For Year 12 student Caitlyn Todoroski, there was no chance she would quit her extracurricular activities in her senior years of high school.
"I think a big part of doing the HSC is staying grounded and still doing the things you love and not putting your life on pause for the exams," she said.
Todoroski is a committed rock climber, working part-time at a local rock climbing gym, and was vice-captain of her school.
At school, it was important for Todoroski to create a supportive culture for younger students.
"It was really nice to create that environment that made me feel really comfortable as a junior. I wanted to do that for younger students as well."
Todoroski's choice to continue with these pursuits is backed up by research. Participation in extracurricular activities is widely acknowledged as contributing to positive academic outcomes while improving school attendance and social development.
For some students, however, the pressure to do well at the HSC can lead to them cutting back on or dropping out of the extra-curricular activities they have been involved in during high school.
In contrast, Todoroski found that continuing these commitments meant she got more out of her time.
"A big part for me was scheduling, so I would always break my day into chunks and really take advantage of my free periods at school, in the library and work hard there," she said. "It helped me because when I had an hour to do school work, I would get stuck into it."
Now at the end of her time at school, Todorski sees the experiences she had as vice-captain as some of the most fulfilling during her six years at high school. Supporting her fellow students during lockdowns in 2021 was a focus for her tenure, and this included organising days for sports, wellbeing and affirming students' identity.
"As captains, our main goal was to increase the morale of the students at school because it was such a tough time, so to celebrate the identity of our students and make them feel comfortable was really exciting for us."
As Todorski approaches university, her commitment to extracurriculars will be part of her life after school.
"I would love to find some ways where I can incorporate representing students into my studies, and a big demographic of climbers are uni students, so I'm excited to be part of that when I start uni."
There's no doubt the HSC can be an intense and difficult year, so Todoroski advised it is worth knowing who you can reach out to support in the midst of it all.
"It's totally OK to ask people for help, whether that's an RUOK? teacher or taking a walk with friends or family, that's all really important."
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