Top 10 things to do before finishing high school

You've just started the school year again, and for some of you, Year 12 may make you want to quit education forever. But high school can be a pretty sweet time in life. What’s unfortunate is that often you don’t appreciate just how great it is until you’re out the other side, as you wonder why no-one gives you scheduled recess breaks anymore. Melissa chatted with recent high school graduates to find out what they miss the most and how to make the most of your final year.

1. Enjoy your friends

Getting to see your friends on a daily basis, courtesy of the school’s organisational skills, is seriously the greatest thing ever. Soon you’ll all be at different unis with different part-time jobs, and organising regular catch ups will be like organising the Apollo Mission. While you might be keen to cram your last weeks at school with long overdue prep for those looming exams, don’t skip out on lunch times and free periods spent chilling with your friends – you’ll miss these days when they’re gone.

Another awesome and really unique thing about school is the opportunity to make friends with people you wouldn’t usually hang out with, just because you’re all there in the one place. A couple of years down the track, most people only have a handful of friends from school that they see regularly – so make the most of opportunities to hang out with that buddy who’s not in your close group of friends but who is an absolute crack up. In a few years you’ll bump into them at a 21st party and remember how much fun you guys used to have.

2. Make the most of your teachers

These guys and their homework tasks might feel like the bane of your existence right now, but one day when you get a lecturer who spends 3 hours clicking through 100 Powerpoint slides while speaking in a heavy accent and can’t remember your name, you will look back on your high school teachers as the cat’s pajamas. School teachers invest an incredible amount in us – they know our individual strengths and talents, they know our personalities, they know our individual needs. The size of university means that often it is just too big for this level of personal attention – so make the most of it while you’ve got it! Ask your favourite teachers for advice, whether it be about your exams, your future career, or general life stuff.

Also, don’t forget to thank your teachers before you leave. If there’s a teacher who has meant a lot to you during your school life, nothing will make their day more than a simple thank you.

3. Leave your mark

Now I’m not condoning graffiti here. That’s definitely illegal. But I’m not necessarily saying you would be a bad person if you left some small piece of yourself somewhere around your school. I engraved my initials on a tree in the playground. I subsequently received a detention. But one day, when I’m grey haired and nostalgic for my youth, I will return to that tree and I will feel warm and fuzzy inside. Alternatively, you could just be a great students and leave a permanent mark in people's heads, instead of the school's trees.

4. Have some co-curricular fun

You might have heard about the co-curricular smorgasbord on offer at uni – how they fly you to Ultimate Frisbee competitions on the Gold Coast and how they have Captain Planet societies with free T-shirts. What you might not have heard is that it can be much more difficult to get a seat at this co-curricular feast than it is at school. The sheer humungousness of university can make it a challenge to actually find the organisations who offer these delights – and when you do locate them, it can be intimidating to just rock up without a mate. Take advantage of getting involved when the going’s good at school – from Model UN meets to Saturday rugby – everything’s about to get 10x larger at uni.

5. Create a discussion forum

Before you’re sent into the lonely country of that study period right before the big exams, set up an online discussion database with your class mates so that you can share questions and ideas in the lead up to exams. If you’ve got even a mildly tech-savvy teacher, you might like to get them in on it to answer any last minute queries and stop you having a late night meltdown the day before your exam.

6. Find out what helps you relax

Before you board that roller coaster that is exams, find out what helps you to relax. It might be a certain mind-numbing TV show that lets you completely switch off, a jog around the block, a hot (water-saving) shower – whatever floats your boat. But find that thing now, while you’re still feeling semi-sane, so that you can use it if ever you slip into freak-out mode.

7. Apply for a job

OK so if me telling you to graffiti didn’t sound crazy, this idea certainly will. A summer job is probably the last thing on your mind with exams looming. But as soon as pens go down, all of you who have just finished Year 12 will be on the hunt for a job to fund their holiday frivolities – giving you maybe just a few competitors for your dream job. If there is one place you would absolutely love to work, think about sending them an application now before the craziness of exam prep really ramps up. Give them your availabilities for after you’ve finished your exams, to beat the rush and impress them with enthusiasm.

8. Do some realistic goal setting

Getting into your dream degree is hard for anyone, so beginning setting out your Plan A for uni as well as your Plan B. Do some research about whether your dream degree is available at a different university with a lesser ATAR. Or what your options are for transferring as well.

But don't forget to strive for the best as well! Start assessing opportunities to apply for a scholarship. If you're interested in the army, start looking at how you can combine studying and military service. If you're interested in sport, see if you can secure a scholarship at a uni to study part-time while you pursue your sport professionally. If you're academically gifted, start looking at your options. 

9. Spend some quality time with the fam

Leaving school is not just a big change for you – it can be pretty hard on your parents. They’ve invested the last 13 years of their life rearing you and getting you to school – and now you’re about to take a new leap without them. While they are most likely celebrating, this also spells the end of any special treatment. Take advantage of it while you can; and by that, I mean spend some quality time with them to thank them.

10.  Get in on student discounts

Student discounts are the greatest, and you will get them in uni too. But just in case you were planning on buying a Macbook in the next few months, before you head to uni or away on your gap year, do it now while you’ve still got a student card.

So what do you miss the most about high school?

“I miss having all your friends around, just always there, without having to organise catch ups.” – Raff, Arts I

“I miss having a routine that you just show up for and don’t have to think about.” – Kate, Arts/Law IV

“I miss the ease with which you could build relationships – it was a central place, so there was no effort in making friends. You had heaps of opportunities to connect with people that that you didn’t think you would usually be friends with. Also sport and extra-curricular stuff – you have to make so much more of an effort to be involved in this stuff when you’re out of high school. In school, it’s all there for you.” – Sarah, Medicine I

“I wish I had been myself more while I was in high school – I was a bit of a follower. [If you’re in year 12 now] do your own thing, do what you’re interested in and what you believe in, be who you want to be, because the social stream of Year 12 is going to run out.” – Josh, Arts (Criminology)/Social Work III

“The atmosphere of school athletics, where you can compete with your friends around you and supporting you. There’s nothing like it after you leave.” – Sam, Medicine II

“Having a shelter from the storms of life – at school, you’ve got people all around you to support you. I miss the familiarity.” – Alix, International and Global Studies II