About 10 days ago, I wrote my final paper of the National Senior Certificate, which is one of South Africa’s school-leaving examinations. Matric is an intense year to say the least. From university applications and a seemingly endless stream of work due to the daunting reality of being thrown into the “real world” pretty soon, there is much reason for anxiety and stress. However, as someone who has anxiously anticipated matric for a very long time, and having been through it all, I feel like there is a LOT of stuff that people don’t tell you about matric. Sure, they scare you by telling you how stressful it is and how much work it requires, but there is a lot that I was never prepared for and it left me feeling a little unsure of myself from time to time. So here are some things that no one really tells you about matric…
- Every single person you meet who hears you’re in matric will ask you what you’re studying next year and where you’re studying and how exams are going and what subjects you do. And it will be annoying and may add to your stress, but best you get used to it because you will be answering those questions about a million times in your matric year. Also, some people will have strong opinions about your choice of course and place of study and will try to convince you to do something else. Be prepared for this and remember that you don’t really owe anyone anything. Eventually, I just adopted the smile and wave approach in these situations. You get used to it.
- It’s not quite as awful as people make it out to be. Sure, it is really stressful. You spend most of your matric year studying and preparing for exams and it leaves little room for anything else. But many schools finish the bulk of the syllabus by June so that gives you a lot of time to revise your work before finals arrive. Matric is a really special year with so many opportunities to make precious memories with your friends and grade. Try your best not to let the stress of the year detract from these moments (I know its easier said than done). The work you do in matric isn’t any more difficult than the work you do in grade 11 either. So you can have some peace of mind about that.
- Having good grade 11 results saves you a LOT of stress in matric. So if you’re in grade 11, do your best, make good notes, and try to achieve the best results you can – your future self will thank you.
- The end of finals is anticlimatic. Maybe its just me, but I kind of know it isn’t. You just look forward to it for so long and when it finally arrives, it’s kind of like an eh moment. You go from working like crazy to literally nothing. And it kind of sucks.
- At the end of the day, it’s still just school. Your health should never be put second to school work or anything at any point – please try to take care of yourself and not let your mental or physical health slip if you can help it.
- You will be pushed. Hard. If you are someone who is academically strong, the pressure from your school, family and yourself can be a LOT to handle. I know that I’ve felt like I’ve had to prove myself which I’m starting to see is not true. I would urge you to just try to be focused on your own goals and what you’ve set out to do. I know it sounds cliché, but if you do your best, no one can expect anything more from you. Working for yourself is SO important. The only person who can impact how well you actually do is you. And you’ll find that once you put other factors aside and just work hard for yourself, when you achieve things, it will be so much more rewarding.
- You WILL get through it. There will be days where you will wish that it could be over. There were days where I felt so overwhelmed and scared and alone that keeping my tears back felt like an impossible task. But there will also be days when you feel confident and in control. Ride the waves. Ask for help. Take things day by day. And just keep breathing.
There are a hundred more things I could say, but I feel like these are the most important ones. I’m certainly no expert on these matters, but I really wanted to get all of this down before I forgot it. If you’re in grade 10/11, I really hope this offers a different perspective to you. Good luck! Also, to all my fellow Matrics of 2019, I hope it went well! Results day is in a month (yikes), so hang in there and have a lovely holiday.