Fear of the unknown in these ever changing times is causing trepidation in many students across the state tackling the HSC this year.
Two students at Calrossy Anglican School, one a day student and the other a boarder, are combating the isolation and winning the fight to stay positive and motivated.
The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has announced sweeping changes will be made to this year's HSC.
These include principals given the flexibility to make changes internal assessments; the cancellation of ensemble and group assessment components; and making work experience for vocational students non-compulsory.
Yet despite missing social moments and memory-making in the last year of school, it's hoped students will, in the end, come out ready for whatever the 'real world' throws at them.
'We are prepared'
Year 12 students Paige Gainsford and Amy Cantril said preparation, knowledge, and support from their teachers were the keys to remaining committed.
Paige, a boarder from Gunnedah, is doing a school-based traineeship in nursing.
She had spent a lot of time at Tamworth hospital doing her work placement requirements before the lock-downs were in full force.
With NESA now cancelling work placements for vocational studies, she still hopes to be able to return to the wards soon.
"I definitely think it will impact in some way, but we are very prepared," Paige explained.
The hardest thing is probably getting the motivation to study. Being at home it's harder, but our teachers are really encouraging and are always there for us.Amy Cantrill
"I've already had a year of my traineeship, its just about finishing everything off now. I think I'm very much prepared for my RNs next year, but it is sad to not be able to go to the hospital."
For Amy, a day-student studying visual arts, chemistry, biology, advanced maths and English, she is feeling the lack of social interaction with her friends and teachers.
"The hardest thing is probably getting the motivation to study. Being at home it's harder, but our teachers are really encouraging and are always there for us," Amy said.
"With the practical side of subjects it is harder. For visual arts, I can do everything at home for major work because I have the supplies.
"That's lucky for me, but I am sure other students would find it hard. For biology and chemistry, it's hard too, as we have a large practical component in the syllabus now.
"We have been focusing on theory for the most part ... we are hoping to be back at school for a couple of days in week three, and we will do a lot of practicals in class then."
Looking at going to a university in Queensland to study a bachelor of science, she hopes universities will also take into consideration of the trials and tribulations students have faced this year.
"At the end of the day we are all in the same boat," Paige agreed.
Same boat, but different reality
Yet that boat looks different for every student and every school across the state.
Principals and system authorities now have the power to determine the number, type and weighting of tasks for HSC and Year 11 school-based assessments.
I really hope they do take into consideration the disadvantage we have all been at ... unless they do, I wouldn't do as well as I would have if life was normal.Amy Cantrill
But Amy has concerns this year won't provide an even playing field for everyone, even with these measures in place.
"I really hope they do take into consideration the disadvantage we have all been at," Amy said.
"I think unless they do that, I wouldn't do as well as I would have if life was normal."
Calrossy Principal David Smith said he welcomed that long leash to make changes as he saw fit.
He does have concerns surrounding the accurate reflection of students' abilities in comparison to others state-wide.
The biggest thing is equity and fairness in the HSC. [However] ensuring the experience is the same for every child is almost impossible.Principal David Smith
"I am actually very pleased the HSC is going to continue, in fairness to students who've spent half-a-year up until now working," Mr Smith explained.
"For it to be changed or considered different would be unfair."
He said the changes NESA had made was a "sensible thing to do."
"Because some of the outcomes were very prescriptive and strict, they would be impossible to achieve with every child with the current distance learning and disruptions," Mr Smith said.
"The biggest thing is equity and fairness in the HSC.
"[However] ensuring the experience is the same for every child is almost impossible."
He "takes his hat off" to all teachers in both public and and private schools who are bending over backwards to help their students.
"Where we sit, we are concerned because our boarders are not on campus until at least week three, but the other kids are back at school quicker," Mr Smith said.
Know what options there are
The HSC is about setting yourself up for the future, and Calrossy's careers advisor Charles Impey has his finger on the pulse.
Universities are implementing changes in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
But just like any other year, he says there is nothing standard about how they are organising admissions.
NESA has said education authorities are working together to ensure a pathway to university for Year 12 students.
"Every university has their own admission criteria. Sometimes different faculties within same university have different criteria. There is no rhyme or reason," Mr Impey explained.
Many of his year 12 students have already applied for early entry, or know when their university will open up for submissions.
He says the key to beating the fear is knowing what your options are even in the face of uncertain times.
"The known gives you reassuring, the unknown makes you feel insecure," Mr Impey explained.
"With the Educational Access Scheme, where a student who has been under pressure for various reasons can get help with a university admission, the COVID-19 wont be considered and impact," he explained.
"The disruption has to last a minimum time of six months ongoing.
"COVID has not been around long enough to be a criteria on its own."
He creates a Q and A each month to address common questions, and has 11 universities booked in for live Zoom sessions.
"It's been a bit of work but enables students to ask the questions as they would if they visited the school," Mr Impey said.
"We are also doing that for colleges as well ... including alumni joining in."