Going through VCE while in lockdown

Melbourne has been in lockdown for over 200 days. This has had a huge impact on young people. Students across the state are feeling the additional pressure of studying for their final year of high school while remote learning.

Face-to-face learning offers a sense of connectedness – the idea that you and your friends will get through this together to achieve a common goal. Since 2020, VCE students have been grieving the loss of this social interaction in what is already a stress-inducing experience. Students are increasingly feeling isolated from online learning and facing a reduced ability to cope with the uncertainty around fulfilling their academic requirements.

Here are some reflective questions that may help you explore your existing strategies and resources and seek out new supports to get you through this final leg of the year.

What feedback are my teachers, parents and friends giving me about my ‘balance’ with study? Is this consistent or completely the opposite to what I think and feel about how I’m managing?

What we think or feel about our routines and habits can be compared to what others say about us. If there are several inconsistencies, it may be necessary that we need to explore why this is occurring.

For example, when you say, ‘I must not be working hard enough because I’ve been making many careless mistakes’, it might be helpful to check in on what your parents, carers or friends think about your study habits. If they have reflected that you often stay up late and fall asleep studying, reinforcing that you are working really hard, and your teachers also say that you are a good student. It may be that you need to revise your study technique, which doesn’t always mean studying longer hours.

You won’t be productive if your brain is exhausted and foggy. Students often do a lot of studying without taking any breaks because they put so much pressure on themselves. This can often end up with them not doing anything else and result in burnout. So, check-in with yourself and others to work on a realistic plan to effectively balance your study with breaks, exercise, and leisure.

Have I openly spoken to my teachers, parents, and friends about the pressures I am feeling? 

It is important to keep all these channels of communication open. For example, speak to your teachers if you’re feeling overwhelmed with homework and see if you can negotiate new due dates in advance. Also, communicate with your family about your VCE priorities so they can reduce your chores or don’t expect you to take on new responsibilities.

Talk to your friends if you don’t have full availability to chat, text or participate in the group chat. Remember to still keep in touch at times that work for you. This will help keep your support system in the loop and strengthens your ability to prioritise while maintaining healthy boundaries.

How will I cope if I don’t get the ATAR I want?

We often refer to ourselves as perfectionists. Being a perfectionist is different from being a high achiever. High achievers will set challenging goals and work hard to realise them. However, they are not entirely destroyed when they don’t get the results they expect. Perfectionists can view mistakes as failures and can become pretty harsh on themselves. If you feel like that you won’t be able to get the ATAR you want, you may need to strengthen your coping skills.

Feeling stress is not a bad thing. It is a necessary part of motivating yourself to achieve. However, feeling avoidant, stagnated, or unable to bounce back and recover from these feelings of stress or disappointment may be an indication that you need to reach out beyond your support network for further assistance.

written by Michelle Hartnett