Year 12 is one the best and worst years of a high school student’s life.

It can feel like your whole life depends upon how well you do in your HSC exam and what ATAR you get.

However, there’s more to your HSC year than a number; the ups and downs you go through are what will shape you!

Hopefully, my top 10 pieces of HSC advice will help you to formulate a plan for the best but most stressful 12 months you may ever have!

Advice #1: It’s not about the ATAR, it’s about the journey
Advice #2: Reward yourself for hard work
Advice #3: Get back up when you fall down
Advice #4: Don’t buy into the ATAR spiel
Advice #5: Work smarter, not harder
Advice #6: Don’t sacrifice your happiness for the HSC
Advice #7: Don’t forget to exercise
Advice #8: Get into entrepreneurship to make your HSC better
Advice #9: Create a legacy
Advice #10: Don’t let your mark determine your self-worth

Advice #1: It’s not about the ATAR, it’s about the journey

The whole process of going through the hard times, stress and sacrificed weekends because of academia is what really shapes you as a person, not your ATAR. 

The HSC isn’t about a chase for a number just to get into university to follow the status quo.

It’s about the highs and lows of the rollercoaster, which represents how the journey is more significant than an exam in your life.

After my Legal Studies exam finished, I realised, ‘I did it, I completed the journey, I’ve got to start the next challenge immediately’.

This made me realise, yes, it’s a relief, but I really miss the climb. Without the challenge, there is nothing.

Advice #2: Reward yourself for hard work

One of the first things you’ll learn is that if you choose to study a subject you don’t like, you learn to hate it.

Naturally, the more you hate something, the less you want to do it.

But you still want the good marks. See the dilemma?

I learnt three things about studying what I hate:
  1. You can get good results while struggling with work you don’t like with some self-discipline;
  2. Doing what you hate is like doing a day job where your life’s purpose does not align to your actions. If you don’t perform at your day job, there are consequences.
  3. Otherwise, choose subjects you know you will enjoy and are passionate about!

I realised this year that you really have to find a passion outside of school. 

The only way to settle for a dreary reality is to find that passion that you can’t stop thinking about. This should be something that you carry with you throughout your life.

Whether it’s your morning jog, your passion for volunteering, or playing a musical instrument, these things will carry throughout your life. Your HSC won’t.

Reward yourself with the things you do enjoy as an incentive for completing the things you don’t.

Advice #3: Get back up when you fall down

When you’re in year 10 and 11, life is easy. You don’t have to worry about much as your marks aren’t forging your future and setting it in stone.

Then suddenly, HSC kicks in and things starts to get real.

The ATAR causes a lot of stress and worry for the majority of HSC students. There is constant pressure from family and society to perform well and get into tertiary education.

Bad marks, constant criticism feedback, slips in rankings – these are all things that happen during the HSC.

However, this is what makes an individual have thicker skin. With every beat and blow, you’ll learn how to stay standing, and even better, how to deal them back.

The reality is that HSC is like UFC: Everybody loses here and there. Yes, even the 99 ATAR Achievers or Top of the State have been defeated in a battle here and there.

Advice #4: Don’t buy into the ATAR spiel

You’ve heard them all – your ATAR is your key to success; that to succeed in life, you need to get 90+; you’ll only succeed if you study at one of the Group Of Eight universities in Australia (UNSW and USyd in NSW). 

But put it this way: employers don’t care about your ATAR. They care about your achievements.

The ATAR is a ranking for you to get into a university. To put it simply, it’s purely a ticket into a university, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the stage door, the fire exit or the goods lift to get into the party.

To be honest, I’ll be lucky to get at least 80 as I wasn’t really the most academic student at school. It simply wasn’t my strength even though I put a lot of effort into my work throughout the year.

I came to a point where I realised it wasn’t all about the ATAR and that being involved in extra-curricular activities was just as important. 

That being said, whilst it exists, and whilst you’re putting your time and effort into it, don’t put that time to waste.

Advice #5: Work smarter, not harder

During my Legal Studies exam preparation, each time I did a practice essay, I spent an unnecessary amount of time collecting case studies for my topics the night before the exam.

But let’s be honest, that was a pretty bad strategy. I was working harder than I needed to instead of taking the shortcut of working smarter.

I realised that it was one of biggest mistakes to keep throwing out essays I already got marked which were high quality and could be reworked for future essays.

In reality, I could have gained more marks by spending more time on piecing together good essays than writing new ones from scratch.

Whatever tasks that need to be completed, it can probably be done in a much more efficient way than the way you’re doing it now.

