Warrnambool's Ben Pennington is celebrating after receiving an ATAR score of 98.3 this morning, prior to heading off to his first day of work at a new job.
Ben, 18, said he was "pretty ecstatic".
"It's a great achievement," the Emmanuel College student said.
"Best case scenario I was thinking '97 will be the top that I'll get. I'll probably get a 95 or something'.
"I literally tore open the computer this morning. I had two minutes to quickly check it and I was like 'what?' I was surprised but it's great to get a result better than you're hoping for."
Ben was the Dux of Emmanuel College. Other top students at the college included Daniel Mahony with an ATAR of 94.8 and Catie Ragg with an ATAR of 94.
Principal Peter Morgan said the students made up the five per cent of students who achieved scores over 90.
He said 22 per cent of the year level received an ATAR above 80, which was a seven per cent increase on the previous year.
Other top-scoring students across the region include The Hamilton and Alexandra College's Milo Cooper with an ATAR of 98.15, Timboon P-12's Emily Morden with an ATAR of 97.25, Warrnambool College's Chelsea Darkin received an ATAR of 96.65, Brauer College's Lacey Eccles with an ATAR of 90.5, Camperdown College school captain Bailey McDonald with an ATAR of 86.3, Mortlake College's Taine DeMansen with an ATAR of 84.8 and Monivae College's Bronson Hill who opted not to disclose his score.
The following schools have a policy to not disclose students' individual scores with Cobden Technical School's co-school captain Tanner Fratantaro, Terang College's Ben Wickenton and Mercy Regional College's Sarah McSween were all duxes of their respective schools.
Warrnambool's King's College is not disclosing any details.
Ben is thinking about studying medicine at Monash University in 2023 but will take a gap year next year to consider his options.
"It's a very competitive program to get into and it's (the ATAR) opened up every option I want," he said.
He said he was now in a great position and could really think about what he wanted to study.
"It's almost made the decision harder," he said. "If I didn't get that score I'd think 'oh I have to do this'."
It was a big day for the Warrnambool resident who also began his first day of work with Joseph Land Surveying, where he will complete his gap year next year.
Ben completed VCE English, specialist maths, French and chemistry this year and maths methods and business management last year.
He said it was a difficult final year as students alternated between learning at home and onsite due to the pandemic.
"Everyone kind of agrees, the transition was the hardest bit," he said.
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"If you're working at school you can go home and do homework and get in a rhythm and do your other activities.
"But when you have to transition to learning at home it takes a while to get into the groove of it, to be able to have that mental strength to sit down and study it out. That's a bit more difficult.
"When you're chopping and changing between the two it's really hard to do," Ben said.
The Warrnambool Surf Club member said he went to the beach as much as he could during lockdowns. He went for runs by himself and caught up with mates outside when he was able to due to restrictions.
"It was about taking that time to destress outside really."
Ben said he'd had great support throughout the year.
"My family's helped a lot," he said. "They've been supportive and all of my teachers did a really good job at adapting to online.
They were really there to help at every session and that obviously meant a lot.
"If you needed something else they were only a quick email away. They were always at their computer which was good, even outside of class times they were always there."
He's looking forward to learning new skills at Joseph Land Surveying and is employed four days a week from February.
Ben will work as a lifeguard at Warrnambool's Lady Bay over summer and plans to enjoy summer with friends after a busy year of studying.
Emmanuel's Mr Morgan said the college congratulated all its students who "forged their way through numerous challenges created by remote learning" over the past two years.
"We congratulate the significant number of Emmanuel graduates who have already secured apprenticeships, traineeships and employment and are pursuing their preferred future pathways.
He also congratulated Year 11 students who accelerated their VCE program in 2021 and "received exemplary results including Jace Nepean, who received a perfect study score of 50 in Physics and 49 in Math Methods".
A Warrnambool College student and aspiring doctor, who completed VCE a year early, has been named as the school's dux.
Chelsea Darkin, 17, is in the college's accelerated learning program, and received an ATAR of 96.65.
