After a year of interruptions, home schooling, delays and uncertainty, year 12 students across the state sat for the first HSC exam at 9.30am yesterday.
This year the HSC was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the exams are expected to finish December 3, just in time for university offers.
As students enter the examination room and sit their first exam, I can't help but to reminisce on my own HSC journey more than 10 years ago.
Once upon a time, in what does feel like a long time ago (a decade plus three to be precise), I too sat for my HSC to gain entrance into university.
I was never particularly studious, just an average student with average marks, who left everything to the last minute.
It didn't really occur to me that my marks at school would be important in the lead up to the HSC.
Not that my marks were bad, they were decent enough, but I never really thought about what my life would be beyond the HSC and school.
Even when I did apply for university courses - right on the deadline - I didn't realise how important the HSC would be.
It wasn't until right before the HSC that I realised that I needed to study - and study hard I did for two weeks before my exams (and throughout the exam period too).
Now most educators eschew the concept of rote learning, which involves memorising concepts based on repetition such as constantly re-writing your creative writing for the English exam and memorising every single word.
But for me, rote learning was my lifeline to remembering HSC content.
Which brings me to receiving my HSC marks.
Like students across NSW will do in January, I too waited for my future to be determined by a number on a piece of paper.
What I received in email and snail mail wasn't exactly what I expected, but quite frankly it wasn't surprising either.
I can't remember exactly what my University Admissions Index (now ATAR) was, it may have been 55, or 53. I'm not sure but it was still enough to land me in to a university course with a few added bonus marks for a band five and living in Western Sydney.
What I do remember is telling myself that there were other pathways, other options and that I could always swap courses if I didn't like what I studied and didn't get in to the course I wanted.
Full disclosure, I dropped out of the first course I studied with two subjects left because I realised that I didn't want to be a high school teacher after taking a gap year.
I finished with a Bachelor of Arts in English and completed a Masters of Journalism two years later.
At the end of the day the HSC and your ATAR are not the only things that determine your career or your future.
There are other options, there are other pathways to study what you want, there are other institutes such as TAFE and private colleges.
If it's something you are passionate about, if it's something you enjoy doing - you will find a way to do it or study it.
Don't let numbers on a piece of paper determine your future because the future can change and you might change your mind like I did.
Life is full of unexpected turn of events and what seems like a disappointment could be a blessing in disguise.
- Vera Demertzis is a journalist for the Goulburn Post and Southern Highland News.