After years of schooling, it all boils down to this: the HSC. In New South Wales, the Higher School Certificate, known as the HSC, is the highest educational credential students can earn at secondary school. With a great many students aiming to complete it each year (70,270 as of 2017), the HSC is, in fact, the most awarded school-completion credential in all of Australia.
Given its great importance to their future, it’s no wonder that Years 11 and 12 and the HSC can bring with it a great deal of stress and pressure. Combine that with the normal teenage issues faced by students in those final years of high school and you have got a recipe for a challenging year or two.
This time doesn’t have to be so stressful that it detracts from the joy of being young. The support of parents, teachers, and the community can help to make the HSC far easier on students. In fact, these advocates can make all the difference for those studying for their HSC.
Perhaps you’re a parent or even a teacher of secondary school students. You may be wondering what you can do to create the best possible environment in which a student can succeed. How can you provide the optimal support so they can do their best? What strategies can you harness to aid your teen?
There are many ways to offer support and love to your teenager during the HSC. Today, we bring you 9 of them.
1. Encourage them to Stay Active
In times of business and stress, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy. One of the key ways your child can prioritise wellness is through physical activity. Exercise is an integral part of overall health, and it can also serve as a major stress reducer. Encourage your teen to engage in regular movement, whether that’s with a sports team, a dance classes, or simply by going for evening jogs or walks.
Your teen might not feel that they can take time away from their studies to exercise, but they should make it a habit. Remind them that even 20 minutes a day can do wonders for their stress. If your teen understands the mental benefits of exercise, they may appreciate its usefulness even more.
Other aspects of healthy living should also be looked after. Your child needs to be getting enough sleep to support their heavy workload and the added mental stress. Many researchers also believe that teenagers require more sleep in general. So more sleep and quality sleep is a must. This can be a tough endeavour, as your teen has primary control of their sleep. You could, as a parent, set some rules surrounding sleeping hours, but it’s ultimately up to them to get in bed and get that shut-eye. Point them in the direction of relevant sleep resources (like this list of sleep tips for teens), and perhaps make it a habit to go to bed earlier yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to fall asleep when everyone in the house has already gone to bed, and this may be the case for your teen.
Don’t forget the importance of a balanced diet. Regular meals will fuel their bodies and their brains, and it’s a perfect time to throw in some mind-boosting vegetables. But also take time to prepare special treats for your child. During times of intense studying or challenging assignments, a plate of Mum’s homemade cookies might be a lifesaver. Sometimes the best support we as parents can give is via comfort food!
2. Create and Foster Organisation - In School & at Home
The better organised your student is, the higher their chances of success. Being overwhelmed with assignments is worsened when your student has a chaotic schedule or a cluttered desk. Before the school term even begins, set up your teen with all the essential tools to make their life easier. Get them a quality desk in a quiet area of your home. Go on a shopping trip and get them a fully-equipped supply cache. Provide them with organisational tools such as folders, binders, and index cards. Having all of these things on hand makes the HSC process seem less daunting and more within reach.
Do the same for your home and family schedule, as much as is feasible. This is likely going to be especially crucial if you have a large family with multiple children. Having a carefully-set schedule with designated transportation, family events, and activities ensures everyone is looked after. Many households rely on comprehensive calendars to stay on track. If necessary, have a weekly family meeting to discuss the upcoming week ahead. Write down every important detail and make sure every family member has the necessary info.
During this demanding time in your teen’s life, don’t hesitate to offer them extra support, either. Let them know that their needs are extremely important.
3. Ensure They Know What to Expect
One of the primary ways to approach the HSC like a champion is to be fully and unequivocally prepared. They say knowledge is power, and with a somewhat complicated system like the HSC, it’s definitely powerful to know all that you can about how it all works. This is information that will be gleaned during class time from your child’s teachers, and this will cover topics such as what to expect in the exam papers, but both you and your child can go further in deepening your HSC knowledge. There is an endless supply of HSC-related resources available, but for the most official and up-to-date information, the NSW Education Standards Authority website is the final word on all matters HSC.
In year 10, your student can begin choosing their subjects. Read the details on these together so you can make the most informed selections. In year 11 and 12, it becomes more important to understand the rules and processes and to be aware of key dates and exam schedules. These basics will give you and your teen a better grasp of what the HSC experience will entail and you can choose to research deeper for individual topics and such as marking and outcomes.
4. Help Them Maintain Perspective and Stay Positive
Perhaps one of the biggest contributors to stress during the HSC years is that students are told that their futures rely so heavily on the outcomes. It is absolutely critical that you and your student keep a healthy and realistic perspective.
Can the HSC influence future achievement?
