There has been an increase in students needing needing support with mental health and anxiety across the Illawarra.
This October, 2,556 students from Illawarra schools will sit for the HSC.
Figtree High School Principal, Daniel Ovens said more students have reached out for special provisions this year than previous years, to cope with mental health issues.
"We have wonderful support structures in place for our young men and women who are heading into the HSC exams on October 12," Mr Ovens said.
"Our focus as a school is to have every student cared for. No student here could say they don't have a connection with at least one teacher."
"The mental health and well being of our students is front of mind and an absolute priority.
"It's been a challenging three years for these students and we ensure that every pupil has access to support, when they need it."
Daniel Ovens said more students from Figtree High School have chosen humanities and subjects in PDHE, that can lead to careers in exercise and physiotherapy.
"The harder subjects put a lot of strain on students and their time. I like to focus on the school mantra, 'choose subjects that you are good at and that you are going to enjoy in your final years of schooling'."
"The overall academic attainment will reflect on the student's achievement and that doesn't always mean doing the harder subjects," Mr Ovens said.
Data from the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) reveals fewer students are studying physics and ancient history than in the past, as the popularity of biology, business studies exercise and PDHPE rose to ten year highs.
Hugo Kutassy, 18, from Figtree High School, said he has his sights set on becoming a primary school teacher.
"I had great primary school teachers and they've really been my inspiration to join the profession," Hugo said.
"My parents encouraged me to choose subjects I would enjoy and be fulfilled with.
"I chose physics, chemistry, ancient history, advanced maths and english. Physics and ancient history are my favourite subjects and I have great teachers for both.
"I'm a bit nervous about the exams but we've been working really hard, and the teachers have helped out a lot with past papers and questions we might encounter."
Mackenzie Thew, 18, from Figtree High School said she'll be happy if she gets an ATAR above 80.
"I am one to get stressed ahead of exams but we've done so much preparation, I know I'll do the best I can," Mackenzie said.
"I'm studying advanced maths and english, biology physics and modern history.
"My subjects all have heavy content but I really enjoy a challenge, it keeps me engaged. I usually study for about three hours but have stepped it up in Year 11 and 12.
"COVID did take a big chunk of Year 11 out, with face to face teaching, and not being able to readily contact teachers the same as if you were at school. We also missed a lot socialisation with friends.
"I'd love to get a job in medical research but still haven't fully decided what I'll do," McKenzie Thew said.
Madison Newman, 17, said she's looking towards a career in radiology.
"I'll be sitting exams in physics, chemistry, PDHPE, advanced english, advanced math and extension math," Madison said.
"I'm definitely going to be nervous, it's the most important thing we have done in our life so far, so yeh there are nerves. I feel really supported and I have been given everything I need to succeed from family, friends, teachers and the school.
"Being out of the class room during COVID meant that as a cohort we had to find a different way of connecting. I think it's made us more supportive of each other after going through such a vulnerable time."
A spokesperson for NESA said the 2022 HSC operation has largely returned to normal.
Students can access tips, resources and advice to support their mental health and well-being in the lead up to and during the exams, via the Stay Healthy HSC hub.
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