Last year Hayley Pearse was part of a video project that carried the voices and opinions of Year 11 students back to their 7-10 colleges—offering advice, life hacks and reassurance about how quickly students feel at home at BSSC.

“Even though I was quite new to the college, I really enjoyed being part of the project,” she says.

“It was like giving something back to the Year 10s, and encouraging them, knowing BSSC is a really easy place to make new friends and find a great pathway to the future.”

Now deep into Year 12, Hayley has become very aware of how important balance is to VCE success.

Initially wondering how much pressure to put on herself, Hayley gradually increased both the quality of her output, and how much she pushed herself to do more.

Three factors convinced her she was on the right track.

One was winning Year 11 awards, including La Trobe University’s Business Award. Another was achieving Dux of 3/4 Health & Human Development as a Year 11 student. The third was the result she got in her first 3/4 SAC earlier this year.

“That was such a confidence boost,” she remembers. “I thought: ‘you’ve got this’.”

While Hayley is keen to get a great score, like virtually all BSSC students, she knows the awful feeling of being completely overwhelmed.

“When I really think about it, I see that I moved from stress and worry to the relief of being on the other side of a SAC or exam in just a couple of days.

“I realised it’s not worth getting too distressed about something that’s over so soon.”

Effective ways she de-stresses include having a chill night at home with a good book—she’s presently reading ‘The Final Gambit’—catching a movie or listening to music you can dance to.

The word, ‘encouraging’ is the one Hayley chooses to describe BSSC.

She’s found the culture here is supportive and says most people are polite and friendly—she doesn’t hesitate to recommend the college.

“There are so many opportunities: your teachers, bootcamps in various subjects, the library and all the services they give us—with a friendly smile—and other resources specific to certain subjects.”

The top floor of C-Block and the library are favourite—quiet—places she chooses for study.

The freedom around managing her time has been wonderful for Hayley’s mental health: she’s the only one who knows when things are getting to her and she says, “Occasionally allocating a ‘free’ to take a brain break from schoolwork is so helpful.”

She’s also glad she kept up her part-time job in retail—a place where it’s hard to think about schoolwork.

Hayley also believes it’s very important not to feel pressured to use particular study methods just because someone says it works for them.

For her, reviewing study designs and typing up summary points—and getting someone else to quiz her on these—is a big help. She also does practice SACs before she has studied a topic to identify the big holes in her knowledge.

“Do what works for you,” she says, “and do not compare yourself to others.

“I sometimes fall into this, and it adds so much unnecessary pressure. I’m not sure where this competitive need for academic validation comes from, but it’s not my parents or teachers.”

Hayley says she wasn’t always a dedicated student, but during Years 8 and 9 something shifted.

Carol Waterson, a teacher from Crusoe College, who Hayley describes as “so supportive, kind and encouraging” was part of this.

“I discovered getting high marks makes anything less seem a disappointment—which of course, it’s not!”

Hayley has also occasionally fallen prey to the social media trap where a 5-minute trawl through Insta turns into an hour of wasted time and, rather than a break, increases the stress.

This year her subjects are Business Management, English, Media and Maths Methods. Asked about a fave, she says Media and Business are hard to separate.

Hoping to one day running her own business, Hayley is not diving straight into tertiary studies. Her high valuing of keeping life in balance has inspired her to take a gap year in 2025—to step away from education so she can gather more understanding about what she really wants to do next.

“I can imagine a future where I’m selling anything to do with books, accessories for clothes, or perhaps designing T-shirts.

“I so admire women in business who take on the world—often after pouring themselves into a small brand and working hard to build it up.”

She also says many other people impress her.

“I see lots of amazing little things in the people around me.”

When she does head to uni, Hayley’s hoping for a place at La Trobe Bendigo so she can stay near family and in a regional area.

She enjoys a great relationship with her mum and dad and is grateful for their unwavering support.

Thinking about the world more broadly, Hayley says, “Even though it’s been said so many times before, I wish there was more peace in the world.

“When I think about the horrifying assaults against women and children, and the violent conflicts presently devastating entire communities in war-torn countries, I’m sure the world could be so much nicer.”

Still, her advice to herself, if she could go back and speak with twelve-year-old Hayley, would be this: “Trust the process. Life brings big and little stresses; you can only try your best and your best is enough.

You’ll do great—even if you don’t feel like it at the time!”