Our Dux of School Shreyans Sinhal (SHT 2020) delivered the following sage advice in his address to Senior School students at the traditional Academic Muster.
Good afternoon Mr Browning, staff and boys.
Let me begin, by sharing a story from our Year 8 camp. It’s 4am in the morning – its pouring with rain. I’ve spent half an hour searching for our makeshift toilet. I’ve got blood dripping down my leg, I’m covered in insect bites, and I’m pretty sure I’m lost. Not a great experience. But an experience, I look back upon quite fondly.
You would have heard a million times, that you are lucky for the facilities that you have, and the country that you live in, and the opportunities that the School provides. Well, that’s because it’s true, and it’s definitely something to be grateful for. But that morning at camp, we didn’t have an oval, or a sports center, or a Mem Hall. Heck, I couldn’t even find our hole in the ground. So, my point is, that the opportunities at Saints go beyond just the mortar and stone. It’s the people around us, and the culture of pushing for the best, using feedback to bounce back from failure, and encouraging each other when things don’t go well, that really make me feel lucky, and stand out to me as Saints. And I’m sure you can relate. It’s what allows me to look back at that scene from camp and say, “wow, that was fun, but I’d never do it again.”
This culture, when combined with the innumerable hours our teachers and parents have put in for us, has really made the last six years nothing short of incredible, and I for one, owe most of my success to that. So even if you’re not a fan of the long socks, take the opportunity to make some like-minded friends, thank your parents, teachers and coaches, and help the people around you, because that’s what will make your experience a positive one, and add to your success along the way. And of course, participate in what you can, because that’s just a way of diversifying your experiences, and meeting new people.
So, that’s all well and good. Take the opportunities early and be grateful to those around you. But this is a dux’s speech. And it wouldn’t make sense to not add in any academic advice.
For me, I think the two most important things I did was to set goals, and plan ahead. Now by goal setting, I don’t mean the practice of filling out that sheet your mentor gives you at the start of every year. Because each year, without fail, I would write: “improving my tennis serve,” and “get better at swimming.” And guess what, each year, without fail, neither of those things would happen – in fact I’m pretty sure I was making more double faults at the end of Year 12 than at the start of Year 9.
So the point is, a goal isn’t something you just write down on a piece of paper. It’s something you want badly enough, that you’ll be willing to give something else up to pursue it. Whether that be your time, whether that be your comfort, or whether that be your sanity as you sit down to write a 15-page Spec Maths folio, putting in the effort is vital for success. And if laying out your goals, that you wish to legitimately pursue on a piece of paper helps, then so be it. But knowing where you want to go is extremely important, because it lets you reflect on where you are, and motivates you to take the next steps.
This brings me to my second point, which is planning ahead. Now by this, I don’t mean sitting there in Year 7 being like, “let me figure out exactly what subjects I want to do in Year 12,” (I mean if you want to, be my guest), but I mean having a general idea of how you want to tackle the things which are important to you, before you get to them. For me, for example, by the end of Year 11, I had decided I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, which came with a level of academic expectation. So, at the start of Year 12, I made a rough plan for my subjects. I noticed that there was often a mix of tests and assignments – so I came up with general strategies for both. For the tests, I practiced with past SATs, so I’d have a rough indication of how well I knew the content. For the assignments, I told myself I’d get the drafts done a few days before the due date, so if I needed to sit down with my teacher and have an extra chat about something, I’d have the time to do so – as opposed to doing everything the night before. Both are extremely straightforward strategies, but both gave me an idea of how I was going to approach my goal.
In fact, regardless where your ambitions may lie, whether that be academics, or sport or music, I believe clarifying what matters most to you, and planning out how far you want to go with it, are very important.
So, at the end of the day, it’s almost paradoxical. It’s a balance between living in the moment, taking the opportunities around you, and being grateful for what you have, whilst also looking ahead, planning for the future, and aspiring for more. And finding where that balance lies for you, is the most important thing.
To conclude, I’d like to thank the teachers, the families, and the peers who have supported us through their dedication and hard work and made Year 12 such a special year for all of us, in the class of 2020.
And if I had to leave you with one last message to take away from this speech, it would be this:
With the support of your friends, family and peers, enjoy all the opportunities offered by the present, whilst also pursuing your goals for the future.