What is academic success to you?
Is it getting good grades and walking away with a shiny medal around your neck? Is it a matter of breaking into your new shoes and managing to complete the journey itself? Is it about the quality of your performance throughout your academic journey, come rain or shine? Or about making enough progress that is satisfactory to the institution you are loyal to?
Whatever your personal definition of the phrase ‘academic success’ might be, we can all agree that without learning and development, there is no academic success. It is about that transformative experience that you can only start seeing in yourself once you inch your toes past the finish line.
But since there are no practice runs you can do in real life, it is good to be adequately prepared for every stage of your academic journey. As we tend to view any road ahead as a sign of progress that is distant from the starting point, the journey might at times look insurmountable, but with the right help, you can get to what is called the ‘Mile Six’ of a 10K run, or that point where you cheer yourself on because we know that what lies ahead is easier than what you’ve already achieved.
Preparing for and getting your O’Levels might also feel like a bit of a marathon, a major milestone that is a stepping stone towards a new sphere of learning, or the prospect of a new career. Pressure will be felt, support will be needed, and aspirations of progressing to University will be closer to you than you think.
But even if it is a challenging step towards the journey towards getting a degree, sitting for your O’Levels is one that opens the doors to a wealth of opportunities.
Lara and Nicole’s journeys to academic success hasn’t been easy but it has certainly yielded the desired results.
Lara Cocks, who is 16 at the time of writing, is a first-year student at the G.F. Abela Junior College, where she studies Accounting and Economics at Advanced Level as well as French, Pure Mathematics, Psychology and Systems of Knowledge at Intermediate Level. She obtained Grade 1 in 9 subjects, namely Accounting, Mathematics, Maltese, English, French, Environmental Studies, Religion, Physics and European Studies.
Going into her first SEC examinations, she was worried about what would happen if she wouldn’t finish on time and other similar things that, in hindsight, were getting in the way of focusing on the actual examination, and the opportunities that ensued.
She established a strict routine that helped her balance out studying with enjoying time with her family. In the weeks leading up to the exam, she went through a lot of past papers under exam conditions.
Lara says she found studying to be a great outlet and distraction from the pandemic, and it allowed her to focus all her efforts on making sure she laid the best possible foundation for her future. Reciting ‘no pain, no gain’ along the way repeatedly, she reminded herself she was responsible for shaping her own future, and for doing her part for her journey to lead her to University.
Despite all this, she is extremely grateful for the support she received from her teachers, assistant head, headmaster, and family, who have all given her tips and checked up on her regularly to make sure she was reaching her academic goals.
She found the exams to be fair, and quite enjoyed the challenging nature of some of the questions provided, which not only tested her knowledge and understanding of the subject, but rather her creativity at figuring out realistic situations.
“At the end of the day, you have to work hard for yourself, as no one else will do it for you. You must manage your time well and put in the work to go into a career you truly enjoy. One must also be realistic and acknowledge the fact that things might change at any given time, but planning is always key to any stage in life”.
“I would like to work in the financial or business sector. I have always been fascinated with numbers, and there is something so exciting to me in accounting that I cannot imagine going down another path. I look forward to furthering my studies at the University of Malta where I wish to undertake a course in accountancy”.
Nicole Betts, also 16 at the time of writing, currently attends St Aloysius College Sixth Form, where she studies Chemistry and Mathematics, as well as Literature and Economics.
She said the support she found from her school and from MATSEC throughout the application process, the studying process and leading up to getting the results, was essential to her journey.
Nicole sat for the Mathematics, Maltese, English Language, English Literature, French, German, Environmental Studies, Religion, Accounting, Economics, Chemistry and Physics examinations, and is pleased she did well in all the subjects.
“I found that the best way to learn is to ask questions. This was not so easy to do during online lessons, due to feelings of awkwardness, but if you persist, you will clear all the misconceptions, and go into these examinations with a clear head.”
“I would like to continue my academic journey studying Chemistry and Mathematics at University. I’m also interested in Statistics and Operations Research, but I’m also open to any opportunities that come my way. I’m really excited to see where my future will take me!”
So, as the advice by Lara and Nicole lays it out, mapping your own journey to success is not just about looking at what is desired, planned or attempted. Success is an individual journey, and what success entails today might not be what it will entail tomorrow. How academically successful you are is something only you yourself can give the answer to.
Sounds like a plan. Are you ready to dive in?