Writing ITC in 2017? Mind the (expectations) gap

A few years ago now, my wife and I went for the 20-week scan of our second child. We had seen our boy at a scan 6 weeks prior but now the equipment was going to be slightly more advanced and so the image would be clearer. Much excitement. There was a big surprise waiting for us though. Our boy was in fact a girl! We had already painted a wall in our home blue and now we faced a big expectations gap. The news that we are having a girl is not bad news; it’s just that we didn’t expect it. We now have to deal with two factors, our surprise is the first factor and our little girl is the second.

What does this have to do with me? Great question! You are only a few weeks away from writing the biggest exam of your lives.  Most of you have moved home in order to prepare and might right now be in the middle of a big expectations gap.

Family:  Why are you studying?  You are on holiday!/You have already passed/You’re so smart, you will be fine/Your granny hasn’t seen you all year!/These dishes aren’t going to wash themselves

You:  But… you don’t understand

It is perfectly natural for this gap to exist.  Your family love having you around and want to maximize holiday time with you.  They really are not trying to sabotage your success, they just don’t understand how big a deal the ITC is.

6 steps to close the expectations gap

  1. Have a clarifying conversation – you are the one who knows how much work you need to do before 25 January 2017.  Sit down with your family and tell them all about it.  Maybe send them a link to this article to help them understand that this is a real thing!
  2. Set clear boundaries – the biggest problem is often when expectations are not met.  Set clear boundaries with your family around what events you will attend, when you will be studying, when your breaks will be.  All of you can then plan your lives with these boundaries in mind.
  3. Plan to have fun together – studying over this time of the year is tough so please make sure that you maximise fun family time!  Don’t lock yourself away and never see the sunlight!  You should carve out quality family time!
  4. Create a separate study space – there is a saying “we design our spaces, and then our spaces design us”.  What does that mean?  You need to think carefully about where you will prep for ITC.  Ideally this space should allow you to replicate exam conditions – it should be quiet and have a minimum of distractions.  If this space is not available at home, is there a library nearby?  A friends house nearby?  The advantage of not studying at home is that when you are home, your family know that you are available to be roped you into their activities!
  5. Enlist family as your support crew – what can you family do to help your prepare?  Meals, laundry, snacks, leaving you alone when your door is closed – think of some practical ways that they can join your support crew!  This is not an option for some of you, but for those who have a supportive family, enlist them!
  6. Keep a list of “after ITC” activities – these few weeks are not going to last forever.  Soon 27 January 2017 will roll around and you will be have the freedom to do all kinds of things with your family!  Keep a list on your phone of things you want to do but can’t while you are studying.  Working hard now, passing and then getting that pay increase, will mean that you can actually afford to do all these cool things later!

Remember that your family love you and don’t want to be an obstacle to your success.  You however have to help them understand the important role they can play in supporting you.

Paul Maughan

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