Students of 2020, this one's for you

This year has been challenging in ways you couldn’t prepare for. We want to take a moment to acknowledge all of your hard work and the ways you’ve adapted. You’ve been navigating the final year of high school during an unprecedented time, and we think that’s something to feel mighty proud of.

No matter what lies ahead, this year will have laid foundations in self-motivation and resilience. This will serve you well not only for future study but whatever path you choose to take.

To offer some words of support and study tips to help you prepare for your upcoming exams, we reached out to current students, Carmen, Mia and Tim for their advice. They’re not only studying through a pandemic themselves, they’re future teachers in the making.

1. Get creative

Studying doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t mean you have to be stuck at your desk all day. By making audio recordings, you can process study notes in a different way and listen on the go.

“If I have to memorise a lot of factual information, I'll record it onto my phone and listen to it while I walk or do chores. This helps me get less screen time and I think it helps with retention when you're listening to something frequently,” Carmen says.

“Playing it back might make you hate the sound of your own voice, but it will definitely stick. This is perfect if you are studying a language!” adds Mia.

2. Use visual prompts

“To consolidate your learning, try making visual posters that you can stick up on your wall. This can help you remember quotes, definitions or key dates. Other summary tools you can use are online quiz tools such as Quizlet. You can sign up for free and make flash cards that you can use in an online game to test yourself,” says Mia.

Tim recommends doing your study ‘offline’, especially after a long period of remote learning. Handwrite your notes, annotate, highlight, colour code, and rewrite. This has a double benefit of practising under exam-style conditions too.

3. Minimise distractions

Are you guilty of going down a social media rabbit hole when you’re supposed to be studying? Don’t worry - you’re not alone.

“The biggest distraction for me is my phone, as I’m always picking it up to check socials and just aimlessly scrolling through it. To combat this, I set out small study time frames (20, 30 or 40 minutes) and hide my phone away to reduce the temptation to pick it up. Once I’ve gone far enough to put my phone in the letter box so I can’t be bothered to go and grab it until I have finished a task,” says Mia.

4. Use your support networks

Whether it’s from your friends, teachers or via online resources, don’t be afraid to ask for support.

“When you get stuck on a problem or question, create a list of what questions you need help on and seek help. Your teachers are there to answer your questions so don’t be afraid to email them, “Hey, I’m stuck on Question 4 and 5 can we go through how to do it?”. If your teachers aren’t much help, reach out to your peers in your class or post the question in online homework help forums - yes, they exist, you just have to find them,” say Mia.

For Tim, it’s been important to make sure he still makes time to catch up with his friends (via Zoom). He says, “having the support of my friends and spending time relaxing and having fun with them is great for helping me to stay motivated and positive.”

5. Work together

If you need extra momentum, how about joining forces?

“It’s hard studying at the best of times and even harder when you can’t study with peers to bounce ideas off each other and work through challenging questions. If you can’t meet at libraries, I recommend meeting online and setting a time frame to work through a practice exam or to correct and give feedback on each other’s essays,” says Mia,

For added motivation, you can incentivise yourself with a well-deserved team break once you’ve finished your work.

Mia adds,“Even better is after the study session you can relax and watch a Netflix show together or unwind with an online game (virtual Uno?). These connections with friends from school or even other schools will be great to vent about what you’re experiencing as they most definitely can relate to the same things you’re going through.”

6. Step away from the screen

Don’t forget to give yourself some time away from the computer, especially if you’re learning online.

“Remember that you’ll most likely be sitting at a screen all day and I know that it can get very tiresome. Take regular breaks and go for walks (even if it’s around the house). Have a stretch or kick the footy just to get the blood pumping all around your body. Trust me, you’ll feel better will a bit of physical activity and enjoy the time away from the screen,” says Mia.

Tim’s personal tip is to set yourself a defined time each night for personal care and to switch off, “giving yourself time to unwind and to attend to your own welfare is really important”.

7. Set small goals

Not everything has to happen at once. Plan out small, achievable steps that will help you stay motivated.

“I find I can stay positive once I have a feeling of accomplishment, so instead of planning on studying all day and then feeling bad when I can't achieve that, I set myself small goals (like answering a practice question or reading a chapter),” explains Carmen.

It can be easy to lose focus when you’re stuck at home with no structure to your days.

“I make sure that I always have a to-do list so I know exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.  This helps me plan and prioritise how I spend my time - and I also get the morale-boosting thrill of crossing off tasks when I have completed them,” says Tim.

8. Be kind to yourself

It can feel like a rollercoaster, but it’s important to remember that nothing stays the same forever.

“I’ve learned that you’ll have good and bad days and that is totally okay. Make sure you take care of yourself and get enough sleep, drink enough water and schedule time in for activities you enjoy (playing playstation, reading, bike riding). This stressful time now won’t be forever and soon enough you’ll be free from study and onto a new adventure in your life,” says Mia.

One way that you can take care of yourself, is through practising mindfulness techniques.
“I also recommend downloading any mindfulness or meditation apps if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or can’t get focused. There are many free apps such as Headspace, Smiling Mind or Calm. Some of the guided meditation/mindfulness focuses on study and clearing your head which help reduce anxiety before sitting down at your desk or before taking a practice exam,” says Mia.

Tim wishes he reaslied how hard he was being on himself. “I always set myself really high expectations and beat myself up if I wasn't able to meet them.  Looking back, I wish I had been a bit kinder to myself, and appreciated just how much work I, like so many other students, put into my Year 12 studies.”

9. Keep things in perspective

Year 12 is a big year, but there’s so much more to you than your ATAR. One year of your life doesn’t define who you are or where you can go.

Mia says, “In Year 12, I wish I knew that my ATAR score doesn’t limit your options. If you are dreaming about securing a place in a particular course or university and don’t get in, it is not the end of the world. There are options to defer, to reapply, to transfer courses or to even gain work experience. After graduating from high school, it's also worth noting that it's a time that you can be and do whatever you want. Perhaps you’ve wanted to start playing volleyball or want to learn about coding? It’s like a ‘fresh start’ to try new things, learn about yourself and grow as a person. I wish you all the very best of luck for your upcoming exams and the next chapter of your life!”

Tim’s final words of wisdom?

“Year 12 has been made so much harder for this year's cohort due to Covid-19.  Even getting to this point is a massive achievement.  No matter what results you get, you can always be proud of being part of the Covid-cohort; a Year 12 experience that will never be repeated, and which will forever be a reminder of your grit and determination."


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