"I was absolutely stoked," Chelsea said. "It was a massive surprise but I'm obviously over the moon with these results. I couldn't have asked for anything better.
Chelsea studied English and maths methods. She also completed health and human development, receiving a perfect study score of 50 for the subject, and French with a study score of 48.
"I'm hoping to become a doctor in the future so that's been motivating me throughout the year," she said.
The 17-year-old will return to the college to complete VCE chemistry and biology subjects next year, with the aim of improving her already high score.
"My plan is to return to school next year," she said. "I haven't studied chemistry yet which is prerequisite for medicine and I'm hoping get into direct entry which is a really high ATAR. I actually haven't got the ATAR that I need yet.
"In the year I'm supposed to be gradating I cant wait to finish off and graduate with the people I started with in prep."
Chelsea is looking at studying medicine in South Australia at Adelaide University or Flinders University or in Victoria at Monash University, with all offering direct entry courses to medicine.
"With medicine nowadays you have to usually do an undergraduate course before you can study medicine," she said. "That's what I'm aiming for, otherwise I'll take the longer pathway and do an undergraduate course first."
The Warrnambool resident said the score gave her peace of mind going into next year's subjects. "It's a massive relief," she said. "It's also quite encouraging that I'm on the right track. I'm hoping to fulfil my dream of becoming a doctor so it was very rewarding to get these results today.
Chelsea has been chosen as part of the school leadership team next year. "I'm really looking forward to it," she said. "I've done year 12 once so I'm hoping to give some advice and hopefully guide the year 12s next year, and the whole school. It's really exciting."
Principal David Clift said it was an amazing effort.
"I'm extremely proud and honoured to be Chelsea's principal in respect to all she's achieved this year and given that she's only done five years of school and is already getting such incredible results," Mr Clift said. "We're very much looking forward to working with her next year as she continues in her ambition to head into a medical profession."
He congratulated all students from the college.
"We're so incredibly impressed with the resilience and persistence they've shown and their care for each other over the last two years," he said.
"When we compare them to other cohorts that have gone through our school community over the last five years, they've outperformed all of them as a cohort with respect to their results, collectively is quite outstanding from a VCE and VCAL point of view.
"The fact that the kids have got through with everything they've been having to manage and deal with, is just a great sense of celebration."
Brauer College dux Lacey Eccles said studying a VCE subject last year had given her a taste of what was required to do well in her final year of school.
The 18-year-old received an ATAR of 90.5 on Thursday.
"I'm happy," Lacey said. "I thought I'd be around that mark because my SAC scores were going quite well but I wasn't sure how I'd perform in an exam situation."
She studied English, further maths, health and human development, PE, outdoor and environmental studies and completed VCE business management last year.
The Willatook teen started a full-time livestock administration position at Midfield Meats last month.
"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do," she said. "I just knew I had to keep busy once I left school.
"I'm quite enjoying it at the moment so it may end up being in my future."
Lacey's considering a double degree in business and commerce at Warrnambool's Deakin University, looking at part-time and online options, and is keen to stay close to home.
"I'm thinking I might leave it for a year or so because I don't want to go to uni without knowing exactly what I want to do."
Lacey said studying at home during the pandemic had its benefits.
"I liked you were able to organise your day by yourself so you could plan out what you needed to do and when," she said. "But I also struggled because I do enjoy that face-to-face interaction and being able to ask lots of questions if I need that reassurance."
She said she scheduled breaks into her days.
"Living on a farm I tried to stay outside most weekends as much as possible, just helping to move stock and ride my horses," she said. "Towards exams I was staying inside for a half-day on both days to get prepared."
The VCAL duxes who received awards included Justin Glennen (Emmanuel College), Le'Arna Beare (Brauer College), Daniel Dobson (Warrnambool College), Harry Stuart (Terang College), Chantai Lester and Shae De Francesco (Mercy Regional College), Jack Kempton (Camperdown College), Archie and Arjay Bag-ao (Mortlake College)
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