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Top students share their secrets to success


Juggling part-time work and extra-curricular activities with studies was a common challenge for the most successful Year 12 graduates of Catholic colleges in 2023.

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A total of 3413 students from various Catholic schools successfully completed their SACE last year, 299 more students than in 2022. In addition, 27 students from Mercedes College completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

Duces of Catholic schools, from left: Kevin Dang, Olivia Harwood, Trisha Patel, Oliver Simac, Keeley Smith, Ruby Pearce, Harrison Lynch, Daniel Cramond, Hudson Utry, James Pham, Zara Carney, Alby Turnbull, Isabelle Chen, Ayshia Tran, Zahra Mosey, Harsimrat Singh, Isabella Jovel, Claudia Dnistrjanski and Hayley Wilkinson.

Duces of Catholic colleges shared their thoughts on what helped them achieve success and their plans for the future.

Kevin Dang (ATAR 99.75) from Blackfriars Priory School advised that resting and taking a break was just as important as studying. He is pursuing a career in optometry.

Christian Brothers College dux Oliver Simac (99.85), who plans to study mechanical engineering, said a major obstacle in his

Year 12 experience was having to unexpectedly move schools partway through the year.

“Through hard work, dedication and the support of my family I was able to keep up with school work throughout this time,” he said.

Zahra Mosey (98.75) from Kildare College set herself the goal to obtain an ATAR that would guarantee entry to law at the University of Adelaide.

“This many late nights of studying alongside being the college captain, playing Division 1 netball and maintaining a part time job,” she said.

“My advice to Year 12s is to learn to time manage effectively, and don’t be afraid of hard work!”

Loreto College had dual duces with Ayshia Tran and Alice Baek both achieving ATAR scores of 99.5. Ayshia combined her SACE subjects with studies that were part of the University of Adelaide Headstart Program. She also completed

Stage 2 Specialist Maths in Year 11 and Stage 2 Mathematical Methods and Research Project in Year 10.  She hopes to commence a double degree in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Adelaide.

The top two Year 12 Mercedes College graduates were Amelia Owen-Turner who had an ATAR of 99.55 with three merits, and Daniel Cramond, who was the IB Dux with a score of 99. Amelia hopes to study nursing, specialising in anaesthetics, and is also keen to travel to experience different cultures. She stressed the importance of maintaining friendships in Year 12.

Daniel plans to study geology and advised this year’s Year 12 students to make the most of their time with teachers and classmates while it lasts. “And to learn for the sake of learning, not tests,” he added.

Mount Carmel College graduate James Pham (96.8) said he was enjoying the holiday break after a “never-ending grind to the finish line” and before beginning a Bachelor of Medical Radiation Science (Medical Imaging) at the University of SA.

Trisha Patel (97.5) studied Chemistry, Biology and General Mathematics at Our Lady of Sacred Heart College as well as Human Anatomy & Physiology as part of the Headstart Program. She said she learnt to balance a part-time job with leadership commitments and her uni studies.

“I think it’s really important to manage your time and understand priorities during Year 12 and include some time for self-care throughout the year,” she said.

Rostrevor College’s Harrison Lynch (99.7) was another to combine SACE and Headstart subjects. He plans to either complete a double degree of law/finance or study medicine in Queensland. Harrison said he was looking forward to continuing his involvement with the Rostrevor community as an old scholar and keeping connections with current students.  His many sporting activities provided relief from studying and he also enjoyed coaching junior footy and being a part of Edmund Rice camps.

St Aloysius graduate Isabelle Chen (99.4), who hopes to study medicine, agreed that it was important to find a balance between “studying and life”.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks from studying was vital in excelling in my studies! I particularly found peace in music, and playing piano or violin during a stressful time was perfect for preventing burnout,” she said.

Similarly, the number one tip from Isabella Jovel, of St Dominic’s Priory College (99.65), was maintaining a social life and having a “good mix of studying hard and doing fun things”. The Headstart participant is hoping to study law and economics at Adelaide.

St Francis de Sales College graduate Keeley Smith (96.55), who is considering medical imaging or speech pathology, said always staying positive in the face of challenges “makes all the difference”.

Zara Carney topped Saint Ignatius’ College with an ATAR of 99.9 and hopes to study medicine. Her one piece of advice was that “consistency is the key to success”.

St Mary’s College dux Claudia Dnistrjanski (97.9) plans to study law at UniSA. She attributed her results to working hard and consistently to meet deadlines, minimising distractions and seeking support from teachers.

Hudson Utry (99) from St Michael’s College is looking forward to meeting “like-minded people” as he pursues his university studies and his advice was to “plan your work so you don’t get overwhelmed by due dates”.

Harsimrat Singh is 2023 dux of St Paul’s with an ATAR of 99.25 which should enable him to pursue a career in dentistry. He described the exam period as “very stressful” but said talking to friends and families about your worries “lifts a burden off our shoulders”.

Sophie Wrightson (98.3) from Tenison Woods College is completing a gap year while working in a laboratory at a winery in Coonawarra over the vintage.

“I think a short break from studying will be valuable to reset and rest after a hectic 2023,” she said.

Sophie was able to spread the load in Year 12 by completing some subjects in Year 11, and she stressed the importance of prioritising study and hobbies.

Another regional school student, Alby Turnbull (96.65), dux of Xavier College at Gawler, plans to undertake a Bachelor of Nursing at Adelaide Uni before completing a post graduate degree in neonatal intensive care at the University of Melbourne. She described her

Year 12 experience as “quite smooth” thanks to good time management and support from her teachers.

Gleeson College’s Noah Simangunsong (99.05) offered this advice: “Whatever you strive for, make sure you are smiling when you wake up and smile when you go to sleep”. The aspiring medical student said it’s not about working as hard as possible, “rather it’s about perfecting every little step you take”.

Emily Penna, Mary MacKillop College captain (98.2), said she had dreamed of being a primary school teacher from a young age and was looking forward to making this a reality by studying a Bachelor of Primary Education with honours. She said her Year 12 experience had taught her “you can do anything, achieve anything and be anything as long as you are willing to put in the work, dedicate the time and have a passion for what you are working towards”.

Sacred Heart College dux Mohsin Iqbal achieved an ATAR of 99.85 and Lachlan Schuetze topped Cardijn College with 99.35.

There were several duces who also received a Governor of South Australia Commendation.


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