Up close and personal with the HSC

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SITARA RAMAKRISHNAN reminds us that life is about more than just ATARs  


It is that time of the year as anxious NSW Year 12 students receive their 2013 HSC results and Australian Tertiary Admission Rankings (ATARs) administered by the Board of Studies and the University Admissions Centre. For many students, it marks an intense year’s worth of dedication, perseverance and sacrifice moulded into a number.

As frustrating and demanding as the HSC year can be, the only thing students can do is to try their absolute best. Of course, reaching academic goals would be an incredible feeling knowing the work paid off and career paths are now set. However, despite hard work and commitment, sometimes results don’t always go to plan. Missing the cutoff for my dream course by 0.4 was definitely a good hard slap in the face. But at the end of the day, the ATAR is merely the shortest pathway for students to reach their career goals.

The ATAR will not stop students from pursuing and achieving their dream career paths if they are driven and committed to getting there through other pathways. Sure, it could simply mean a different university for study, or it could even take a year or two longer, but hey, how significant is that in terms of a lifetime?

The HSC year for me was steered by a personal drive and a degree of pressure which felt healthy, it kept me pushing myself to work towards my personal goal even after a few occasions of disappointment. Everyone has a different ATAR aim whether it’s 99.95, 95, 85 or 75 and any of these marks are a great achievement if you tried your hardest. In just about all my subjects: English Advanced, English Extension 1 & 2, Chemistry, Biology and Ancient History, I would never consider myself a ‘fast learner’. You know what type of learner you are and just how quickly you can absorb information. So students, set ample time, consult with your teachers, practice and develop studying techniques that suit your own learning style whether it is writing, lots of colour, diagrams, dot-points or preparing essay scaffolds!

All the above was a personal choice. I wanted to see what I could achieve when I tried my absolute best and put in the hours I did. I was extremely lucky to have such supportive parents who showed no hostility towards my decision to drop mathematics altogether and put absolutely no pressure on me so I felt like I had no external expectations but to fulfil my own. The ATAR is personal and that is how it should be. The subjects you choose, the career path you wish to pursue and the marks you receive should all come down to a personal choice. Any external pressures can be emotionally draining and simultaneously impact on the quality of one’s study and mindset during an exam. So a humble note to parents, if you want your child to succeed, all you need to do is let them make the big decisions and just be there for them. Sure, Extension 2 Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and a career path of medicine may seem like a fantastic choice for your child, but at the end of day, your child is the one that must immerse themselves in substantial periods of these subjects and fields. So students, put aside all this ‘low scaling/high-scaling’ business and do what you find most interesting and the marks and results will undoubtedly follow in the best way.

What I have learnt is that success is not about pleasing or comparing yourself with others, it is not necessarily about receiving the highest ATAR or making the most money either. Success is the result of passion. We can achieve the greatest of things when we find our place of passion in the long spectrum of life’s possibilities and can wake up in the morning, just feeling happy. That’s all it really is and these days just about any passion can result in a career. Whether that is through university, TAFE, medicine, art, business, photography or music, go find it, work for it, grab onto it and never let anyone stop you from achieving true happiness.

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