Kyra Alday is a 4th year Mechatronics student at UNSW Sydney. Having completed many exams in her life, and she is now about to graduate engineering. We asked her what she wished she knew when she was completing her final Year 12 exams.

So, exam time is fast approaching. 

I remember my trials and final exams, the ups and downs. The frantic studying and bothering my teachers with drafts and questions.   

As a high school student, every exam was either an obstacle or a stepping stone to my goal. As someone already in their fourth year of university with all those HSC and Year 11 exams behind me, I do enjoy the benefit of hindsight. I wanted to share some of these insights with you. Here are three things that I wished I knew when I was sitting my final exams: 

1. Your exam results don’t define what you can and can’t do

I am in my fourth year studying Mechatronic Engineering. This entire degree is a whole lot of Math and a whole lot of Physics.   

In high school, I failed one of my Mathematics Advanced final exams. My math teacher was strongly recommending that I drop out of Mathematics Extension 1. I graduated dead last in my Physics class.   

If I let my exam results define what I could and couldn’t do, I wouldn’t be studying engineering today. If you get a bad mark in a subject you wanted to do well in, don’t let it hold you back. It’s not a reflection of who you are. It’s a reflection of what you can do better.   

2) Your friends are your biggest assets.   

With everyone fighting hard for a number that pits you against your peers, you often find yourself competing against each other.   

I vividly remember my friends comparing marks and I was too embarrassed to share mine. I felt bad every time my friends did better than me or when they understood a concept faster than I did.   

At uni, your friends are your biggest assets. They’ll help you through the courses, keep you motivated and inspired.   

Your friends are going through the same experience as you, learning the same content. Make study groups and ask each other questions.   

Don’t pull each other down. Lift each other up!  


3) You are you. Dare to be different.

When I was in high school, the delineation between STEM and Arts and Social Sciences was clear. People were either one or the other.   

For me, I was interested in everything. My units were an even split between arts and STEM courses. My careers advisor didn’t know what to do with me because of my diverse interests.   

I was not only interested in Physics and Maths, but also in Ancient History and English. So when I got to university, I did exactly that. I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Engineering combined with Arts, majoring in History. I also minor in Psychology. It’s an extremely rare combination.   

You are you, your interests are yours. Just because no one tends to do it, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. 

Be different. Do what you love.   

These times can be scary and intimidating. Trust me, I know. I was there and I went through it too. Even when it gets tough, my biggest piece of advice is to keep going!  

You don’t know it yet, but your journey has just begun. I can’t wait to see what you do along the way.