By: A. Melcon
Dear Form 4s and Form 3s,
Currently being a Form 5 who has already finished their IGCSES, it is easy to look back on the past two years of my life and discard the IGCSE as a course which, despite being hard at times, is overall doable. Just like everything else in life, school systems consist of various steppingstones which keep increasing exponentially in difficulty, but the expected hardship both myself and my year group expect to face in the IB doesn’t come close to discrediting the past two years of overcoming milestone after milestone.
At the end of Form 3, I was a relatively reserved, focused pupil who, despite being determined to achieve good academic results and study hard, lacked a sense of self-discipline, motivation and open-mindedness I feel I have gained over the last two years. I found great difficulty in choosing my subjects, as although they were the ones I felt the most passionate about (triple, history, geography and art), both myself, friends and family attempted to discourage me from choosing these, as they thought I may not succeed with the high workload. Looking back at the moment in which I decided whether to go with either the option I most wanted or the one I felt was safer and more comfortable, I realize how much these past two years have shaped me as an individual. Now, with a much higher confidence in myself and my abilities, in addition to the skillset that I have acquired through the hard work I have had to put in over the course I can ensure that, if I were to be presented with a similar choice in the future, I would know exactly how to act. Regarding both IGCSE choices and situations in which you are at a crossroad between choosing between what you most desire and the “safety option”, always go with what you will enjoy the most, as it is a two year course and you will go much better in a subject if you truly enjoy learning about it.
Although, having studied greatly, I have managed to mostly succeed over these past years, I recognize that I have had some rocky moments where I have begun to lose my determination and drive for achieving what I wanted to achieve. Feeling overwhelmed by a huge to do list or stressed about that upcoming coursework that I had no idea how to even start, the feeling of despair was not unknown to me. Once too many times, the stress of not doing well on a project led me to procrastinate it closer to the deadline, once again showing my occasional lack of confidence in my abilities, and increasing my workload as I would end up having to do a lot of the work over just a few days. To manage the anxiety that sometimes came with this procrastination, I suggest pinpointing what you are feeling, as sometimes simply the self-awareness of exactly what is making you anxious can be tremendously helpful in overcoming these feelings and getting the courage to start the work.
Regarding extracurricular activities, such as charity projects and more, I would suggest using them to your advantage to learn more about yourself and your capabilities. Before acquiring various leadership positions I knew much less of how complex organizations worked, also being significantly less confident when public speaking and having delayed critical thinking. My advice to IGCSE students is to attempt to balance their school lives with projects offered by St Pauls such as MUN, Girl Up, Mãos na Massa, Project Gold and more, as these will all give you opportunities to grow as individuals and understand the impact you can make on your community. Personally, I believe that whilst some of my personal development can be attributed to the amount of times I have faced a problem I have been forced to overcome in my academic studies, the bigger part was in the moments I had to step up and lead others in an extracurricular activity.
Most importantly, I believe finding a hobby that you enjoy very much is, essentially, the first thing that should be on your to do list upon entering your IGCSCE years. The immense stress of the IGCSEs means that, if you are not careful, you may end up using all your free time to work instead of also focusing on other activities that you like, some examples maybe being basketball, football, knitting, horse-back riding and more. This is a problem I struggled with, as I prioritized my academics over sports, which I greatly enjoy, which led me to feeling much more anxious and unhappy. My suggestion is to plan out your time to ensure that there is always at least an hour of your day spent on ‘you’ time. Use these two years before the IB to develop your abilities, as you will acquire a lot of knowledge about yourself and the world around you not only in classrooms, but in all the groups, activities and societies that you participate in after it.
Moreover, know that you are never alone. Your teachers are here for you, your friends are here for you and your family is here for you. As long as you have the courage to ask for help when it is needed, you will not be short of any advice throughout this course.
I hope that your IGCSE years are just as enjoyable as they were for me, and that you are passionate and happy with the subjects, projects and activities you are involved in. Use these years to shape yourself as an individual, always chasing what you want with determination and ambition. Also, try not to stress. Although this may seem like an euphemism after having spent months non-stop studying myself, but, when you step back and see the full picture you will manage to understand how, at the end of the way, your development as a student matter much more than a number on a paper.