Kelsey Ratcliffe, 17, doesn’t muck around.
The former Warrnambool College student finished high school in just five years and scored an ATAR of 97.95 – all while playing 17 hockey games for the Geelong Sharks in the Victorian Premier League.
“It's surreal – I definitely wasn't expecting to get the top score in Warrnambool,” Ms Ratcliffe said.
The key to VCE success, Ms Ratcliffe said, came down to time managements skills and maintaining a positive attitude.
Ms Ratcliffe travelled to Geelong every Thursday for training and then either Geelong or Melbourne for games on Saturdays, playing as a striker in the club’s first season at the top level in the state, where she rubbed shoulders with former Hockeyroos.
“I think being in the car actually forced me to study, so that probably helped me a bit,” she said.
“And it was good being able to have a break and focus on something else.
“My parents supported me the whole year and they didn't force me to study - it all came from my own motivation. I just told myself throughout the year that if I was eventually disappointed with my score that it doesn't because there are heaps of pathways around.”
Ms Ratcliffe skipped year nine after getting placed in Warrnambool College’s select entry accelerated learning program (SEAL) and will spend next year working within the school’s sporting pathway program (SPP), designed to foster the development of elite young athletes.
Then she will head to Melbourne to study a bachelor of education at Monash University with an eye to forging a career in secondary teaching.
“I just wanted to take a break from full time studying and earn some money,” she said.
“But it also gets me straight into the environment I want to be in to see if it actually suits me.
“Warrnambool College was a great school – they set us up really well. The teachers are always there to help you and I found SEAL program to be really beneficial.”
Alexandra Klem, who scored 96, with her top mark coming from Japanese, was the dux of Emmanuel College, despite initially fearing she had butchered the exams.
“I was so excited and couldn't believe the result,” she said.
She said her best piece of advice for students heading into year 12 next year was to maintain good sleeping habits and a sense of perspective.
“The ATAR is important, but it isn't the be all and end all of your life,” Ms Klem said.
Like Ms Ratcliffe, she will spend a year living at home and working before applying to study bio-medicine at the University of Melbourne.
“I’m not too sure where I want to go but the course keeps things pretty open...and in five years' time I'm hopefully in a job that I love, where I can help other people to live a better quality of life,” she said.