no fun.
10. Read things.
It may feel like you spend all of Year 12 reading, but making an effort to read something other than English texts and psychology papers can be incredibly rewarding. If the thought of sitting down with a novel makes you shiver, try magazines or news reports instead.
Reading in any format is a great way to relax and engage in some ‘me-time’. It also keep you well informed and has been proven to help get a better night’s sleep.
11. All work and no play will make life suck.
‘Work Hard Play Hard’, courtesy of Wiz Khalifa, is an excellent motto for your final year of schooling. I am well aware, however, that this means different things for different people.
If your idea of a good time is an enormous party attended by your whole grade, go for it. If you are more a ‘watch-a-good-movie-and-eat-a-good-pizza’ kind of gal or guy, go for that instead.
Year 12 is a crazy juggling act and it is important to do fun things just because you find them fun.
12. The FRIENDS box set is the perfect substitute for real friends when assessment deadlines are looming.
I may have just encouraged adopting the ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ adage, but this doesn’t have to mean party your socks off every weekend.
Remember that it is perfectly okay to say ‘no’ to nights out every now and then. Sometimes it becomes necessary to take a step back from social duties and knock over that essay. You will be infinitely less stressed come Monday morning and Ross, Rachel and the rest of the FRIENDS crew will get you through. I promise.
Year 12 is a big year filled with expectations, emotions and end-of-year farewells. It is equal parts frightening and fantastic.
Please remember that exam results will not define you and that leaving behind a world of scheduled recess and lunch breaks is actually pretty ace.