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A Roadmap for High School Students

December 21, 2014

About to click away from this page? If you read nothing else, remember these tips for high school students:

  1. Learn how to write history and English essays well!!
  2. Always keep up with mathematics!
  3. Do LOTS of extracurricular activities EVERY year of high school
  4. Your studies aren’t the only things you should be focusing on! You, young student, should be focusing on becoming self-reliant (cooking, ironing, budgeting etc.), developing “life skills” and “soft skills” (like dancing, singing etc.)
  5. Doing all the above? Don’t forget to have fun along the way! Make friends, play sport, have hobbies etc.
  6. Finally, don’t waste a moment. You have an abundance of time. Use it! What you do will shape the person you become. The child is the father to the man.

Okay! That’s the ‘short’ version. I’m going to break this down in sub-categories and give some tailored advice. In advance, I also want to note that some of this advice may be Australia specific.

Let’s begin!

Year 7-9

Young whippersnappers, the world is before you. You may not realise it, but you have HEAPS of time to use. While your studies shouldn’t go by the wayside, you can coast (not study at all) and still ace all your studies. But this doesn’t mean there’s a moment to waste! What you do will shape who you become. So:

  1. Academically you have just TWO goals
    1. Pay some attention in maths (better yet, start doing work a few years ahead of the really basic stuff being covered in class!)
    2. Learn to write! Start writing essays and narratives well. Argue. Which leads to…
  2. You are to pursue extracurricular activities young scholar. Every. Single. One.
    1. Join debating, the chess club, the drama group, do public speaking, join sports teams… DO something! And, if you’re lacking opportunities, start your OWN activity (I know a year 7 who started up a news team) .
  3. Develop self-reliance
    1. Learn how to iron your shirts. Embrace responsibility. Learn to cook. If you get good, you’ll be eating what YOU LIKE.
  4. Develop some talents.
    1. I did many things in my time at high school, but I wish I had learnt to sing and dance well. I wish I had actually stuck with programming. Find some hobbies, and excel!
  5. Throw yourself into learning a 2nd language
    1. You’ll have to study a language in year 7-9 most likely. Problem is you’ll never remember a thing by just attending class – you’re not spending enough time or immersing yourself. I remember nothing from Year 8 German despite nearly topping my class. You have a choice – do nothing… or set aside an hour or 2 a day to learn that second language well! You have the time – learn it!
  6. Read young man. Every bus and train ride, every boring class, every… read. Read, read, read!
  7. Following on from 6… read newspapers young man.
  8. Throw yourself into sport. Compete fiercely, yet always in good spirit!
    1. Many people always dragged themselves to and during sport. What a waste of time! You, young student, should run in every athletics carnival and cross country event. You, young student, should excel. That does NOT mean you have to be training rigorously, but I expect competence. Be able to run half a kilometre well.
    2. Try and match up to army recruiting standards!
  9. Make sure to have ‘play’. Lots of it.
  10. Chalk it up to my bad taste, but young scholars should develop an appreciation of old literature, old movies, old clothing, old values… The past has many hidden treasures!
  11. What you learn / experience will shape who you are. Time for some civic education! Visit:
    1. The Art of Manliness
    2. Personal Excellence
    3. Whatever else takes your fancy!

In short, DEVELOP AS A PERSON. Don’t fritter away your life. I do not expect you to follow the above list to the letter; to do everything would be extremely difficult. But if you do start upon these few things, well, you shall do well!

