A common misconception about the HSC is that every minute must be devoted towards study and extracurriculars that will make your university application look appealing. However, I found this to be completely false! Whilst work-life balance is crucial, indulging in our passions and interests is just as important.
Volunteering allows you to discover what you find enjoyable and fun, allowing you to take off the stress of the HSC and even consider pursuing a career that includes the skills learned in that volunteering experience! It also gives you a great opportunity to make friends and develop a support system when school gets too overwhelming, or to meet new people who are able to help you. And this work-life balance gives a better glimpse of what your future may look like! All of which make me believe that volunteering is a great learning experience for your community, environment, and self.
For many senior students, you are met with a question that used to make me want to curl in a ball and stay in my room forever: “What are you planning on doing after school?” And if you’re anything like me, I’d just say that I was interested in studying the humanities in university and leave it at that. Sometimes I’d even lie and make up a course to appear calm and collected when really, I had a million courses in my head.
I personally found volunteering to help with this as I chose to volunteer in areas I was interested in. And in these experiences, I was able to learn skills and have a glimpse of what I would be doing if I pursued said career. For example, being a volunteer tutor helped me decide whether or not I’d like to pursue teaching or a career involving kids or teenagers. Or allowing me to develop a deeper interest in the subject I was teaching and consider studying a course, going to TAFE or working in that field.
I think what is important to note though, is to volunteer for activities in your areas of interest, rather than a place your dream university would find attractive. Now I’m not saying not to volunteer for those experiences to attract them to your application or that it will guarantee you a career choice but that may help you find what you think would be enjoyable as work in the future.
Regardless of whether or not you end up studying that course or going into that field, volunteering gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people and develop a great support system, bringing you closer to you and your community. I personally found this to be extremely helpful during my final year as the HSC got more and more overwhelming. And for the students that enjoy talking to people and having time to unwind – especially after a big assignment – volunteering is a great place to make friends and sometimes even bond over the stress of the HSC!
I volunteered in my youth group and local church during my senior years and despite not always being able to turn up for events, I always knew I had friends that supported me. Whether I was unable to attend because of work or a last minute task, my youth friends were great in encouraging me to be both proactive and motivated with schoolwork.
I also found it easy to make friends as we were all compatible and shared the same interest/religion, allowing me to have this really great support system and remind me that I was more than a student and that life was more than the HSC.
I think that something HSC students sometimes forget is that the HSC is not your entire life, but merely a part of it. Our senior years are only 2 years in our 13 years of schooling – that’s a really long time! And whilst it is important to prioritise it, especially for those choosing to pursue tertiary study, I think it’s so much more crucial to understand that our lives do not have to stop and focus on a singular event.
What I’m trying to say is that we don’t just have to be HSC students! We can be tutors or youth leaders, a community environmentalist helper or representative, translator, library volunteer, etc. And for those with not much spare time, these volunteer experiences may simply be casual! They can range from weekly, monthly – even occasionally to suit your schedule!
I think it also allows us to have a glimpse of what our future could look like as we have to balance work, school and our personal lives. I found myself being able to balance this all out. This helped make my high school experience enjoyable, productive and worthwhile, as it helped me get used to this lifestyle.
And yet, despite the benefits of volunteering, sometimes, it’s just not possible for everyone! That’s okay! If you need a break from volunteering or extracurriculars to focus on school for a while, that’s perfectly fine. But don’t completely abandon your interests because it is what you assume would reduce the chance of universities from accepting you, or to study and not have fun!
Regardless, I hope you choose what is most enjoyable and beneficial for you! Everyone is on their own journey, and some people aren’t too interested, invested or focused on volunteering. So I wish you best of luck!