It simply doesn’t get any better than that to end VCE.

An elated, but relieved Amanda Thai opened her ATAR results to the news of a 99.05 score on Monday morning, topping the graduating class at Rowville Secondary College for 2016.

VCE may come as a shock to many students across Victoria, but for Rowville Secondary College’s 2016 dux Amanda Thai, her result is the product of years of healthy habits and hard work.

The Rowville Institute of the Arts student’s committed study habits throughout her secondary schooling meant she didn’t experience the shock many others might once they hit the crucial VCE years.

“I didn’t do anything different to what I’ve always been doing,” Amanda said.

“I did the work that was required of me and towards exams I did practice exams – I didn’t do anything crazy like lock myself in my room.

“Towards exams I kind of went on the philosophy that I’d rather go into my exams happy than stressed (and) I didn’t overwhelm myself.”

The former Wooranna Park Primary School student believes her strategies throughout VCE took considerable pressure off her in 2016.

“I did four Year 12 subjects this year and two last year which really helped – it took a lot of the pressure off this year – it meant I didn’t have to work on five subjects at once,” she said.

“I did two Englishes – Literature and English, and Mathematics, (and) it was good that I had Dance – it was an outlet for me.

“In Year 11, I did Psychology and Textiles.”

Amanda is thankful of all her teachers this year.

“They were really good,” she said.

“Especially Ricki Leicester – I’ve known her since Year 7 so she’s been my dance teacher for a really long time.”

“They were all really supportive and kept pushing me to do more, challenging me and provided really good feedback so I could look back on say, essays that I’d written during the year towards exams and see what I’d need to work on.”

A RIA student since year 7, Amanda couldn’t speak higher of her time in the program.

“I love RIA, it’s a really good community because everyone’s interested in artistic things and similar interests – it’s easy to find people you have things in common with,” she said.

“The program itself has grown a lot over the years and it’s better now than it was in year 7 (and) it offers students a really good opportunity to do what they love at school.”

2017 looks to be another prosperous year for the College dux, where Amanda hopes to study a Bachelor of Creative Writing at RMIT University.

A love of writing and creativity has Amanda hopeful of a career in her passion.

“That’s probably a weird thing to say because I got an ATAR of 99.05, you’d expect me to do something like engineering, medicine or law but those things never interested me,” she said.

“What interests me is being creative, that’s why I’m in RIA and I really like creative writing.”

“Ideally I want to be an author of fiction novels because I really enjoy that – but also editing would be really cool, working in a publishing house or anything to do with words and writing.”

What advice would the 2016 Rowville Secondary College dux give to future year 12 students?

Amanda believes in doing what works best for the individual.

“Be self-aware of what works for you,” she said.

“A lot of people say ‘you need to do this many practice exams’ or ‘you need to work like that’.

“That’s formulaic and it doesn’t work for everyone.

“Some people, they need to study more because that’s the way they absorb the information properly.

“But some people, if they work too much on the information it becomes stale and they don’t have an interest in it anymore.

“Be self-aware of how you best learn and apply that to Year 12 so you don’t break yourself trying to work with someone else’s strategies.”

Friends and family created a helpful support network for Amanda, of which she is truly grateful.

“My friends were wonderful, they support me all the time and they’re all really intelligent too so we complement each other,” she said.

“It’s been really good to have them there, we always support each other and we’re all creative.

“My family’s always been supportive – they’ve always said to do what you love, not what we want you to do.”

Amanda says that while you must remain focused in Year 12, you shouldn’t give up doing what you love in your spare time.

“Last year I did so many extra-curricular activities, production, dance competitions, and that kind of tired me out at the end,” she said.

“I did stop a bit of dancing (this year) but not altogether, otherwise I wouldn’t have an outlet, (and) I didn’t stop reading books either – I read all the time.

“Don’t give up what you love, and don’t feel like you have to sacrifice absolutely everything to do Year 12 – you can still have a social life.

“You need to keep doing what you love, otherwise you’ll go crazy if you spend all your time doing school-work and by exam time you’ll be burnt out.”

Amanda Thai’s journey at Rowville Secondary College is one she will look back on fondly as she embarks on the next chapter of her life.

“I don’t think I would have got the same experience if I’d went to a different high school,” she said.

“Especially because of RIA, I wouldn’t have met the same people, I wouldn’t have had the same community experience.

“It was really influential in making me who I am.”