Stawell Secondary College's Melissa Sanders topped her VCE class and received dux of the school for 2021.
With a score of 95.35, Melissa Sanders has plenty of pathways for her future as options open up for further study.
Melissa said 2021 was too stressful but knew the breaking point wasn't far away.
"I was getting to the point where I was feeling quite burnt out from the whole year," she said.
"As we got to the exam period it was more like I was running a cross country - you get to the last 100m and you have to start sprinting and up your game - that's what the exam period felt like.
"I was lucky because all of my exams were spaced quite far apart. I had about four days between my exams and a couple of double-ups it made it easier to manage.
"It was really busy and the time went really fast. You'd have an exam and you'd finish with that particular subject then move onto the next one."
Melissa is an early-to-bed person in most circumstances of an evening, but couldn't sleep the night before her ATAR results were to be released.
"I stayed up late so I could get some sleep but it didn't really help," she said.
"I was really nervous but I was feeling more excited to hear about how I went in my exams. It was good to find out.
"My score was dead on what I was aiming for - I had a sticky note on my desk that said 95+ and that was what my dream was but I was happy if my score was in the 70s.
"I woke my parents up - it was very exciting. My family were shocked, but not too surprised as I had spent so much time studying they were happy I was rewarded for my effort."
Melissa said while she was impressed with her ATAR score and happy with the results, it was her study score in Chinese she was most proud of.
"I was hoping to get a 40 in one of my subjects," she said.
"Your study score list is released about 10 minutes before you can open your ATAR. When I opened that email I noticed I had a 49 in Chinese. I was shocked.
"Then when I opened my ATAR it just continued."
Melissa also received 42 in English and studied Chemistry, Maths Methods and Physics in year 12.
After being named dux at Stawell Secondary College, Melissa said it was an honour as even after her score was announced, she still wasn't sure if she would be the top of the school.
"There are so many hard-working students at school," she said.
The hardest thing about year 12?
"Trying to keep up a social life," Melissa said.
"I feel like this year, year 12, VCE puts a lot of stress on students and causes them to get frustrated with other people if they are not understanding how hard you are trying to push or the mental burden you feel from a lot of your subjects.
"It's really difficult at the start of the year to get a grasp on keeping relationships strong and healthy and getting enough exercise, drinking enough water - all the regular things you should be keeping an eye on top of your studies.
"Of course, the subjects were quite hard - in a way, if you work hard you can get something decent."
Melissa said despite receiving a high ATAR she said she understands the importance of balance between life and school.
"At the end of the day, your ATAR is really only valid for a few years," she said.
"But your own health and relationships are things you'll have for the rest of your life.
"Trying to keep a work-life balance is important."
Melissa said she enjoyed her classes the most and misses them now she has finished school.
"I work five days a week now and sometimes I'll be thinking how much I miss school," she said.
"I miss my classmates making jokes, I miss my teachers. The classes themselves were really good support networks."
Melissa has two main plans for 2022 and her future goals.
"I do have a scholarship to study at Fudan University in Shanghai, China," she said.
"But because I can't obtain a VISA at the moment we're not sure if that's happening. There aren't student Visas being issued at the moment.
"If I can't go to China I have applied to go to Melbourne University to study a Bachelor of Science. I'm hoping I can major in astrophysics and get my master's in physics.
"I would also like to try and study a Bachelor of Arts and long-term future goals would be to obtain a doctorate in Chinese business studies - I'm hoping to work with Chinese astrophysics companies and do delegations between Australia and China and maybe move into global relationships.
"They are some big goals."
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox from the Stawell Times-News. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the region, sign up here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.