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Just the other day sitting at my desk, with my mango & pineapple scented candle burning, and RHCP’s new album playing, I realised I had inadvertently recreated the exact environment in which late last semester (read: the dwindling hours of Stuvac), I was studying dreadfully hard for my final biology exam.

Instead of causing me to uncontrollably twitch or splutter expletives at the traumatic memories elicited by these familiar smells and sounds, it made me realise: if I can get through biology, I can get through anything (academic-wise). Furthermore, if I managed to beat biology to a pulp (ok fine... it got away with a gentle slap on the hand), you can definitely get through your HSC in one piece. Read on for the How To Survive Stuvac Guide:

Guys, I know what you’re up to. I was in your position this time last year, so there’s no fooling me. I know perfectly well that your timetable for the past few days probably looked something like:

Saturday, 30th September:
First day of Stuvac. I have GOT to give myself a break. I am totally pooped from all the sadness involved in the last few days of school (EVER! Waaaaaaah!!) It’s only fair to take some time off to recuperate, get some liquid into me to replenish all the tears shed during graduation, recover from the hangover I have from the graduation after party... It just wouldn’t be right to study, my heart wouldn’t be in it today, it would be totally wasteful and unjust.

Sunday, 1st October:
See Above

Monday, 2nd October:
Um... hello? Public Holiday! Studying is NOT allowed. I’ll start tomorrow.

Tuesday, 3rd October:
Ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok. Seriously, seriously, seriously today I’ll organise all my notes. There’s absolutely no way I can start studying before I’ve organised all my notes. It would just be silly. Seriously, if I just get all the sorting out done today, I will be set to start my strict studying regime tomorrow, bright and early. Oooh, Mum baked cookies!


Soon there comes a time when you have to remind yourself that the emphasis of Stuvac is on the study, as opposed to the vacation, component.

So you’ve got 3 weeks. It can go by like a flash of lighting, but it’s not hard to make the most of it. Once you’ve organised all your notes (this will only take forever if you LET it!), it might be an idea to make a list of what you need to do, under subject headings. In fact, this too can take an entire day (or two) for the expert procrastinators among you all, so it’s a neat plan to make the list as you go along with the note organisation to save the time.

Once you have the list, the first thing to do is stop freaking out. It looks like a lot, but it can be worked through progressively. I remember staring at my HSC Master To-Do-List in horror and spending entire days just depressed because it was too long and I didn’t think it was humanly possible to complete. Then at the end of any said day I realised if I had just spent ONE HOUR working; doing ONE reading or ONE past paper or making ONE formula sheet, I would have been so much better off. Does this make sense? It may seem impossible but once you get into it, each little thing you do is a step closer to finishing; nothing is wasted, and it is feasible to get it all done!

So now that you’re calm, check your HSC exam timetable if you haven't already and see how big the gaps between your exams are so that you can prioritise your studying. I remember I had 6 exams in the first 2 weeks of the HSC, and then a whole 2 weeks off before my final exam, Art. Consequently, Art completely left my consciousness during Stuvac. However, I don’t suggest you do this unless you are sure you have enough time to study for that particular exam. It’s important to prioritise, and it’s also important to balance your study of each subject. You may think a subject is easy (eg. 2 Unit Maths if you’re doing Extension 1), but you should continue revising and especially do past papers – and time yourself.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you should be studying 10 hours a day, every day, or anything else that sounds ridiculous or uncomfortable to you. If you have been working consistently throughout the year, this will not be necessary. In fact, even if you feel that you haven’t been working consistently throughout the year, stressing like crazy and pulling consecutive all-nighters will only make you tired, worried, and less able to learn. Everyone’s study styles are different - you need to find what works for you and stick to it. My attempts to wake up early and start studying fresh in the morning collapsed around me and I’d end up nursing a coffee and procrastinating until past midday doing goodness knows what. So these days I don’t ask Mum to drag me out of bed at the crack of dawn, because I work far better if I’ve had a good sleep.

This may sound way overstated, but make sure you take (not too) regular breaks and reward yourself when you reach a goal. Go to the shops and buy your favourite lollies to keep you going throughout the days. Don’t sacrifice your favourite TV show (unless it’s on the night before an exam in which case the VCR is your new best friend) - it always helps to be working towards a goal. “Finish Chapter 10 by the time Celebrity Survivor starts!” will definitely help you power through. It always works for me.

And finally, something fun to do (in an allocated break, of course, not as a substitution for studying) - make a list of all the awesome things you’re going to do after your exams are over! Maybe it’s because I’m a daydreamer, but it really got me through the HSC to count down the days until schoolies or our school music tour, and fantasise about the Scrubs marathon I was planning to host, as well as planning the organisation of 4 years of school photos into albums! Having something to look forward to definitely makes the process all the more satisfying.

But above all else…GOOD LUCK! This is do-able. However it may feel right now, it is not the most important thing you will do in your life, and you are not the only person going through it - make sure you talk to your friends and help each other out.

Coming Soon to a Blog near you - How To Survive the HSC. In the meantime, feel free to ask us anything!

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Everything you ever wanted to know about uni but were too afraid to ask....