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Managing Year 12: the Burden of Expectation

Wednesday 4th, August 2021

Katelyn Smith

Katelyn completed her QCE studies in 2020 with an ATAR of 98.40, and now studies a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) at UQ. In this article, find Katelyn’s top tips for managing Year 12, based on her own experiences.

By the end of year 12, I was convinced that academic-based anxiety was simply part of my personality. It was as if stress and I were a two-for-one deal.

As soon as high school started, I knew I wanted to do well. At the beginning, the expectations I faced were solely self-inflicted. However, as time went on and my grades began to climb, my success was recognised by others and the expectations I faced were no longer simply my own. I struggled a lot as a result of the pressure to please those around me. Yet, this didn’t need to be the case, and I hope that this doesn’t have to be the case for you.

Tips on how to manage Year 12 - ATAR Notes

Having started studying at university, I have learnt a lot about how to manage these expectations so that they become less anxiety-inducing. In this article I will share with you 5 tips you can keep in mind to help ease the burden of expectation:

#1 Practise self-compassion
#2 Foster a resilient mindset
#3 Reduce stress
#4 Learn for the sake of learning
#5 Don’t let school devour your life

Practise self-compassion

Your marks are not worth sacrificing your health and wellbeing. Repeat after me, your marks are not worth sacrificing your health and wellbeing.

For many, year 12 can be a time of great stress. It is for this reason that it is so important to take care of yourself! I’m talking both your mental and physical health. The most important relationship you will ever have in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. So be kind. Be forgiving. Be understanding.

You will not be perfect – no one is. You will make mistakes – that is an important part of life and of the process of learning. What does taking care of your mental and physical health and wellbeing look like?

Getting enough sleep

Sleep is honestly so underrated! In year 11, I was running off of a grand total of 3-4 hours a night. Let me tell you, I was not feeling good at this time in my life. I was tired, and moody, and forgetful. I was no longer enjoying school because it simply felt like a burden. In grade 12, I decided to make a change.

Tips on how to manage Year 12 expectations

Now, this may sound counterintuitive, but I got better grades by studying less. What was the change I made? I traded those extra hours of study to get a full 8 hours of sleep every night. It was life changing!

Getting some exercise in

Now you don’t need to go spending all of your money on gym memberships and a nice pair of lululemon leggings. Getting some exercise in can be as simple as going for a 15-minute walk once a day. That’s all I did during the external exam period, and it was such a great stress-reliever.

Drinking enough water and eating brain-fuelling foods

Fuelling your body properly is so important. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat cake and ice-cream – you can still enjoy those things (and you should definitely treat yourself every once in a while, because you deserve it! ;)). Just try to fuel yourself well so that you can function at your best.

Foster a resilient mindset

Fostering a resilient mindset can be an important step in taking care of your mental wellbeing. It can be as simple as rethinking how you view mistakes. Rather than seeing them as a sign of failure, view them as lessons to be learnt and opportunities to grow and improve. Mistakes are good – important even. You learn the best from making mistakes.

How to manage Year 12 expectations

It helps to remember that there is no deadline for success. If you don’t receive the grades you want at the end of the year, it doesn’t mean that you won’t succeed in life. How you are performing now is not indicative of how you will perform in the future. Your results are not the be all end all – they are merely a quantitative representation of your relative performance during a time that is particularly stressful and overwhelming for many. Further, your results can be impacted by so many factors out of your control and should not be viewed as a measure of intelligence or self-worth.

Reduce stress

Stress shouldn’t always be viewed in a negative light as it isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, there is a certain level of stress that keeps you alert, engaged, and challenged. It is at this level that you will experience optimal performance. Stress does, however, become an issue when it is no longer easy to manage. When we find ourselves struggling to undertake everyday tasks, that is when it is an issue. For many, the expectations placed on us by others can be a major source of stress. Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to help to manage this stress:

Create a schedule

Our brains love, love, love routine! Having a schedule that we stick to can benefit our lives in so many ways – in particular, it is helpful for reducing stress. In times of unpredictability and uncertainty, schedules can give us a sense of control and structure which can ultimately aid us in reducing our stress levels and improve focus and productivity.

Take care of your mental and physical health

I would like to reiterate this point and I think it is incredibly important!

Speak up when in need

Speaking up is so important. If you are dealing with a lot of stress or experiencing an overwhelming amount of negative thoughts it is important that you speak up so you can get the support you need. Some services that can help you in times of need are:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 (phone), 0477 13 11 14 (text), online chat
BeyondBlue: 1300 22 4636 (phone), online chat, email
headspace: website
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (phone), online chat, email

Learn for the sake of learning

Numbers are overrated. In high school I got sucked into excessively worrying about every single mark. It got to the point where my performance was being impacted by the high levels of anxiety I was experiencing. I forgot about the joy that the process of learning brought with it. Yes, getting good marks feels good, but it certainly doesn’t feel as rewarding as actually learning, understanding, and remembering the content.

Try to not focus so much on what others want you to achieve and instead of setting yourself the goal of getting, let’s say, 20/20 on your maths test, try setting yourself the goal of just learning the content. Forget about numbers and focus on what you are at school to do: learn. You will likely find that if you are truly focusing on learning, you will end up developing the skills necessary to do well.

How to manage the burden of Year 12 expectations

Instead of aiming to get 100% on an assessment piece, aim to understand 100% of the content. You will find that good grades will follow, even if you didn’t make them a goal.

Don’t let school devour your life

It is important that you maintain a life separate from your studies. Hang out with your friends, dedicate some time to devoting yourself to a TV series, explore different hobbies… Give yourself time to take your mind off of school. Give yourself time to forget about any expectations and all of the stress that comes along with grade 12. While this period is certainly a significant one, it is not the be all end all.

The burden of expectations can be one that is tiresome to carry. But there is one thing you must remember: you are capable. Persistence, internal drive, and discipline are so important when it comes to doing well in year 12. You can achieve anything you put your mind to. With that being said, I wish you all the best of luck for your final year of schooling. Whilst this can be a particularly stressful time, I hope you are all able to make memories and have fun along the way 🙂

Need some extra guidance with your studies?

Don’t forget to check out the forums for access to a plethora of resources and places for discussion. Here you will find a wonderful community of people who are more than willing to help you navigate any challenges you may be facing. If ever you have any question, the forums are a great place to seek out answers! Also, make sure to head to the free notes section for extra resources.


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