Year 10

Its not year 11 and 12 yet, so relax. I still want the bulk of your focus to be aside from school. But, you should begin to take a keener interest in your studies and career. Overall:

  1. Put some real effort into mastering ESSAY WRITING!! If you get good at this, year 11 and 12 suddenly becomes MUCH easier, especially if you choose to do ‘writing’ subjects like history, and subjects with a fair bit of writing like economics.
  2. Pay attention in maths. You’ll likely want to do it in year 11 and 12 (uni prerequisite) , and – by George! – you want to be ahead, not behind!
  3. Learn to drive! Get Ls…
    1. I didn’t, based on flimsy procrastination and excuses… you probably won’t get less busy over time! Knock out the test and study in one day or less!
  4. Begin to consider joining SRC and other things for your resume because…
  5. You should get a part-time job. NOW.
    1. I didn’t pursue this enough (though I did get trialled a few times) . I regret it.
    2. Also, for work experience, do try and get something you’ll be proud of for your resume.
  6. Year 10s can do mock trial. DO IT. It is one of my fondest memories of high school.
  7. You should ALSO keep up with other activities – school musical, chess, debating, public speaking, sports team… stay with them. Becoming a team leader yet?
  8. You should do the stuff I mentioned for year 7-9 : Read lots! Read newspapers, develop talents and…
  9. Develop self reliance! Just as I said about driving, this IS THE TIME. You have loads of time now. Learn now, not later.
  10. Forge strong friendships, and begin to communicate with EVERYBODY if you haven’t already!
  11. Your civic education should have been a priority during year 7-9. Regardless of whether it was, you MUST throw yourself into Civic Education. The young man should absolutely read The Art of Manliness, anybody will benefit from Personal Excellence. Pursue other sites like Tynan, Scott Young… and whoever helps YOU. But really, the young man MUST read AoM.

Again, I want you to DEVELOP as a person. Yes, you really should learn how to write essays, but there is so much else for you to do! So many things to savour, responsibilities to grasp… in but a few years YOU will be leading your own life. Year 11 and 12 may be busy. Get skilled NOW.

Year 11

People say only year 12 counts. That’s not true. You don’t wake up a different person overnight, so its vital to develop good habits this year. Every single point mentioned above for year 10 can be repeated for year 11, but I want to stress some particular points:

  1. Its tempting but DON’T STOP doing extracurricular activities! Employers and such check activities by dates, and many scholarship application specify ‘last 2 years’ (eg. Late year 10 onwards) . Don’t neglect this. Besides, its truly enriching!
  2. Join SRC and do leadership activities to prep yourself for a tilt at being school captain and the like. Joining your school’s student leaders / prefects IS worth it.
  3. Go to Open Days for universities. Begin to (somewhat) understand about universities. Keep your resume up to date for applications.
  4. To. Write. Essays. Really, do it. English is compulsory, and many of your other subjects require you to write well.
    1. Aside from mere academics though, the ability to write and eloquently express yourself is, I feel, integral to the development of any young person. Perhaps I shall write an article about it at a later date, but I find the ability to utilise language well is a powerful one to have.
  5. Not all subjects will have year 11 content tested in year 12 (though some DO) . BUT, year 12 material will often BUILD on year 11 content. Learn year 11 content. Also, treat year 11 like a dry run for year 12 in some ways.
  6. Really embrace sport this year. You lose it in the next (at least, in NSW schools) .
  7. Self-reliance and your civic education should NOT go by the wayside for a multitude of reasons. [I’ll address this in depth later]
    1. These things will also help with your studies, I found.

Year 12

The ‘big year’, a year where you really should be studying a lot. But, not to the wilting of all other flowers in life. Maybe I’ll make future posts about year 12 or facets of it. For now, I want to make some points:

