A nervous wait turned to elation for 76,000 students today, January 20, as HSC results were released.
Students also received their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), which cemented paths forward into their university futures.
A total of 17.1 per cent of students received an ATAR of 90.00 or above.
Among them was Roaa Ahmed, who attended Beverly Hills Girls High School. She surprised herself with an ATAR of 94.5.
It was a particularly tough year for the student, who was living in a COVID-19 hotspot, at the same time her grandfather and aunt died.
"I'm so delighted with my mark...I was about to cry. I don't know how it happened. With lockdown and losing two people close me, I reached out to my school counsellor and that helped," she said.
Roaa is from Egypt originally but she migrated to Sydney from China, where she was studying English.
Now university is on the close horizon.
"I want to do a double degree in psychology and journalism at either University of NSW of UTS," she said.
"A lot of people from Arabic backgrounds in the community have had trauma in their lives and I think being in journalism, I could represent a lot of minorities and give them a voice."
Kate Coffey of Woronora Heights was excited to find out her ATAR, an impressive 99.05.
"I'm really excited and also a bit shocked," she said.
"I'm happy that all I effort I put in has paid off. I did way better than I thought.
"The year was so weird with COVID-19. I found it really hard staying motivated from home. A lot of the content was harder to learn over Zoom."
The high school graduate played the flute for her final performance, which was performed in front of her teacher instead of examiners.
Kate, 18, hopes to study medical science at the University of NSW.
"I love music as a way of relaxing but if I did it as a career I would feel too much pressure. I'm interested in forensics, chemistry and toxicology," she said.
A total of 1476 students were recognised on the 'All Round Achievers' list, for results in the highest possible band across 10 units of study, while 786 students were featured on the Top Achievers list for earning one of the top places and a result in the highest band.
A total of 17,820 students received at least one band six to be recognised on the 'Distinguished Achievers' list.
Based on highest Band results, several schools performed well in St George and Sutherland Shire.
The selective Sydney Technical High School followed by Caringbah High School were the highest achievers in the area.
Also performing strongly, St George Girls High School and St Mary's & St Mina's. Schools including Danebank, Bethany College, Marist College Kogarah and St John Bosco improved on their results since the previous year.
Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said this was a momentous day for school leavers, who achieved outstanding results on par with previous years.
"The Class of 2021 should feel so proud of what they have achieved today, succeeding despite the challenges of a global pandemic," Ms Mitchell said.
"Everything our latest graduates have accomplished over the past two years will hold them in good stead for their next chapter, whether they are looking to go to university or start training or work.
"To see students come out of the HSC with the results they worked so hard for is fantastic. I also want to remind students that if you didn't receive the results you wanted, there are still countless pathways available to help you achieve your goals.
"Thank you to our incredible school staff and communities, including exam staff, families and friends, who supported our HSC students this year and helped to keep our schools and exams safe.
"In particular, thank you to our dedicated and resourceful teachers who kept HSC students learning, motivated and engaged throughout the lockdown period.
"I know these results are just as meaningful to those who supported our students as they are to the young people who have achieved them.
Students with questions about their ATAR can call UAC's ATAR Enquiry Centre on (+61 2) 9119 5012.
They can change their preferences until 11.59pm, January 21.
If students didn't get their first preference they can start in a general degree and apply to transfer after a year of study.
ALL ROUND ACHIEVERS LIST
SUTHERLAND SHIRE SCHOOLS:
Caringbah High School
Alice Chao, Luiza Dorfman Knijnik, Marina Dorfman Knijnik, Caitlin Harcombe, Pearl Haskew, Morgan Sam Lekovic, Evan Richardson, Andrian Yasintus
Menai High School
Paris Anderson, Jordan Faraj
Aquinas Catholic College
Isabella Briscas, Jasmine Dean
Shire Christian School
Darcy Faulkes, Emily Ko
Port Hacking High School
Sarah Mendoza, Layla Philippou
The Jannali High School
St John Bosco College
Edmund O'Connor, Nicholas Osiowy, Xavier Tuffy
De La Salle Catholic College, Cronulla
ST GEORGE SCHOOLS:
Sydney Technical High School
Emaduddin Ahmed, Justin Wen Sien Chin, Phillip Nicholas Fotiou, Daniel David Jensen, Dennis Lai, Quang Huy Nguyen, Pranit Sarker, Anthony Tawdrous, Kenton Tran, Liam Ka Yuen Truong, Rion Ullah
St Mary and St Mina's Coptic Orthodox College
Anna Maria Akladious, Martin Keriakos, Emily Salib
Danebank - An Anglican School for Girls
Rose Baker, Kaitlyn Chong, Emily Farah, Emily Kremmer, Marianna Theodorakopoulos, Matilda Vogl-Lenton
Marist Catholic College Penshurst
Charlotte Bulmer, Sienna De Marcellis, Victoria Kolmac, Isabella Logozzo, TaylaWyatt-Tandek
Claudia Ceballos, Chelsea Cibalevski, Jade Lozanovski, Sienna Williams
Marist College Kogarah
Justin Kris Cibalevski, Joseph Kazzi, Eric Sutevski, Blake Denzel Tambimuttu
Beverly Hills Girls High School
Helen Ibrahim, Lan Anh Nguyen, Sandra Nguyen
St Ursula's College
Gabrielle Jackson, Gabrielle Khouri, Sienna Williams, Sophia Yarak
St George Girls High School
Katerina Kalogerakis, Abby Ke, Tammy Yang Lee, Leanne Masumm, Meera Shalini Thayaparan, Thais Despina Tsovolos, Catherine Jingyi Weng
Blakehurst High School