Life after High School and the HSC from two former Year 12s

By Inara Hossain



Post-graduation can be a confusing time for some people, and it can be quite scary too. To help the Year 12s now on what to expect after the HSC I decided to interview two ex-students from the Class of 2018: Tiffany Fong and Ariyana Hossian, who generously gave their time to answer the following questions.


What are you currently doing after school and how is that going?

Ari: I’m currently in my first year of university, doing a double degree in Politics and International Relations at USyd. My second major is Political Economy but I’m definitely a bit ambivalent about that at the moment. I’m liking IR though, lots of work as you would expect, but I’m passionate about the field and that usually gets me through.


Tiff: I’m currently doing a double degree in Media and Law. Media’s actually what I’m interested in but Law is a little boring at the moment as I’m doing all the foundational units. I’m currently majoring in Media Studies, but like Ari, I’m a little unsure about my major at the moment.


What do you miss most about high school?

Ari: The people. Having spent a lot of time across two different high schools, what I miss most are the people I grew close to and the memories I made. Whilst goodbyes are never really goodbyes, I miss my friends and *of course* things like tutor group. Catching up is hardly difficult but not seeing everyone as frequently can take some adjustment. Like Tiff, my teachers were also a really integral part of my high school experience. The support and care you receive in getting through high school and the HSC is one thing, but they also really influenced the person I’ve become. That’s not something you get as *much* of at uni and I do miss that.


Tiff: I miss the friends that I had there, we’re all still in touch and everything but uni can be kind of lonely, you spend a lot of time by yourself. At school, you know you’ll always see your friends at recess or at lunch, but in uni, everyone has different schedules and it’s not as easy to meet friends, even if you go to the same uni and are in on the same days.

I miss the relationships that I had with my teachers too, you don’t get that as much in university. I got really comfortable with my English teachers, Chemistry teacher and my percussion teacher while in high school and I know they were the reasons that I made it through. Also! My tutor!

Clubs and societies for me aren’t that helpful because of my timetable, I’m only in uni 2 days a week. My travel to uni is a long too so I try to limit how often I’m in.


How did you find the process of choosing a university ?

Ari: For me it came down to figuring out what I was most interested in and going from there. Not an easy process, but over the course of high school, I eventually realised that I had an interest in International Relations, amongst other things. After establishing that, I based my university preferences on subject and which university I felt best catered for that.

Talking to past students, research, open-days--all of that helps but it all comes down to what’s best for you, and with the number of transfers I’ve seen at uni, it really is okay to not know what that means right away.


Tiff: For me, in year 11 and 12 I was actually worried about getting into uni so I went through a bunch of early entry schemes; I did two from Macquarie Uni and I got into those. So when it got to choosing for UAC, I didn’t bother putting Macquarie Uni in, so I thought I might as well use them for something else. I ended up looking mainly at UTS and USyd--and it was a bunch of research really. Figuring out what I don’t like and don’t want to do and figuring it out from there.


How is work in uni compared to work in high school?

Ari: I think Tiff summed it up pretty well, but the one word I’d use to describe it is ‘independent’. Workload depends on what you’re pursuing, since contact hours and the type of work you’ll be doing can really vary. Being in the social sciences, you’re mainly assessed on written assignments, with a heavily reliance on academia and reading. The closest thing to it, in my experience, is extension subjects in the HSC. I took History Ext in Year 12 and uni coursework felt shockingly similar.

I don’t want to make university seem like a hostile environment though, adapting can be a challenge but there are a whole range of support services available, including tutors and lecturers being an email away.


