Sunday Mail column for Sunday 23 October 2011: the one about your Year 12 grades


Despite the fact that it was twenty-two years ago (good grief, I’m just going to pour myself a stiff drink and contemplate that for a moment) and my hair made me look like Jon Bon Jovi, I can still vividly recall how I felt during those last two months of high school. Excited, of course. But also terrified. Terrified at what did – or didn’t – lay ahead. Terrified at whether or not I would cope at university. That’s assuming I even got a high enough score to get into the course I wanted to do. (Guess what? I didn’t). I remember being terrified knowing the group of people I’d spent the past five years with were all heading off in different directions. And that I’d kinda taken it for granted that all those faces – some loved and some loathed – were no longer going to be a part of my daily life.

So yeah – I remember that last term. And I’m reminded of it now as I put the finishing touches on a book of advice I’m currently writing for year 12 students full of all the things I wish I’d known before I left high school and went out into the real world. Advice like “Never date a man who has Cher tunes on his iPod.”


But think about it. What do you wish you’d known? For what it’s worth, here’s my number one lesson:

You will not be a success or a failure in life based on your year 12 final grades.

For senior students, it feels like their whole future is resting on these year 12 exams. But it’s not.  Let’s be really, really honest. Your final grade is just one little moment in time.  The truth is the people who live the big, exciting lives; the people who are living their dreams are not necessarily the people who got straight A’s or did fabulously well at the SACE at school. They are the people who are resilient. And persistent. They are the people who have faith in themselves and kept going.

Now don’t get me wrong – high grades are valuable.  The better your grades the greater the options when you leave school. And that’s what you want: options.  But in the long term, success in life is about your ability to bounce-back. So if you don’t do so well with these exams or if you don’t get the score you want – just remember that it’s not the end of the world.  If you REALLY want to study something, you’ll find a way to do it.  As my friend Pam always says, when one door closes, try squeezing through the cat flap.

And then there are life’s late bloomers. For a whole range of reasons some people just don’t do well in high school. Maybe because of stuff that’s going on at home. Maybe because they’re not a great fit for the school they attend. Maybe because their head just isn’t in the right place. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go on to great things.  A fabulous example is my friend (and fellow author) Kim Wilkins. On her blog recently, Kim wrote:

“I was a late bloomer in every sense of the word. I still played with my dollhouse in the first year of high school, until one of the other girls told me that it was lame. I was puzzled and sometimes horrified by the things my teenage peers talked about and did. I gained a reputation for being the biggest “dag” in my grade. I flunked almost everything at high school and spent a very long time working in fast food jobs and typing jobs.  In fact, I’d say that I didn’t really blossom until my mid-twenties. I went back to school and finished my senior, got into uni, started writing books, and haven’t looked back. “

Let me tell you, Kim’s being modest. Today she’s an internationally acclaimed author of twenty books. She’s a university lecturer.  She won a University Medal for pete’s sake.  She’s living the life of her dreams. And she flunked out at high school.

So to the graduating class of 2011, know this:  whatever happens over the coming months, have faith that you’ll be just fine. Because you can bounce back.

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About Bec

Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.

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