BSSC Year 12 Dux and winner of the coveted Waverley Writing Prize, Isaac Alderton, believes the decision to enroll at BSSC was the most spontaneous one he has ever made. Home is near Gisborne, so it was a decision with significant practical consequences.
Isaac is also a naturally introverted person and the move meant leaving a familiar school, starting again in the ‘junior’ part of a new school, having to get to know new teachers and make new friends.
“I was doing really well at school, but also felt like I was in a bit of a rut,” Isaac admits. “I discovered the subjects at BSSC were exactly what I wanted, so I decided to give it a shot.”
So, aside from the achievement of Dux, was BSSC worth it?
“To be honest I found it hard at the start and it took me a little while to realise that ‘I’ was the only thing making it hard for me,” he reflects.
“I was reluctant to make first contact with other students, but it seemed to happen naturally as I discovered shared interests or just clicked with someone in a class.
Isaac suspects that the friendships he’s made here may even last a lifetime and says his new friends have been the very best part of BSSC.
By the middle of second term in Year 11, Isaac realized he was feeling more than okay about his new college. He had settled into the routine of travel, he’d conquered the layout of the college and discovered that he loved the freedom, the structure of the classes and the way his teachers catered for everyone.
“I’ve been incredibly happy with all my teachers,” he says. “I feel as though I have connected at a deep level with most of them and I quickly saw that they were passionate about what they were teaching and really cared about us.”
Isaac also realised that BSSC could facilitate opportunities for anyone who wanted to thrive—and that’s exactly what he wanted.
“You can cruise if you want to, but all I had to do was ask, and I got all the help and support I needed,” he says.
By the end of Year 11, the number of awards he received at Awards Night confirmed for Isaac that he had made an excellent academic decision to come to BSSC.
Still, Isaac does have a few regrets. One is that he didn’t get more involved in some of the extra-curricular activities such as joining the Student Leadership Team.
“I didn’t avoid everything, but I think I missed out on quite a bit of fun and new experiences because I was unwilling to put myself out there,” he says. “And BSSC is such a welcoming and tolerant place, I really didn’t have anything to fear.”
Undoubtedly the travelling was been the biggest challenge. In fact, Isaac was “super exhausted” three days into Step-Up and seriously questioned his decision.
To add further pressure, he is not one of those fortunate people who can sleep a train journey away. If he wasn’t in the mood for studying on the train he would sometimes arrive home in a bad mood—regretting not using the train trip for homework, but still not rested or ready to pick up his books again.
Despite the many challenges, Isaac had other positive activities to balance out the demands of his study commitments.
Basketball continued to be a major focus of his weekends—having played in his local league since he was 10. Sport turned out to be a great release, giving Isaac a complete break from the books and keeping him physically strong and fit.
Mid-year saw Isaac reconnect with playing music. He had learnt piano since primary school, but had given up around Year 9. Having heard that playing a musical instrument is good for relaxation and helps with memory, he returned to some of the pieces he liked and began to re-learn them. It was a double benefit: a brain stimulus that served to relax him as well.
Isaac also works part-time as a crew-trainer at Gisborne McDonalds—keeping another connection that was not related to school.
Year 12 is a physical and mental challenge even before you add in three hours of train travel. With his other commitments, Sunday was the only day he had off.
“I think the combination contributed to me reaching a few points where I felt burnt-out,” Isaac says. He describes it as like hitting a brick wall. And as Year 12 progressed, he found himself perilously close to those ‘brick walls’ on a few occasions.
However, he was determined never to be one of those people who regret not putting in their best effort in their last couple of years at school.
By the middle of Year 12 he began to get really clever about how he managed his study and life balance. Once again, the routines he hit on are ideal ways to maximise learning.
“I realised that it was about quality over quantity,” he says. “I started setting myself tasks—not hours—to study. These gave me manageable and rewarding goals and then I felt really happy about taking a break when I’d met those goals.”
Isaac also took more care about what he ate and made a commitment to go to bed between 9 and 10 o’clock each night.
One month before exams he deleted Snapchat and Instagram and stuck to a strict discipline to only be on his phone for an hour each day—and the phone was always put well away when he was studying.
“I also stopped using my phone later in the evening and would read a book or do something else right before going to bed,” Isaac says.
“By the time exams came around I had all these healthy habits and curiously I had stopped procrastinating and was finding a great deal of satisfaction in everything I was doing.”
So what is Isaac’s number one study tip?
“Try and have a clear, organised study space and sit down with the intent to complete tasks, rather than say, ‘I’ll do an hour’, which opens the door to all kinds of procrastinating,” he says. “It’s much better to tell yourself, ‘I’ll finish that review and those questions’ and then go and shoot some baskets or do something that’s a real break.”
With Year 12 completed, Isaac will be adjusting to a much less-demanding schedule—continuing his Basketball, maybe a bit of piano, his work, and maintaining contact with his close friends. But life is about to change again.
Initial plans to study at RMIT have been overtaken by the offer of a scholarship at Monash University to study in the Masters of Engineering accelerated program.
It’s a pathway that Isaac hopes will one day see him developing ideas that are sustainable and have positive impacts for the world—long-term benefits that address some of our great challenges.
Isaac names Climate Change as the most obvious present global challenge.
“The fact is that it will take unanimous effort by all countries to even begin to negate the progress of climate change—and it’s only a matter of time before it will be too late,” he says. “A clean source of energy is fundamental. Until then, we can’t fix climate change. My vote is for nuclear fusion.”
Isaac is also keen that the developments in AI (artificial intelligence) are sustainable and have long-term positive impact—acknowledging that it is possible AI could change things for the worse.
Unsurprisingly, Elon Musk is a person Isaac admires.
“I don’t agree with all he does, but I really admire that he doesn’t just sit there talking about what’s needed. He’s one of the few people actually doing something. He also doesn’t let other’s opinions stop him.”
The impact of the opinions and criticisms of others have, at times, had Isaac worrying, second-guessing or doubting himself. If he could go back and have a conversation with his 12-year-old self, Isaac would tell him not to worry what others might think of him or his choices.
“I’d say, ‘defy that conservative voice in your head that stops you having a go for fear of what someone else might think’,” he says. “Take those leaps of faith and put yourself out there because this will allow you to experience things you never expected.”
Isaac’s ‘leap of faith’ into VCE at BSSC has certainly rewarded him, but, as he said in his Dux acceptance speech at Awards Night, the best, but most unexpected thing about BSSC has been the friends he has made.