Student Life

Surviving the HSC


“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.” – Hans Selye

Teenagers will be feeling the effects of stress as the Higher School Certificate (HSC) draws nearer, a test which many believe will determine their future. Some students will have to fight their parent’s expectations and their educational system to get where they want to go.

Twelve years of study has come down to one moment.

The HSC is a credential awarded to secondary school students who successfully complete senior high school levels (Year 11 & 12) in New South Wales, Australia. The HSC is currently developed and managed by the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES).

Last year, 75,767 students undertook one or more HSC course, while 68,004 of those received a Higher School Certificate. Students must complete at least 12 units of preliminary courses and 10 units of HSC courses, with English being the only compulsory subject.

Life as a Year 12 student can bring on different feelings, emotions and experiences such as:

  • Loss of interest in school.
  • Uncertainty in their plans after the HSC.
  • Relationship issues.
  • Getting a driver’s licence and having the opportunity to drive to and from school.
  • Experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
  • Having a job.
  • Being part of a sporting team during and after school.
  • Depression.


Angela is a Year 12 student who will be undertaking her HSC this year. For Angela, school is more important than anything else. “I should be trying hard in my studies and not take them too lightly,” she said.

Angela deals with the HSC workload by taking one thing at a time, and giving the most important things attention first. She considers the HSC to be a big deal for students.

“It’s kind of a terrifying aspect to every year 12 student’s life,” Angela says. “It can either give you a proper future, or it can be the biggest let down of your life.”

Many parent’s place different expectations on their children during the HSC. Some students are burdened by great expectations while others, like Angela, receive support for their efforts regardless of the outcome. “My parents tell me that even if I don’t get a good ATAR, that it isn’t the end of the world,” she says.

As the end of her secondary school life approaches, she has come to a realisation about the friendships she has made through school.

“Certain friends aren’t forever… you only see them 5 days a week and… not everything will last,” she said.

Everyone has their own methods of dealing with stress.  “In order to handle my stress, I take time out by listening to music or even talking to my friends to relieve the stress,” Angela says.


So, here are some tips to remember when dealing with HSC related stress:

  • Having a good environment to study can limit stress with quietness and relaxation.
  • Eat healthy meals.
  • Sleep well and exercise regularly to calm and relax your body for another round of studying.
  • Avoid late night parties and alcohol consumption because you can lose precious hours of sleep and forget things that you tried hard in studying.
  • Recognise the stress and problems or they will overwhelm you when you’re trying to study.
  • Set realistic goals by reducing the amount of things you do in your life.
  • Relax yourself and remember to take breaks or you will overwhelm yourself with stress.
  • Avoid extreme reactions. It’s good not to go overboard when reacting to problems (e.g. instead of being angry, you could just be sad).

If you are a parent and your child is about to sit the HSC, here are some tips to help you support them during this time:

  • Provide a good place to study. Try and make the environment quiet.
  • Provide good meals.
  • Help give your child sensible hours of sleep.
  • Be supportive and encouraging.
  • Avoid confrontations.
  • Take an interest in your child’s work.
  • Try to encourage the balance between work and breaks.
  • Encourage your child to get help from their teachers, school counsellor and fellow students if they are having trouble managing the workload.

For more great tips on how to deal with HSC stress, head over to the following websites:


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