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Top HSC performers encouraged to find their passion at Vice-Chancellor’s reception

High-achieving students from local region recognised for hard work, dedication

Follow your passion. Find your people. Take risks and say ‘yes’ to every opportunity.

These were the lessons offered to HSC students from across the region during the Vice-Chancellor’s High-Achievers Scholarship Reception on Friday (14 December).

The annual event, which celebrates the academic achievements of top students from the Illawarra, South Coast, Southern Sydney, South West Sydney, and Southern Highlands, provides the opportunity for potential students to find out more about the University of Wollongong (UOW).

More than 150 nervous and excited students, who had received their ATAR results only hours earlier, and their parents braved the torrential rain for the reception, held at Innovation Campus.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE and staff from across the University addressed the crowd and congratulated the students on their hard work and perseverance.

“You have shown commitment and dedication to your studies, not just this year but over the past few years, and put in a tremendous effort in your HSC,” Professor Wellings said.

“Congratulations on your outstanding ATAR results. The kind of commitment it takes to receive top marks is the kind of commitment we want to see at UOW.”

Professor Wellings shared his own experiences on his path to academia, including how he planned to be an orthodontist before eventually discovering an interest in complex science.

His peripatetic upbringing, in India, Africa, and the United Kingdom, also added to his sense of adventure, Professor Wellings said, particularly when he had the opportunity to work abroad later in his career.

He encouraged the students to pursue a degree they are interested in, rather than one that will simply look good on their resume or to please their family.

“Life is about opportunities. Do something you are passionate about, because that is what will sustain you through the next few years,” he said.

“Studying something you love, that truly interests you, will be transformative, and will provide the root of your career.”

PhD student Rachelle Balez, who is based in the School of Biological Sciences, also spoke to the high-achievers and encouraged them to take time for themselves and pursue their interests.

“I left school with the marks to do whatever I wanted, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Rachelle said. “I was an artist but also interested in science. UOW was the one of the only places where I could combine those two interests.

“The flexibility that UOW offers was amazing. My double degree was instrumental in shaping my pathway.”

Rachelle completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts and a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours). When she finished her undergraduate degree, she decided to pursue a PhD in neuroscience and stem cell biology, which she was inspired to study after her Oma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

One of the most important lessons Rachelle offered to the students was the need to take a break after the stress and pressure of the HSC.

“When I found out I had a place at UOW, I accepted the position and then immediately deferred for a year. I went to Europe and North America for a year. I was able to enjoy myself and know what I had a place at university to come back to.

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’d been studying for years and I needed a break.”

Following the speeches, the high-achievers spent time mingling with senior academic staff from the University.

The top 150 students from the Illawarra, Southern Sydney, South Western and Western Sydney, Southern Highlands, ACT and South Coast regions were offered a $5,000 scholarship package if they enrol at UOW in 2019.

VC High Achievers Reception Collage