Struggling with managing your stress and anxiety during the HSC? You’re not alone!

We interviewed Ruby, a Year 12 student sitting her HSC this year about strategies she uses to cope with the stress and anxiety that can come with the HSC.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s find out what her top 4 tips were!

Tip #1: Have a Non-negotiable Timetable
Tip #2: Keep a Reflection Journal 
Tip #3: Get Ahead on University Applications
Tip #4: Build a Strong Support System

Meet Ruby!

  • Ruby Ingels is a Year 12 student and School Captain at Gosford High School where she is currently doing her HSC
  • She is one of 70 incredible Art of Smart Pathfinders from across NSW for 2020
  • Ruby studies Advanced English, Drama, Legal Studies, Society and Culture and Business
  • She enjoys going to her church’s Youth Group on Fridays to have a break from school and hang out with different people
  • She loves playing games with her family whether it’s Monopoly, UNO or Scrabble!

The Challenge

Ruby has struggled to manage her stress and anxiety throughout the HSC, particularly around achieving good marks and getting into university

“I can be a bit of a perfectionist sometimes. I really want to do well in all of my subjects and sometimes that involves compromising on getting enough exercise, eating well or getting enough sleep,” she said. 

Ruby is part of the Pathfinder mentoring program, where she is being guided by her inspiring mentor, Sarah to work on managing her stress and anxiety experienced throughout the HSC.

The Art of Smart Pathfinder program helps you find success, whatever your ATAR, through lifting your academic results, gaining clarity on your career path and standing out through maximising your future options. 

So, we caught up with Ruby to have a chat about how the program and her inspiring mentor, Sarah, has helped her devise strategies to combat this!

Let’s dive into Ruby’s top 4 tips to managing stress and anxiety during the HSC!

Tip #1: Have a Non-negotiable Timetable

Ruby says setting specific time aside for yourself, whether for writing in your timetable what hours you will spend, taking the dog for a walk or doing a bit of a stretch as a great way to ensure you’re being kind to yourself.

“Definitely writing to do lists has been a big thing that’s been really helpful. Each day I’ll write down tasks I want to get done, including time for myself.”

Since devising a plan with her mentor Sarah to support this, Ruby now also writes out on a piece of paper specific hours of the day she will use to study for each subject and puts this up on her wall so she can’t avoid it or stress about upcoming assessments. 

She also has two pieces of A4 pieces of paper with the school days up on her wall where she can see her timetable and plan those hours of the afternoon after school that can easily be spent procrastinating. 

“I didn’t really  have any structure to my day before this, and generally left my assignments to the last minute!”

Since implementing this plan at the beginning of Term 2 Ruby says this strategy, suggested to her by her mentor Sarah, has helped ground her and get an early start on assignments and studying while remaining calm. 

“It’s really given me perspective on how to space out my time and workload so I can stay on top of things by working on them bit by bit,” she said.

Ruby has also found that the Pathfinder package, which includes a wall planner and goal planner for recording goals each term, has helped her achieve her study and wellbeing goals.

“There’s a timetable for each week which allows you to allocate time for tasks you need to get done – it’s been so good having something you can see that really motivates you and encourages you to work.”

Tip #2: Keep a Reflection Journal 

One of the main things that Ruby’s mentor, Sarah, has taught her is to journal. 

Journaling has helped Ruby to relieve pressure and cope with expectations that can build up to make the HSC an overwhelming struggle. 

“Being mindful is a great way to get out any stresses. I don’t journal every day but I have a school diary and for each week there is a different reflection question about what you’re grateful for or how you would help someone this week, and I enjoy filling those out.”

Tip #3: Get Ahead on University Applications

When you’re trying to study and get through your HSC, it can be overwhelming to think and plan for your future too.

However, Ruby says this process of planning for your future and applying for early entry, scholarships and other university applications “is not something stressful but something to look forward to!”

Ruby says the Pathfinder program has helped make her goal of studying a Bachelor of Communications a lot clearer and easier to plan and navigate.

“It’s easy to be consumed by what’s happening during the HSC, and it’s important to work hard, but it helps so much more when you have those future goals that you’re working towards – I’ve enjoyed building skills that I’ll need for university and the future.”

Ruby has attended workshops which explain the criteria for various scholarships and early entry schemes, such as the Macquarie University Leaders and Achievers Scheme and the ACU Early Entry Program. The workshops have helped her draft and redraft her applications and provided feedback to make them as strong as possible.

“The program has really helped get the ball rolling thinking about my future and gives you time to start writing and drafting without the chaos of studying – it’s been invaluable.”

One key tip Ruby picked up through a Pathfinder workshop was emailing different universities and their future students offices, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“It’s hard to go to open days this year but Daniel, our workshop leader, suggested it’s good to email future students and put yourself forward and ask what the courses are like and what lecturers teach at the uni. I had no idea otherwise!”

Tip #4: Build a Strong Support System

Ruby has also stressed the importance of building a strong support system to get you through the HSC.

Through the Pathfinder program, Ruby has been able to share the stresses and struggles of the HSC with other Year 12 students.

“I love the online Facebook group chat [with all Pathfinder students] where people can share ideas and build a community. Everyone is definitely hard working and wanting to help each other out in any way they can,” she said. 

This online support group has helped Ruby and others to be open and communicate any struggles of the HSC and offer tips or support, particularly with the struggles of studying under COVID-19 restrictions.

Ruby’s mentor, Sarah, has also been pivotal for Ruby getting through the HSC as stress and anxiety free as possible. 

“Sarah has been really supportive and encouraging, especially by reminding me to be kind to myself, rest and making sure I have enough energy to study and go on.”


Momoko Metham is currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Art of Smart Education, having previously held roles as a Digital Content Coordinator in 2018 and an Academic Tutor and Mentor since 2017. She is currently in her final year of a Media and Communications degree at the University of Sydney with a double major in Marketing and Spanish and Latin American Studies. Momoko’s writing has been published in Archer Magazine, Dynamic Business and Honi Soit and she was the General Editor of the ARNA Literary Journal in 2019.