Work-Life-Study Balance during the HSC


Take it from someone who has been through (and survived!) the HSC. Balance is possible! As a student studying for the HSC and looking to maximise their ATAR, it’s easy to get caught up and carried away with study, leaving virtually no time for relaxation or even part-time work. Now, this in no way is an invitation to throw the books away and undo all of the hard work you’ve put into your schooling thus far, but instead an insightful look at balancing study, work and life as a young individual in the 21st century.


After starting my fourth year at University I can safely say that maintaining a strict regime of study whilst balancing all other aspects of life is hard work. At University, your subjects (or units as they’re called) normally have a recommended study commitment which varies depending upon the subject’s difficulty or workload. As a rough guide, University students typically study four units per semester, each with approximately 2-6 hours of study recommended in order to ‘be successful’. If we put this together that could be anything from 8-24 hours of study thrown on top of your already busy timetable, as well as your other commitments. Talk about hectic!

Here’s a sample of a typical working week (with maximum study hours) that I had in Semester 2 of third year:

Total hours in a ‘working’ (Monday – Friday) week: 120
Activity Hourly commitment
Sleeping (most important!) 40
University contact hours 35
Home study 24
Assignments/Group work 10
Extracurricular activities 7
Grand total 116

That not only excluded time spent for eating breakfast, lunch and dinner but also neglected to include spending time with loved ones. With only 4 hours remaining in my week, the time to relax was minimal, especially when working on weekends!

I cannot emphasise enough the benefits that introducing an extracurricular activity or simply organising some free time (allocating that time in a diary, a reminder in your phone or even timing your study sessions) can have on your ability to focus, learn and succeed. Breaking up study with something completely unrelated can also help cement all of the content working its way into memory. This technique doesn’t work for everyone, but I normally like to study for 40, leisure for 20 with a timer to ensure you keep to your work!

Part-time work

While it’s all well and good to give yourself a great start financially, you can be placing yourself at risk of compromising your academic success. Employment, especially in young people, is definitely something to take pride in. Whether it be to support your own endeavours or even adding another source of income to the household, working in your teenage years can give you a sense of responsibility, build a strong work ethic and also help give your mind a break from study.

However, there are limitations to this, and it all comes down to balance. A study conducted by Robinson and published by the Parliament of Australia highlighted that 75.4% of students that worked between 1 and 5 hours per week found their commitment to their study unaffected by entering the workplace. However, this is certainly an individual decision, and is also compounded by the type of job being worked. Students can often find employment in either food services, hospitality or retail, as many of these industries typically employ ‘Christmas Casuals’.  Below I’ve listed some common job sites, should you be interested in applying for a job (keep this in mind for after the HSC too, if you’re interested!):


Working during your final year of schooling can be done quite easily but you need to be mindful of the time you have available and whether you can juggle your time accordingly! One big piece of advice is focus on the HSC during the term, then add some work hours on during the holidays (but please remember to relax!).

Extracurricular activities


Hanging out with family and friends is certainly something that is automatically incorporated into your study schedule. Interaction and collaboration is quite an important part of life outside of school, so it is beneficial in the long run to start as soon as possible! Organising study groups can also be a way of enjoying time with a group of friends whilst also getting some study done. I would suggest writing exam questions and even testing them out on friends or trying to teach a concept to one of your friends within a study group.


All students have been brought up playing some sort of sport, be it at school or as an extracurricular activity. Although PE is no longer compulsory, adding some form of physical activity to your study calendar can help with not only stress relief, but increasing focus. A lot of students make the very common mistake of studying for many hours without a break but forget to prioritise some form of physical activity. Research conducted by Budde and colleagues (2008) found that exercising improved cognitive performance, with localised brain activity pointing towards a further improvement in attention span. Therefore, getting out for a spot of physical activity, be it a short walk or some sport with friends can make a great addition to your study calendar. Try it today!


Receptionist | Dux College |

Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience | Year IV | University of Sydney


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