  1. You need to study HARD, but you also must study SMART.
    1. I have seen so many students study, study, study… and do horribly. Pay attention to your syllabus and past exam questions. Use good techniques for study and memory retention. Have focused study sessions. Pursue active, not passive learning. Your whole life should NOT be dedicated to studying. In fact, that probably won’t get you the best marks!
  2. Study very hard, but moderate it with what your university goals are. There’s no need to aim for ultra high ATAR scores. My advice is ‘study as hard as you need to comfortably achieve your hardest to get university course that you are potentially interested in’
    1. So, if you want to study law at UNSW, you have your work really cut out for you. But, if you have an eye on education as a degree, with an ATAR of perhaps 80, its much, much easier.
  3. Pursuant to the above, make sure you do the ‘other things’ necessary to pursue your interest
    1. Subject prerequisites, documentation requirements, certifications etc.
    2. I had a friend who had an interest in the military. He didn’t need great marks, BUT, he did need to focus on lots of other documentation for overseas military training.
  4. Go to Open Days for universities. Understand about universities. Keep your resume up to date for applications.
    1. Also, MAKE these other applications (accounting cadetships, scholarships etc.) . You may not love the position, or the process, but you’ll learn from it.
  5. Try to stay in some sort of leadership role / engage in resume building / try to have at least 1 extracurricular activity still alive and kicking
  6. Keep your resume up to date.
  7. Get scholarship / equity / bonus point … get ALL applications done. Well. In. Advance. There is an awful lot of documentation to organise, liaising to do, time to be spent (especially, if you have the high marks or extracurricular material for lots of applications . Get it done early.
    1. Also, this is worth it! If you’ve been following my previous advice, you are in with a good shot here! I got offered a $7,500 p.a. scholarship and it was less than an hour’s work. A good hourly pay rate, wouldn’t you say?
  8. Points 1-7 have all been about this, and I talk about this below, but you need to consider your endgame.
    1. You want a uni course? Why? To get X job? Could you make it easier by applying for cadetships, doing extracurricular activities? Are there ‘backdoor’ ways into your uni choice? Do you need to go to uni? You need to consider exactly what you want, and all ways of getting there.
  9. Realise that with hard work, research, enthusiasm and effort comes the possibility to get places without your dream university course. Do realise that options exist, pursuant to ‘8’.
  10. Savour the year. Seize every moment. Truly, year 12 is both the worst year, and the best year. The stakes are higher and the studying demanding, but the camaraderie, respect and heightened quality of friendships are worth it all. I remember my final week as truly joyous because of this. Do not lock yourself in an ivory tower all year.
  11. Finally, I implore you – keep pursuing self reliance and civic education. Never let this fall by the wayside. Hopefully, you’ve already developed these 2 traits quite extensively, but if not, spend just a little time focusing on these things outside of your studies. And there’s a reason I demand this.

I can think of nothing worse than having the embers of enthusiasm, innocence and kindness extinguished by a cold-hearted search for mere marks. The ultimate end to the school journey and other journeys is meant to be the realisation of a happy, meaningful life. Getting to university and such is merely one thing that might help you realise such a life, one path. But, your positivity, enthusiasm, temper – these things are required for the proper fulfilment of what is truly worth savouring. Don’t let them wilt and fade.

I suppose that’s the advice I can come up with. I just want to say about this advice though, that I don’t expect its complete. Its not. I couldn’t possibly lay out a proper roadmap in a mere 2000 words, nor any number of words necessarily – a conversation is necessary. Nor would I lay this out as perfect advice. Its not. These are but a few of my reflections having just finished school. I’ve got a distorted lens, no doubt, and I’m sure that in 5 or 10 years the roadmap I’d lay out would be quite different. My advice reflects my experience and beliefs at my current age, nothing more, nothing less. Though I would say this is all sage advice, I’d also say that you should sooner outright contradict it rather than do something outright barbarous or time-wasting.

But I do want to say this – I implore you to consider my advice, just consider it. If you’re a young student, read this. If you’re not a young student, forward it to your son, grandson, family friend or whoever may benefit, if you think it worth reading.

I do not expect that even the best could possibly accomplish everything on this list to its fullest realisation. But, I do hope that by following this roadmap every young student may turn out to be a brilliant young adult.





I typed this advice up a while ago (barring an edit of two just made). I thought I’d posted this, but I was wrong. So here it is.

One thing I really wanted to say was that I’m happy with having followed this roadmap somewhat myself. Things have turned out well. The road well travelled has brought much happiness. Most of all, it has brought camaraderie and community.


From → Foundations

One Comment
  1. Alan permalink

    Wow! great stuff. I’m glad I stumbled onto this blog.

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