Here are some great articles to read on how to do just that:

7 Day Study Plan for HSC Standard & Advanced English

7 Day Study Plan for HSC Ancient History

7 Day Study Guide for Legal Studies

7 Day Study Plan for HSC Biology

Advice #6: Don’t sacrifice your happiness for the HSC

A lot of people during the HSC are not their usual selves due to abnormal stress levels and constant worrying about getting into university with a good ATAR.

I remember watching a Gary Vaynerchuk video and he said, “Your happiness is so much important…you can lose a shit ton of money and still be happy.”

I never really let the HSC affect my well being. But there were times where I felt my spirit was crushed by it, especially during October when studying for the HSC exams constantly. 

It’s important to recognise when you’re not feeling yourself. If you’re not, check in with someone who can help:

Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800

headspace – https://www.headspace.org.au/

KYDS Youth Development Service – kyds.org.au – (02) 9416 0900

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Advice #7: Don’t forget to exercise

Exercise is a great way to not just keep in shape but can clear your mind. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel super good!

Around exams, students often resort to sweet, sugar-filled foods. These are not only bad for your health, but sugar rushes give excess energy which are counter-productive for any kind of focused work.

Exercise, more than any Red Bull or coffee, will give you the energy you want to keep you focused!

Advice #8: Get into entrepreneurship to make your HSC better

I was destined to go to uni straight after school to do a commerce degree and pursue a life as a corporate employee. I would earn a 6 figure salary in a job I would probably hate.

Suddenly, I was introduced into a unique path of life by reading ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’, which ultimately changed my life.

Why? I now know the consequences of slavery in a job I don’t like and a lifetime of debt.

This led me to focus more on building my foundations of success by reading business and life related books which led me to think more creatively during my HSC year. 

This empowered me to start my own entrepreneurship club at school which led me to intern at a startup straight after HSC.

It’s safe to say, that if I never got interested in entrepreneurship, I may have probably gotten better academic results.

However, I wouldn’t be the person I am today; thinking differently for the innovative world we live in.

Advice #9: Create a legacy

People don’t remember you by what ATAR you got, especially when you get to uni where no one will ever ask you about.

If I had to choose to have only one quality between smart and kind, I would choose kind because there are too many smart people in the world.

Instead of focusing on my studies at a 100% level, I created a legacy at my school.

I did this by giving up my most valuable resource of time by volunteering, running a entrepreneur club, and becoming a mentor for the younger years.

Small gestures can mean much more than academic results as there is a sense of fulfilment through helping others. 

Advice #10: Don’t let your mark determine your self-worth

Your self-worth is not determined by your mark.

There is this ill-informed concept ingrained within society that people value themselves on what ATAR they get, what uni they go to or what mark they got in an assessment. 

Yes, it makes life easier, but your life is characterised by what you’ve done for the world.

What I always say to myself is that no matter whatever mistake you make, your self-worth doesn’t change.

My confidence in life comes from my constant strive to be a good person who is kind hearted to others.

Parting words of HSC advice to current students

To the current Year 12 students, I just want dedicate this section to you.

I’m not going to play it down – the next year is really going to make you grow as a person.

You’re going to face hardships, mental blocks, setbacks and arguments with friends and family.

It will be a very hard year not only for you, but for loved ones around you as they endure the pressures hand-in-hand with your ups and downs.

The hardest part of any journey is the final challenge: the HSC itself.

October is one of most hectic months a young adult can endure. You will be doing more studying that you’ll ever need to do in your whole life.

But try and put this all into perspective and remind yourself, “I’m going to be fine no matter what”.

But once this is all done, it’s a big relief as you just reached the top of the mountain.

I hope you enjoyed reading the article and the HSC advice becomes useful to you in the upcoming year. I wish you the best of luck and try the best you can! Effort is what matters in order to achieve a meaningful self-discovery.

Looking for some extra help with your HSC studies?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC coaches and mentors!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today!

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at info@artofsmart.com.au or check us out on Facebook!


Fresh out of high school, Art of Smart Guest Blogger Ricky Studencki has a mission to introduce an unconventional way of thinking to the world in order for people to find their life purpose. He is passionate about travel, technology, sports, reading and sneaker culture. In 2017, Ricky went on a gap year to Israel to intern at starts up for 6 months. Having strong social awareness, Ricky dedicated his time during HSC in building a legacy in establishing his school’s inaugural entrepreneur club. Through hard work and dedication, Ricky won his school’s most prestigious prize “Mensch of the Year”.