How to approach VCE
I’m sure a lot of you are sitting at home right now, excited but nervous about the year ahead. Let me be honest with you: year 12 is going to be tough. You’re only going to get out what you put in. There’s going to be stress and drama and unexpected turns. There’ll be long hours at the library and even more hours locked away in your room. But there’s also going to be fun and craziness and excitement. I know it’s a cliché, but this year truly is a marathon rather than a sprint, and you have to pace yourself. I know kids who went out way too hard and way too fast and by the middle of the year were completely burnt out. You want to be feeling fresh and ready by the time September comes around. There were a few things that really helped me to stay focused and sane during my final year of school, and I’d like to share them here with you. For me, these 6 factors were essential for staying happy and healthy, and they undoubtedly helped me to fulfil my potential during the VCE.
1. Routine – Have a solid, planned-out routine set up early in the year. Work out how much time you have outside of school and extra-curricular commitments. Schedule time each day for homework, study, revision. Schedule exercise, time with friends, and relaxation time for yourself. And after all that make sure you have still have time for a solid 8 hours of sleep! It’s important to make adjustments and revise your schedule if you find that it isn’t working out. I would suggest that sleep and relaxation time are two of the most important things on your timetable, so try not to cut them out! A regular routine will help keep you on track and make it easier to hit deadlines with minimal stress. It will also assist you in cutting out procrastination! If you’re ever overly stressed or feel like you need time off, it’s alright to take a night off! Just commit to it and really take the whole night off. Don’t think about work at all. Otherwise you’ll still be stressing and you won’t be able to properly relax.
2. Exercise – I cannot stress enough how important regular exercise can be for a VCE student. Given all the time spent on homework and study, I know it can sometimes seem difficult to squeeze anything else in. Trust me though, if you just find 30 minutes a day to go for a run, ride your bike, have a swim, play footy or whatever you like to do, you’ll be so much better for it. Your head will be clearer, you’ll have more focus, and you’ll be so much more productive in your study time. Exercise allows you to just shut your brain off and take some time out for yourself. It allows you to spend all that pent up energy that comes from sitting in the classroom all day. A tired body will mean a much better sleep too! It’s just 30 minutes. Drag yourself out of bed a little earlier in the morning, or schedule some time as soon as you get home from school. I promise you won’t regret it!
3. Sleep – Sleep is one of the key factors in having a good final school year. I know it can be tempting to pull all-nighters, cramming as much information into your head before SACs, exams and the like. This kind of thing can actually be counter-productive though. I’ll concede that sometimes it might be necessary to stay up late to get things done, but if you manage your time well there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get a decent amount of sleep each night. I needed at least 8 hours a night to function properly; whatever your number is, make it a priority to get a solid sleep. Give yourself a cut-off point and stick to it. Just put your books away once it gets to a certain time. Studying on late into the night when you’re super tired can be a waste of time – the information is probably not really sticking in your head. Just stop and continue on the next day when you’re fresh and ready to learn again. I found it useful to take about 30 minutes before bed, just to chill out and unwind before you sleep. Watch TV, read a book, whatever you like to do to relax. Your head will be clear, and you’ll be able to get to sleep a lot quicker.
4. Socialising – Make sure you still find time to hang out with your friends during the year. Remember that you’re all going through the same thing, and you help each other out just by chatting and sharing your problems and stresses. Try to spend time outside during recess and lunch; don’t go to the library to cram in extra study unless you really need to! Taking time out to talk to your mates will be a lot more beneficial in the long run. Organise to catch up with friends outside of school too. There should be plenty of eighteenth birthday parties this year, so take the night off and go have fun. Don’t worry, you definitely have the time!
5. Family – It’s also important to communicate with your family during this year. Don’t shut them out! It’s easy to get angry or frustrated with family members during your VCE. It will be a lot more beneficial for you (and for them) if you let them in rather than pushing them away. Sit down for half an hour each night to have a family dinner and just chat about what you’re studying. Try explaining a concept or an idea or book you’re working with. Give your parents, siblings, grandparents (anyone!) copies of your essay drafts to read. Even if they’re just proof-reading, it’ll have a positive impact on your work and will allow your family to better understand what VCE is all about. Put your timetable and after-school schedule up on the fridge so that everyone knows when you need to be left alone and when they can chat with you. The support of your family can be invaluable, especially when it comes down to the crunch at the end of the year. You might be surprised just how much your family can help.
