In this post, North Sydney Boy’s High School student Alexander Vostermans shares his organisation hacks for how to apply 100% inside and outside of school. Read on to find out he balances study, theatre, and play to give his all in everything.
Me, Myself and I
North Sydney Boys High School
My Uni Course Goal:
UNSW Civil Engineering (Co-op Program)
My Dream Career:
Engineering! I absolutely love the combination of applying mathematics and physics in real-world environments.
My HSC Subjects
Mathematics Extension 1
Mathematics Extension 2
My best subject is Physics
At the moment, my marks are showing that Physics is my strongest subject.
I was definitely unsure of my choice of the subject coming into year 11. I felt stronger in Chemistry due to my experience of it in Year 10. However, I started to enjoy learning Physics more and more, which led me to put in the work to improve and succeed.
I eventually dropped Chemistry, which goes to show that your favourite or best subjects aren’t necessarily the ones you think they are!
My worst subject is English
English has always been a touchy subject for me.
I know that it comes down to consistency in revision and studying, and then applying the study in exams and assignments.
I also actively seek feedback on my practice essays and ask for clarification on the comments made by my teacher. I definitely feel that teachers can give the greatest insight into how you can improve and find the faults within your own writing.
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My organisation hacks: How I apply 100% inside and outside of school
In Year 11 (and also currently in Year 12), I tried to have a holistic view to school. That is, not just focusing on academics, but also applying myself in extracurricular activities.
My highlights of these included:
Having a major role in the School Musical
Performing in the School Orchestra
Gaining the rank of Corporal in the Air Force Cadets
Now that I’m in Year 12, I still attend Orchestra. And I’ve again taken a major role in the School Musical. I’ve taken on a significant responsibility role within the school as an Arts Prefect. All of this means that I’ve had to step away from Cadets.
As you can imagine, having such a tight schedule meant that my study time is limited. Because of this, I use the following hacks to apply my study time more effectively. I hope you find these effective, too!
1. Organising yourself for extracurriculars: Musicals and Orchestra
I’d use my time preparing for Orchestra and musical as an opportunity to calm down and relax a little after doing some study.
As it’s a passion, it’s something to take your mind off the hectic study schedule.
When I am memorising lines, I do it in small chunks. For example, I’d take 1 section of dialogue, or 1 scene depending on how many lines there are and learn that. Then move on to the next.) It’s easier to memorise these smaller sections rather than memorising everything at once.
For my orchestra practice, I’d always start slow on difficult sections, then slowly go faster until you reach the required tempo for the section. This means that you get the fingering and technique down for the section first before getting it up to speed.
I’ve learned that you should never be daunted by anything you consider hard. Everything is achievable if you put in enough work.
2. Getting a full night’s sleep and a good breakfast really does make a difference
In year 11, a common problem among students is that everybody seems to get less sleep.
This is due to a number of factors, mainly increased homework loads, tutoring/activities after school etc.
However, with my full schedule, I still maintained a 10:30 deadline for when I had to go to sleep.
This meant that by the time I had to wake up, I had at least 8 hours of sleep, which is the bare minimum for my age group. It also meant that I used the time that I had to study and do homework more efficiently, meaning less procrastination and more effective revision!
A good breakfast is also very important. You must be fueled so that you’re fully energised before school starts. This gets your day off to a good start.
I always made sure I either made breakfast at home or bought it at the train station on the way to school! This way I would be awake and ready to go for morning class or whatever other activity I had that day.
3. Weekly Revision is key to keeping on top of your subjects
With my full schedule, I had limited time per day. So, I had to spread out my revision of subjects throughout the week. At the time, I was taking 6 subjects.
This meant that every day, I was doing revision for at least one subject.
While not everybody has to write summary notes for every subject, going over the content learnt during the week is crucial to keep you progressing through the subject, and gaining the confidence over the subject material.
This revision can include:
Extra homework questions from textbooks
Wide reading (mainly for HSIE and English subjects) of texts
Past papers (very useful when exam time comes around), or
Just going over orally the content covered
For example, every week when I reviewed Maths, I would look through the content covered in that week (e.g. the week’s focus was trigonometry). I then used the resources I created during these revision sessions during the exam period to help jog my memory and ensure I was across the material. This meant that there I had less catch up for the actual exams.
4. Organising your whole schedule of activities
As mentioned before, I was in a whole load of extracurricular activities, while also going to tutoring at Matrix as well. Because of this, I needed to be on top of all of the different dates and important events that I had to go to as well.
My family uses a calendar that allows me to put all of my important, can’t miss dates, while also showing when my parents had planned certain events, or had work (since my mother works shifts).
This allowed me to check when events were coming up, or if I had free time for another activity. Having calendars like this really helps keep everything sorted! I can always check it any time I’m at home to see what is coming up.
My biggest regret in Year 11
Not being disciplined enough to apply my study techniques and hacks for the entire period of year 11
While I tried to use the above hacks in year 11, there were some points during that time where I was careless or lazy. Here I might’ve skipped revision and there I may have slept a little bit later than usual.
This is bound to happen some days, as you might have an extra activity or more homework than usual. However, once you start to make a habit of not studying or revising, that’s when it becomes a problem!
Luckily, I had the hindsight to see when I was being a bit too careless, and was able to get back on track.
How do you do this?
It involves taking a step back from the day-to-day stress of school and self-evaluating how you have been over the past couple of days, or weeks, depending on the time period.
You need to reflect on how much work you’ve done that has actively contributed to your learning, not just homework. Always look to try and work to improve yourself at all times; being complacent means you fall behind, a lot.
My advice to current Year 11 students
Here’s my advice to those embarking on Year 11.
1. Try and make the most of Year 11
Year 11 is probably the last year where you can apply yourself to lots and lots of extracurricular activities with the least amount of impact on your school studies.
So, if you get the opportunity to do something, anything, go for it!!
It’s better to participate and work harder than to not do anything and regret not doing it.
2. Put work into all of your subjects, even the ones you don’t like
At the start of Year 11, I loved Chemistry and was kind of lukewarm about Physics. However, by the end of Year 11, I wanted to drop Chemistry and keep applying myself in Physics!!!
This came about from consistently applying myself in all of my subjects and finding out which ones I enjoyed putting consistent work into, and which ones I didn’t.
3. Try and socialise, meet with, and make friends as much as possible
Some people try and spend all their time in Year 11 studying. And this is understandable. However, you’re also a teenager, with the world at your feet.
I found that occasionally having a big meetup with my friends helped me get through Year 11.
Studying isn’t the be-all and end-all of everything. Occasionally, going out and meeting with friends — outside of school — or talking to people, in general, helps take your mind of constant studying. This is also a really important outlet that offers you social opportunities.
Written by Guest Author
We have regular contributions to our blog from our Tutor Team and high performing Matrix Students. Come back regularly for these guest posts to learn their study hacks and insights!