Tiff: In uni you only do the subjects that you’re majoring in for your degree. As I’m doing a double degree with law, I don’t get that many electives so all my subjects are set out for me. I don’t do science and maths anymore at uni, but that means for me that I do a lot of readings. Workload wise, I think it's about the same between uni and high school. We spend about the same amount of time studying and doing work, it’s just that we spend more of it alone. Because I’m doing humanities, I don’t have that many contact hours. So for me I usually have 3 hours in class for each subject, then I’m expected to do 6-7 hours at home. Which is pretty much the opposite in high school, since you spend about 7 hours with your teacher, and then 3 hours at home doing work

Currently, I’m also in a three-year mentorship program with Macquarie that is in partnership with SBS. The spot is limited to 10 students every year and during these three years we learn how to do radio broadcasting, go live on air, do scriptwriting, filming, photography and community engagement. In our third year, we get to do an internship and they arrange positions for us in areas that we are interested in so it’s a massive leg up in the media industry. I think the development of theoretical knowledge and practical skills makes uni a lot more interesting and fun for me.


What happens to your existing friendships?

Ari: I think what you’ll learn eventually after school is the virtue of making time for people. In high school, you were lucky enough to be at the same place as your friends, 5 days a week. With university, there’s a lot more ‘scheduling’ involved. Everyone’s off doing their own thing so it can take that extra effort. That being said, I think existing friendships can definitely remain intact, and even grow.


Tiff: For me personally, no one in my close friendship group went to Macquarie Uni. But in terms of friends themselves, I talk to everyone pretty frequently, maybe once a week, maybe more. I know that if I need help, they’re ready to help me--and that’s something I’m really, really grateful for. Even if we don’t see each other as often, if I text them needing help with something, they will do it.


How is university different to high school?

Ari: Broad question but it really depends on what you're talking about. As cliché as it is, post HSC is probably the first time you get to explicitly explore your passions, whether that involves university or not, so that can definitely be exciting.

Socially, it also really centres a lot around the people you meet and interact with through classes--which (spoiler alert) can be fleeting with each semester acting as a reset button. That’s only the case sometimes though, as plenty of friendships last, and for a lot of people that happens through their course but also through clubs and societies.


Tiff: The biggest difference is the freedom that you get. There’s freedom with your learning and your life in general. If you don't want to go to your lectures or tutorials you don’t have to go, no one is going to question your decisions. So you really have to be doing something that you want to do so that you will go to your classes is really important.


Are there any tips or words of advice for the year 12 students?

Ari: How you leave matters significantly more than how you may have started, and that was some of the advice we got as a cohort last year. It’s a rollercoaster of a week but enjoy it--whether that involves laughter or tears, probably both--these are definitely standout memories.

In terms of the HSC, this may seem like a given but my biggest piece of advice is to take care of yourselves. The content is only one portion of what lies ahead. It may not seem that way, but by this point in the year you’ll know far more than you think you do. What goes hand in hand with all the exam prep in these next few weeks is self-care, both mentally and physically. If there’s one thing I could tell the Year 12 me, it would probably be that. It’s also pretty easy to retreat into isolation but don’t hesitate to use your support system, they’re only an email or a conversation away.


Tiff: It’s the last week of school for all of you and I’m sure there’s a lot of excitement and anxiety that accompanies it. Take lots of photos, take them with your friends and the teachers who you care about. Year 12 was the year I spent thinking “this is the last time I will do this” and that makes every moment seem more precious.

In terms of the HSC, the teachers genuinely want you to do well, so if you need help and you’ve been stuck on something for an hour? You should have emailed them 45 minutes ago. Your teachers genuinely want you to do well, but for them to help you, you must let them what you need too.

It’s going to be okay even if it’s not okay in the end; whatever doesn’t figure itself out, will figure itself out. I didn’t get into the uni that I thought I wanted to go to, but where I currently am turned out to be so much better for me than my first choice.


Any other final words for the Year 12s?

Ari: Congrats on almost making it to the finish line! The road ahead can be daunting and exciting, but things will work themselves out. Your options after graduation, whether it be a gap year, work or getting into your dream course, are genuinely quite flexible. Work hard, keep yourselves motivated, and in case that’s proving difficult just remember that you have months ahead post HSC of potentially doing *literally* nothing. I wish you all the best of luck!


Tiff: Overall, you guys are almost done! Work hard for the last three months of this journey, as after that you have almost four months of complete freedom to do whatever you want to do. I wish you all good luck! Study hard, but make sure you take care of your health, both mentally and physically. Don’t be afraid to take a break if you need it.

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