School is tough.
Completing important exams and assignments is hard at the best of times, and now is certainly not the best of times. It might feel like the world is crumbling around you, yet somehow, you’re still required to focus on getting good grades and making a certain ATAR. I want you to know that everything will be okay. What you’re experiencing will pass, and your ATAR will not define your future.
I went through high school at a time that was not conducive to doing well at school, either. COVID-19 was not yet a thing, but I was not able to perform to the best of my ability for other reasons. I was making D grades in most of my subjects and it really shot my confidence. I had to repeat a year, and then I eventually left high school before ever making it to my HSC.
I imagine many of you are going through a similar experience: you want to do your best, but you just can’t right now. You might still be getting okay grades, but you know you could do better. You’re worrying that you won’t make the ATAR you need for the course you want, or perhaps you’re feeling directionless and don’t know what to do after high school. Perhaps you are like I was, and you’re unsure if you can even get through school at all right now!
I left school in 2014 having failed most of my subjects. Despite having no ATAR, I was able to get into a psychology degree that required a minimum 94 ATAR. My high school performance had no bearing on my university performance – I am now in my second year of university and am performing in the top 1% of my peers. I took those years away from school to work on myself, to recover and recuperate, to discover what my passions and my wants were. I was kind to myself, and I allowed myself time.
Many of my friends at university have had similar, unconventional experiences. Many of them, like myself, made it into university without getting their desired ATAR, or without getting any ATAR at all. Many of them took a year (or multiple years) off school before starting their degree. Many of them have changed their degrees after some time. Some of them have left university to chase things they are more passionate about. All of these experiences are valid and normal.
Even when things don’t feel like they are going how you planned them, embrace uncertainty and self-discovery. Be kind to yourself and focus on the aspects of your life and studies that you can control. Discover what works for you. Know that your performance is not always a direct reflection of your effort. Know that your marks may not always be what you want them to be. Know that it will be okay anyway. Trying your best is enough.
If you are severely affected by COVID-19 or other circumstances and it’s impacting your grades, I suggest looking at alternate university entry pathways as a Plan B. Click here for a guide by Macquarie University on alternate university entry pathways. For extra support, please don’t hesitate to contact the Centre for Effective Living for assistance.
Naomi works at the Centre for Effective Living as Assistant to the Director (Valerie Ling). She is in her second year of an undergraduate psychology degree at Macquarie University. Naomi hopes to eventually work with families and children with behavioural disorders.