HSC 2021: Finishing school in lockdown

Sydney's Dhruv Hariharan and Satvik Gupta share their experiences.

Reading Time: 4 minutes


The class of 2021 talk COVID and (high school) tests.


Name: Dhruv Hariharan

ATAR: 99.95

Subjects: Physics, Chemistry, Maths Extension 1, Maths Extension 2, English Advanced, German

School: Knox Grammar School, Sydney

Results/Special Awards: Tuckwell Scholarship at ANU, Bronze Medal in the International Physics Olympiad (IPhO), NSW State Debating Team

Uni Course: Bachelor of Philosophy – Science (Honours), ANU


Name: Satvik Gupta

ATAR: 99.90

Subjects: Maths Extension 1, Mathematics Extension 2, Physics, Chemistry, English Advanced, Economics

School: Baulkham Hills High School, Sydney

Results/Special Awards: Band 6 in Maths Extension 1, Mathematics Extension 2, Physics, Chemistry, English Advanced, Economics

University/Course: Bachelor of Actuarial Studies (Co-Op Program), UNSW


With your Year 12 now behind you, you’ve probably had opportunity to look back at it all with some wisdom. What did you learn about yourself in the year 2021?

Dhruv: I was surprised how much I could push through when it came down to it, since I hadn’t been faced with the same level of stress before. At the same time, I got to understand my limits, and when I needed to stop and take a step back from studies. It also gave me a sense of direction with what I wanted to do in the future, which is science research.

Satvik: I understood more about how I learn best. Unlike the majority of my friends, I preferred studying earlier in the morning before school instead of staying up at night. I also learnt that I performed better in my exams when there was some form of pressure that I placed on myself such as deadlines. This helped me remain organised and balance my time between subjects so that nothing was left to the last second.


The past two years have caused a lot of uncertainty for students. How did you go about your studies while adapting to a changing health environment?

Satvik: It was difficult, and (we saw) increasing amounts of uncertainty. However my ability to focus on what I could control positively impacted my results. I chose not to worry about the number of daily COVID cases or new restrictions. I knew I did not have the power to change our health environment, and so I shifted my energy towards my study goals and performing to the best I could. This allowed me to remain focused and motivated.

Dhruv: With the uncertainty around when exams were likely to be held, the key was to pace myself to keep up my motivation. There isn’t one single way to study – finding something that works and sticking with it was essential. I’m a big advocate for the Pomodoro technique of studying harder for shorter intervals, broken up by short breaks.


Young people are becoming increasingly aware of news and political affairs. What were your main news sources throughout the year?

Satvik: I used a mixture of traditional media (The Daily Telegraph) and social media accounts. On Instagram, the @dailyaus and @guardianaustralia were constant, reliable sources of information. I also read the AFR weekly to keep up-to-date with major global economic and business news which helped my study of economics at school.

Dhruv: Honestly, I was far less socially conscious this year than I would have liked, mostly since I was focusing on studies, but partially to avoid the seemingly endless stream of bad news. I still try to get my news from a range traditional media like Michael West, The Conversation, and news.com.au. The 11 AM daily conference by the Premier also became a staple.


After online classes, are you Team Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout or other?

Dhruv: As much as I hate to follow the crowd, Zoom has been my go-to for the past year. Changing the background is a great way to break up the monotony!

Satvik: Without a doubt, Team Zoom!


What extra-curricular activities, hobbies, or TV shows helped you through the past two years?

Satvik: Despite continuous restrictions and lockdowns, I was able to maintain my passion for cricket and soccer. I’m a strong advocate of maintaining physical activity while studying for the HSC. I also tried to be involved in extracurricular activities at school as a School Prefect and participated in the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award which helped me remain connected with my peers. I also loved watching TV shows such as Brooklyn Nine Nine, Suits and Money Heist.

Dhruv: I’ve loved debating throughout my time at school, and luckily, I could continue that through lockdown online. Other than that, my go-tos are normally Seinfeld and Brooklyn Nine Nine on Netflix.


Do you think nerds rule the world?

Satvik Gupta: I don’t think anyone can rule the world. It would be much too difficult!

Dhruv: They definitely rule the business world (looking at you, Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates!) but they still need to enter politics.


What moments from 2021 do you remember most fondly?

Satvik: A few of my last moments at school stick out: our Year 12 camp where we went to the beach at sunrise, and our formal and graduation ceremony which was held in person. Another fond moment would be my team winning our school’s annual futsal (indoor soccer) competition with all my friends in the crowd jumping onto us.

Dhruv: My favourite moment was meeting my mates in person after almost 4 months in lockdown. HSC wise, I don’t think I could ever forget the sense of relief after finishing paper 2 of English Advanced (my least favourite subject). Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention Day 5 of the Fourth AUSvIND Test at the Gabba!


What would your advice to future final year students be?

Dhruv: It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday chaos of Year 12, so never lose sight of what you want to achieve. Take the time to stop and ask yourself why you’re doing what you are. Don’t underestimate the need to take time and to enjoy yourself during the year. Studies are important, but so are breaks!

Satvik: Remember it is not the number of hours you study that matters, but how efficiently you spend your time. Place distractions like your phone in a different room when studying and remind yourself that aimlessly scrolling through TikTok and Instagram is not worth it. Prioritise completing past papers and other revision questions in the weeks leading up to your exams so you can pinpoint exact areas of improvement. Apart from that, have fun and enjoy your last year of high school!


Favourite quote from a teacher?

Satvik: “Hospitals need cleaners as much as they need doctors.”

Dhruv: “The HSC is a marathon, not a sprint”


Describe your final year in three words.

Satvik: Demanding. Unpredictable. Rewarding.

Dhruv: Intense. Insightful. Insane.

READ ALSO: SACE 2021: Finishing school in lockdown

Manan Luthra
Manan Luthra
Writer, cricket fan, gin and tonic enthusiast. Emerging journalist passionate about art, sport, and education

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