A lot of us spend our final year of high school in a state of constant stress. There’s panic, late nights, cramming and breakdowns. There’s the pressure of suddenly being expected to know what you’re doing, combined with the confusion of actually being in control of your own life for the first time ever. Amongst all that, we have to deal with people telling us that Year 12 isn’t really that hard. Usually, we cop this from adults who are so long out of school that they can’t even remember what it was really like when they were studying.
Here’s the thing- while the jump to Year 12 has always come with increased pressure, the whole experience of Year 12 has changed over the years. Namely, mental health issues amongst students are becoming more prevalent. Sorry to burst your bubble mum, but Year 12 really is that hard.
How is Year 12 different to the rest of school?
Last year, we asked you to describe how you feel (or felt) about Year 12. Alarmingly, 70% of you said ‘stressed’, followed by 66% saying ‘anxious’. Only 30% of students said they felt ‘excited’, which was still less than the amount who said ‘depressed’ (32%).
So yes, according to everyone who has actually experienced Year 12 fairly recently, it really is that hard. This pressure we’re feeling is largely internalised, with 54% saying that the most pressure comes from yourself but families (27%) and schools (9%) are culpable, too.
Because of this, Year 12 students are spending more time at home studying than they have before. Our research shows that 26% of students spend up to an hour each day studying, while 28% spend between one and two hours, and 37% of those surveyed study for more than two hours each day.
The reason for this increased pressure stems from the nature of Year 12 and specifically, the assessment structure and final examinations. Final exams like the HSC (or VCE, WACE, etc.) can be categorised as a high-stakes assessment, where a student’s performance will determine their entry to university, which may in turn affect their career path and earning potential. What students see this to mean is the entirety of their schooling lives boiling down to a single number that affects the next three to six years of their lives, and possibly the rest of it. It’s no wonder they don’t want to fuck it up.
How is Year 12 now different to before?
Year 12 has always been more stressful than the rest of high school, but it’s been getting worse as the years go by. A report released by Mission Australia in 2017 has shown that 23% of young Australians aged 15-19 show symptoms of probable serious mental illness. Five years prior to this, the figure stood at just 19%.
What’s changed? For starters, going to university is becoming the norm– in 2015, there were nearly twice as many full-time students (approximately 1.2 million) than in 1996. But even with a more educated population, the job market remains uncertain. In fact, only 65% of university graduates find themselves in full-time work four months after graduating. For a Year 12 student, this means that they’re expected to get grades that will get them into uni, but not even that is enough to secure their future, so they have more pressure to achieve higher.
Another thing that’s affected the Year 12 experience is the advancement of technology and social media. While phone and internet use has become completely pervasive, our research has shown that only 10% of young people believe that social media positively affects the way they perceive themselves. Mission Australia has also identified bullying to be a major stressor for students, and the anonymity of the internet can breed some of the nastiest bullies.
Being a student today can be vastly different to what it was like in the past, and it’s not always for the better. A more highly educated and technologically advanced society means that the pressure to succeed is magnified, and your failures are transparent. This, along with the shit show that standardised testing has always been, means that Year 12 students are experiencing real pressure and difficulty that can be hard for others to understand. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this. You’re not weak for feeling the heat, nor should you let it get the best of you. The best thing you can do is combat that stress with things that make you happy and will help you cope- think music, friends and sport.