6. Fun – Just try to enjoy it! When you look back on your VCE, it will hopefully be filled with fond memories. I can honestly say that year 12 was one of the best years of my life so far, despite a lot of stress and drama and everything else that came with it. Get involved with school sport, music, drama, whatever you love to do. Those extra-curricular activities are where you’ll make some of the best memories. I don’t know what it is about year 12, but everyone just seems to become closer. It’s like the VCE is this common enemy, and students band together to take it down. Cliques and groups don’t seem to matter so much; the whole year level is just brought together by this shared experience. The year is going to go so fast. If you can, try to just stop from time to time and let it all sink in. There’ll be so much going on – both good and bad. Try to just enjoy this challenging and rewarding year!
Ok, let’s be honest here. I’m not one to be easily motivated to do things. I’m what you call a part-time-verging-on-full-time procrastinator. Hell, if procrastinating was a career, I’d be rich by now!
But alas, there’s no time left in these last critical months of high school to sit back while you put even the smallest of tasks off because you can’t be stuffed. There’s always that one project, that one piece of writing, that one homework task that you just can’t bring yourself to sit down and do. That’s when you soon discover that you’ve got to find a teensy-tiny ounce of hope and drive in you to complete the unwanted task. Oh, what’s that called again? Ah yes!
So how does one find that motivation to plough through lists of work, practice SACs and exam papers, and write yet another language analysis without going insane?
Well, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’ve always thought admirably of those top 99+ ATAR achievers in my school, the students that score 50s in each subject and the brightest kids in the state that appear on the front of newspapers come mid-December each year. It baffled me for so long that they appeared SO motivated to do all this work! How do they keep pushing themselves? How do they not lose confidence along the way? How do they stay focused for the entire Year 12? And I’ll let you in on a little secret… you can be one of them! Just find the motivation technique that empowers and energises YOU!
Motivation is SUCH a personal matter. It is 110% crucial if you plan on doing well for your final years of school, and once you discover what gets your engine roaring, it’s an invaluable tool you’ll need and keep for life.
Perhaps the most ‘obvious’ motivation for doing well in Year 12 is to get acceptance into your preferred University course, TAFE course, or other career or study pathway. But that’s not enough, in my humble opinion. Plenty of students start off Year 12 with such a great mind frame for the first few weeks or months, and then struggle to keep up the good work. You need to keep your goal as close to mind as possible. Don’t just have a 4-digit figure in the back of your mind or glued onto a pin board. Visualise what it looks like when you’re walking into your dream course, discovering your passion, meeting new people that feel as passionate about what they’re learning as you. Where will your dreams take you? Hold on to those images in your mind. They are pure gold.
If you feel like everything in Year 12 isn’t worth the stress and the effort, think of the holiday that greets you after finishing high school. For some, you might be trekking off overseas for 4 months or even spending a few days at Schoolies! Imagine where you could be in only a few months’ time. What will you be doing, where will you be relaxing, who will you be socialising with, how far will you be travelling? If you give your final year all you got, that break will feel even more rewarding.
Another technique I tried isn’t for everyone, and those that exercise it should do so with caution… but I motivated myself using the big fat F-word: FAILURE. I was emotionally invested in my subjects, so that if I felt that I wasn’t improving my scales, my oral comprehension, or my writing to the standard that I desired, then I would feel like I had failed my teachers. I respected them not only for their expertise, but for their faith and constant encouragement they showed for their students. A healthy dose of nerves and stress is okay, as it can spur you on even more to work harder, persevere and impress.
Year 12 is not a sprint, it is truly a marathon. The best part is, you’re almost there! But if you keep your eyes on the prize and let your friends, family and teachers hand you those water bottles and towels, you can take each part as it comes. It’s not going to be easy, but if you stick to a plan and give it all you’ve got with no regrets, reaching that finish line will be the best feeling in the world!
I’d like to leave you with this. Make the most of year 12. Know that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the marks you were hoping for. But don’t come out at the end thinking that you could’ve done more. Give it your all, remember the points above, and you’ll be satisfied in the fact that you couldn’t have done any better. Honestly, no matter how important your ATAR seems right now, it won’t matter at all once you get to uni. What really matters is knowing that you gave it all you could, and that you filled your year with fun memories alongside all that study. You won’t remember the hours in the library or those spent locked away in your room. You’ll remember chatting with your mates in the library during free period, or mucking around on the oval at lunchtime. Remember to make time for the important things!