THE first few weeks of a learner’s final school year is like a rollercoaster ride – lots of excitement, a little bit of fear, and a good dose of disorientation. The start of matric can be overwhelming, but pupils would do well to get things under control as soon as possible by devising a road map for the months ahead, an expert says.“Matric is a short year compared to previous school years, and before you know it, you’ll be sitting down for your final exams. The good news is that you still have time to put in place a strategy for not only working harder than before – which you definitely should be doing – but also working smarter,” says Dr Gillian Mooney, Dean: Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education institution.In the next few weeks, pupils should create a single calendar incorporating all the important matters they need to attend to in the coming year, she says. That includes:ACADEMIC YEARNote down the dates of all the important tests and exams, and draft your study and revision timetable. “A year sounds pretty long, but in matric, the year is shorter and the final exams sooner than you are used to, so the best time to start revising is right away. Consistency is key, and by doing your bit every day, you won’t need to deal with a seemingly insurmountable volume of work ahead of your exams. Instead, you’ll be able to use revision time to solidify concepts and complete old papers,” says Mooney.SOCIAL EVENTS“While it is obviously exciting to look forward to and plan your matric dance, 40 days-celebration and so forth, you can’t afford to spend too much time and energy on this during the year,” says Mooney. “So note down the important dates, note down when you will take some time out to plan for them, and then let it go until the time arrives.”FUTURE PLANSOn top of all the academic, social and life demands matrics will face this year, they also need to decide what they are going to do after school.“The world of work today looks completely different to the way it looked when your parents, guardians and teachers left school, so you have to do your own research. New jobs are being created all the time, and by the time you finish your studies, there will be careers that we can’t even predict right now,” says Mooney.“Leaving the decision about higher education until later means you won’t have time to properly research your options. This is why we suggest pupils do a bit of work on their future plans every week, so that they can thoroughly investigate what is on offer at both public universities and private, by doing online research, visiting campuses, and speaking to people who work in their prospective fields or who have studied at one of the institutions on their shortlist.”EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIESSport and cultural activities, volunteering, and part-time work are important for maintaining balance in your matric year, but can take up a lot of time. Try not to add more to your plate this year. Take these activities into account in your start-of-year planning, and if you find yourself too squeezed for time later, consider lightening the load on your schedule.OTHER MILESTONESMany pupils will turn 18 during their matric year, which means there is some additional life admin to be done. For instance, those who turn 18 before the country’s general elections in May, need to ensure that their ID is in order and that they are registered to vote if they intend to do so. Some may also wish to obtain their driver’s licence, which means some time needs to be factored in for lessons and the actual test. — Supplied.