YOU have to feel sorry for Bathurst's 2021 crop of year 12 students.
The seemingly neverending story that is the Delta outbreak in NSW has been responsible for many difficulties, denied dreams and disappointments, but there should be a special category for those in their final year of school.
The HSC is not the making or breaking of a life, of course - our city's students will have heard that a number of times this year - but it is the end of a long trek and it does come with its expectations.
It's also a sort of fork in the road - the point at which a group of students who may have been together since year 10 or year seven or even kindergarten will untangle themselves from each other and pursue different paths.
It's a year of various rituals and rites of passage as well as the exams themselves and, for some, it can be a time of soul-searching, reflection and introspection.
In short, it's often a year of high emotion and the occasional high drama before you throw in the complications of lockdowns and restrictions and the rolling uncertainty of when, and how, the HSC exams will take place.
Given the disruption of the past couple of months, Bathurst's students will deserve a round of applause just for getting to the finish line.
They will have put up with more than many of their equivalents in previous years - not the class of 2020, of course - and should allow themselves a sense of satisfaction for having ridden it all out.
And the exams?
As anyone who has gone through the process knows, the HSC will mean different things for different students.
For some, the aim will be to make the exams a lead-in to further education, but for others, it will simply be a full-stop to a life in a school uniform as a new life in the workplace beckons.
No matter the student, though, the HSC does not mark the end of learning. All of us are forever learning - even those of us who long ago decided there was nothing more to know.
We've all learnt a bit about pandemics and how societies deal with them and what's ultimately meaningful in life in the past couple of years.
That's not a topic that would slot neatly into the HSC in the form of an exam question, but it's no less important.