The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is a significant milestone for students in Australia, and it can be a challenging time for them (and you).
We believe that a motivated student is a successful student. As a parent, you can play an important role in helping your teen stay motivated during this critical period in their education.
Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to support your teen with HSC motivation and keep them focused on their studies.
Help them set goals
Setting goals is key for HSC motivation. Without clear goals, your teenager is likely to feel aimless and lose their drive.
Goals give high school students something tangible to aim for, which keeps them on track. They also give you something to remind your teen of when things get hard!
Create SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. And focus on creating a blend of progress-based goals and marks-based ones – start with things they can control and encourage the process in pursuit of larger goals.
Routinely check in with your teen to find out what they are currently doing to achieve their goals; an hour of maths study on Tuesday is helping them get through an entire maths revision textbook before the exam.
Setting and celebrating milestones is a great way to keep your teen motivated throughout the HSC. Help them to think of their study in terms of smaller, more manageable tasks, then praise or reward them when they achieve. This can help them feel a sense of accomplishment as they complete each task, which then motivates them to keep going. Think: passing tests, handing in assignments, completing workbooks… Get creative with these smaller milestones.
You can also help your teen set long-term goals, such as getting into a particular university or pursuing a specific career. By having a clear idea of what they want to achieve, your child will have something to strive for, which will help them with their HSC motivation.
During the HSC, try to minimise distractions to help your teenager stay focused on their studies. Ask them to turn off their phone or put it on silent while they're studying, or even put it under lock and key except for designated times. Help create a quiet HSC focus space, whether that’s in their room or in a separate room with a desk. Turn off televisions and loud music, and encourage other people in the house to respect study time.
Make sure your teen has everything they need to study, such as pens, paper and textbooks, on hand, so they don’t have to jump up to look for things. Try to avoid interrupting them yourself – save up questions and conversation for dinner time.
Although motivation should largely come from their own drive for success, for less academically inspired students, dangling a carrot as a reward can be a powerful motivator for teenagers sitting the HSC.
Depending on the kind of student your teen is, you might want to consider offering incentives for achieving specific milestones or goals. Smaller milestones could earn them a favourite meal or give them a get-out-of-jail-free card for housework; more significant achievements, such as finishing exams or achieving a high ATAR score, might be worth a new computer or a family holiday.
Encourage breaks and sleep
It's important to find the right balance between studying and taking breaks to keep your teenager focused, motivated and avoid burnout. Studying for the HSC can be incredibly stressful (on top of the already stressful experience of being a teenager) and your teen will need regular breaks to rest and recharge to maintain their motivation for exams.
Encourage your teen to take breaks throughout the day to do something they enjoy, such as going for a walk or eating a snack. Avoid sedentary breaks, such as watching television or texting, as this won’t refresh them in the same way as getting up and away from the desk.
Try the Pomodoro Technique to help them with their HSC focus, in which a day of study is broken into 25-minute focus periods followed by five-minute breaks.
And, of course, make sure they’re getting enough sleep. Studying late into the night is actually counterproductive, so suggest a regular lights-out time.
As a parent, you can offer your teen support during the HSC by being there for them when they need it. Encourage them to ask for help if they're struggling with a particular subject or task – even if you haven’t done calculus in 35 years, muddling through it together will help your teenager feel supported. You can also offer to help them study by quizzing them on their knowledge.
It's important to remember that the HSC can be a challenging time for your child, and they may experience stress or anxiety. Be there for them emotionally and offer your support, whether that's through listening or helping them find ways to manage their stress.
Throughout the HSC, there will be many opportunities for your teen to succeed, whether that's achieving a high mark on an exam or completing a particularly challenging task. Celebrate these successes, and encourage them to be proud of their achievements. Whether you choose to offer incentives, as above, or praise and recognition, it’s key to let your teenager know that you're proud of their hard work and achievements and encourage them to feel proud of themselves.
By celebrating successes, you'll help your child maintain their HSC motivation and feel more confident in their abilities. This can help them stay focused on their studies and achieve even greater success in the future.
Focus on the bigger picture
Finally, it's important to help your teen focus on the bigger picture during the HSC. While achieving good marks will help keep doors open for them, it's also important to remember that the HSC is just one part of a long and varied life.
Keeping it all in perspective will reduce feelings of overwhelm and panic, which will allow them to put their energy into achieving their goals and staying healthy.
Remember, a motivated student is a successful student and, while it ultimately comes down to them, you can play a key role in helping them maintain motivation for exams.