Can ATAR influence university admission?
Is HSC success the only path to future achievement?
To your teenager, it can seem like the entire future is riding on the HSC. It’s important that you help them keep a realistic, moderate perspective.
As a parent, you can help take the pressure off. Avoid making ‘all-or-nothing’ statements or focusing too heavily on the outcome of the HSC. Emphasise a school-life balance during years 11 and 12, so that your student isn’t devoting 100% of the energies to obsessing over their performance.
All a student can do is his or her best. Preparation and effort are the tools on the path to success, but they are also the success themselves. Ultimately, the HSC is just a test. It is not a determination of their value or even of the full range of their skills. Tests can be stressful, and not every student best displays their abilities in the exam room.
If your teenager’s HSC results are not what they expected or hoped for, this is not the end of the world. Not even close. Remind them that there are countless ways to excel professionally and personally, and discuss options. They could jump straight into a job or pursue entrepreneurship, start an apprenticeship, attend Tafe. They could use a diploma as a pathway to a degree, or come back to tertiary education later as a mature student. They might also want to save up some money and do a bit of travelling before they start chasing career goals. Life doesn’t end with the HSC result, and it’s so important that even the most book-smart students don’t let their anxieties convince them otherwise.
5. Celebrate Every Success!
The HSC is a journey that lasts a long time. To make it more enjoyable and conquerable, be sure to celebrate your teen’s every success. After all, it isn’t just about the final exams, but about the work that is completed along the way. Congratulate them on a well-written essay or let them know that you’ve noticed they’re doing a really great job of managing their time. Be proud of them for a unique project they have tackled or just for all the hard work they’re putting in. High school is your teen’s full-time job and it can be a tough one.
Your celebrations don’t need to be huge, but it’s meaningful if you do something to mark each occasion. It’s also a great excuse to take some time away from books and studying and have a grand old time. Even something as simple as going for ice cream or to the cinema can be a blast. And chances are your teen will remember these little memories as some of the high points of their HSC years.
6. Point Your Teen Towards Beneficial Resources
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the many, many resources available for both students and parents. With thousands of students pursuing HSC success each year, there is certainly an abundance of information, literature, and assistance. Your child’s school should offer plenty in the way of preparatory information to students, but look around the Internet and the local library, too. Directing your teen towards authoritative information will help them feel more secure and confident about the HSC.
Good resources for your teen are not just those which involve the HSC itself, but other, general tools. For instance, you might provide your child with a book on stress-relieving skills, or even send them a link to a meditation video on YouTube. A couple of minutes of mindfulness or stress-reduction techniques could reinvigorate their young brain and make them feel a good deal better. It’s important to have ways to deal with trying times. Learning how to do so now could be powerful for your teen later in life.
There are other valuable resources you might utilise. Aside from many excellent books on study tips, there are books focused on career guidance. As your child prepares for their HSC they are also planning for their future. Providing them with information about all their options and possibilities could light the way for their path---and serve to reduce the HSC pressure a bit, too.
7. Offer Whatever Support & Assistance They Need
The best way to help your student during the HSC is to simply be there for them.
Sometimes this might mean listening to them complain about their workload or letting them vent about a particularly tough assignment. At such times, they just want to get their tension out and likely aren’t looking for advice.
But there are other ways to support your child and these are going to be different for each individual student. Not sure what they need? Just ask!
Let your teen know that you’re available to help them out with whatever task, no matter how small. Sometimes, your teen may need something as simple as a new set of pens or a pack of paperclips. Or perhaps they need you to look over one of their assignments and provide a bit of feedback from a fresh set of eyes. Be there for what they require, and they’ll be very grateful.
8. Reduce Their Chore Load
Acknowledging the busy time of the HSC, you may want to consider giving your kids a bit of a break. If they have daily or weekly chores, why not take some of them on yourself? Cutting them a bit of slack affords them necessary breathing room, and can prevent a feeling of being overwhelmed. Right now, their chore needs to be school.
9. Let Them Be Young
There's no doubt that academic success is important in youth, in order to open up study and career options opportunities in the future. But enjoying life as a 16, 17 or 18-year-old is also vitally important too, and at the end of the day, these are the memories that will last.
So, even as they strive towards academic greatness, make sure you let your kids be kids. They’ll be adults in the blink of an eye, so allow them to enjoy the last remaining years of their youth.
Encourage them to participate in school activities. These may be once-in-a-lifetime events, and they’re certainly a time of life we can never get back. All too often, teenagers seem to be pushing forward, ready for adulthood and the next great adventure. If you can convince them to bask in their teenage years even for a moment, you’ll be giving them a wonderful gift.