Frenchy's VCE Survival Guide


I remember being in Year 10. I wanted more. I knew that where I was in my life at that point was not enough for me. I knew I had to look outside of the bubble I was in – outside of high school, and towards the future…


In high school, a lot of people told me that I was gifted. “You’re so smart,” they would say. Yet what a lot of my peers and teachers did not know about me, was that I was not born “smart” or academically inclined. It was actually something I worked towards and developed thanks to the help of Kumon, a Japanese educational program, which trains mathematical and English skills.

I started Kumon in Year 3, and prior to this, my English and mathematic skills were quite average. By Year 6, I was confident in my schooling, and decided that it was time to extend beyond my primary school subjects, and prepare for high school. This was when I asked my parents if I could start learning Italian with a tutor, and so I did!

Yet even with tutoring, I still was not the smartest person in my year level. Like I said, I was not born “gifted,” but rather, I was raised to be motivated and dedicated to achieve whatever I wanted. Wanting to do well at school, I made myself one of the smarter students. It was not as easy as it sounds, and it required a lot of hard work and study from Year 7, all the way until, and even during, Year 12.

Having tutored high school students over the past three years now, I often emphasise that to do well at school, you do not have to be smart. You have to want to be smart, and want to do well, and that will be enough to drive anyone to succeed.


In Year 8, we were given a Humanities assessment task about careers. We had to choose three potential careers, and mine included teaching, photography and being a doctor. This was when it started to sink in that high school was not just for fun, but was the foundation of my future.

Before I proceed, I want to acknowledge that not everyonewants to be studious or academic. Not everyone wants to complete high school, or proceed to tertiary education. And that is okay! I am the first and only person in my family to have attended university, so I know that everyone is different, and because everyone is unique, it is only natural that we are all compelled towards different pathways.

After Year 8, I began to treat high school with even more gravity. I knew that what I put into my studies in those early years of high school, would ultimately set the foundations for Year 12.

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In Year 10, I had a good idea of what I wanted to pursue after secondary school. I decided that I was going to attend the University of Melbourne, and it was not a decision that I took lightly, but a goal I knew I needed to push myself to achieve.

I remember at this point, English was not my strong subject, yet I wanted to be good at it. So, I got an English tutor, and slowly learnt how to dissect texts. I was still not where I needed to be, but I was on my way.

At the beginning of Year 11 I was getting 75% in English. So, I changed to another English tutor – for both VCE English and VCE Literature. My tutor’s name was Mariah, and she literally changed my life!

With the help of my tutor, I heightened my Year 11 marks from 75% in English in term one, to an average of 95% by the end of the year. The same went for Literature, which she helped me with. I went from having absolutely no idea of how to analyse a book or poem, to writing on Keats and Ibsen with confidence.

Year 12 was a lot harder though, and I began preparing for my exams as soon as 2014 rolled in. I followed in Mariah’s footsteps and wrote an essay a day, just as she did in Year 12, which improved my writing tremendously over the year. My friends, and maybe even my teachers, thought I was crazy writing so many essays, but I had one goal in mind: Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne.

I studied so hard that year, that sometimes I wonder how I even survived!


That year I also ran into difficulty within my own family. In May of Year 12, I was driving my mum and Nanna to celebrate Mother’s Day at a café in Williamstown. I was a learner driver on the freeway, and when I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw my Nanna bubbling at the mouth and totally unconscious. Nanna nearly died twice that day, and spent most of that following year in hospital.

My Nanna was like my second mother. She lived in the street next to me, and came over every single day. So seeing her so unwell took a toll on my mental health. I was traumatised by seeing her have a heart attack in the car, and waiting for twelve minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Then to have her almost pass away again that day, made me emotionally distressed.

We would visit my Nanna in hospital every night, which meant a 40-minute drive, and 80 minutes less study than other students per day. Yet I adapted to my situation and brought my books and work with me to hospital. I was not anti-social, but I would sit in my Nanna’s hospital room and slowly work through easier practice exams. My Nanna understood my dreams, and encouraged me to do my best to achieve them, even if that meant studying beside her. Looking back, I am so glad I did this and spent as much time in hospital with her as I could.

I use this situation not to evoke sympathy, but to let you know that you can do it, even if things do not always go to plan.

I made up for this loss of study time by utilising free time at school. This included studying in the mornings before school, and spending my lunchtimes in the library. Yes, it may have impacted my social life by spending lunch in the library, but I was lucky to make some lovely friends in the “Silent Study Room” anyway, so it all worked out.


When the news came in January that I was officially accepted into the University of Melbourne, I was so proud of myself. I DID IT. Nothing beats the satisfaction of working hard for over five years, and achieving a goal you put blood, sweat and tears into.

While I am so grateful for my parents who supported my academic endeavours by putting me through various tutoring programs, and for the tutors and teachers who guided me to do my best, it was ultimately ME who put in the hard work. Yes, I made sacrifices that year. Friendships were lost, new ones were made, and hardships were endured. But at the end of the day, I achieved my goal, and that is all that matters.

Having now completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne, I am reminded of my journey to getting to where I am now. If you are going into Year 10, Year 11 or even Year 12 in 2018, I want you to know that you can do it! Whether you want to get into university, TAFE, or complete a trade, YOU GOT THIS!

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Stay tuned for PART 2 of this blog post, where I will share my experiences in my undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree with you!

Additionally, if you have any questions regarding my time at the University of Melbourne that you would like answered in my next blog post, leave a comment below.

Chelsea Elizabeth xx