Keeping the balance is something we all struggle with in our final year of schooling, myself included. At the commencement of the year, I jumped into everything. Then, at the end of term one, I crashed, and in term two I tried to do nothing. Neither of these worked for me, and over the remainder of the year I learnt some important lessons about keeping the balance. Not only was I happier and more well-rounded as a result, I was also able to succeed in both UCAT and in my final exams.
The golden rule for staying well-rounded is that you should never entirely cut out social activities or fun. Such activities tend to be the first things we give up on but they are truly the most important. It is so easy to convince yourself that you are too tired or stressed to join that lunch time dance party (praise portable speakers) with your class mates. Moments like that will actually energise you, and will relieve so much of your stress! You may not feel like it, in fact you will often have to push yourself to do so, but taking the time to chill out, to have some fun and have a laugh, is so so so worth it, I can’t stress it enough. This goes for extra-curricular activities as well. You shouldn’t eradicate the things that make you happy in favour of your study. Doing so will actually compromise your mental health and hold you back from performing at your best in high school and in UCAT. Your final year has the potential to be so enjoyable and will present an exciting range of new opportunities and experiences. You have to find ways to compromise and fit it all in!
But HOW? How can this practically be done? The best thing you can do is use your time wisely with the aid of a colour coded timetable. I had one on my computer that I edited every Sunday. Study was green, fun/social was pink, health/wellbeing was blue and leadership/community activities were yellow. If my timetable didn’t look ‘rainbow’ enough I made some serious amendments. I then had to change my mindset: I went to thinking in black and white, in ‘success or failure’, to understanding that things could be ‘good enough’. If there was crazy amount on the plate school-work wise, the old me would have backed out of every social event and stayed at home all weekend, most likely procrastinating and feeling rotten. The new me might have had to compromise on some events, but would have still gotten up a bit earlier on Sunday to meet a friend for brunch and returned to study feeling awesome! With my old mindset, if I couldn’t meet every demand, I got nothing. But with a ‘good enough’ mindset I learnt that if I can’t meet every demand, I could still get something. It goes for exercise – if I just couldn’t bring myself to go running, a walk was good enough; or study – if I couldn’t push through the three hours of chemistry or UCAT study I had planned, an hour was good enough. I found myself accomplishing great tasks using smaller steps because I forgave myself, and I was in tune the needs of my body and my mental health. So please, apply the ‘good enough’ mindset wherever something is not working for you this year!
Finally, ask for help. Teachers and staff want the best for you, and if you feel you are struggling, let them know! This comes into play particularly when juggling the UCAT on top of school work. As the big test approaches, chat to your teachers about the importance of you focusing on the UCAT and perhaps cutting back on your extra-curriculas or study load for the week. Don’t be afraid to ask, especially in regards to a compromise. If you feel you can no longer handle a particular activity, but you really enjoy it, speak to the teacher in charge – it may be possible for you to, say, attend just one training session each week rather than two. Just ask, it is so worth it.