"I feel very lucky": Greek Australian Marie-Claire Stevens received the highest possible ATAR of 99.95

"I feel very lucky": Greek Australian Marie-Claire Stevens received the highest possible ATAR of 99.95

"I feel very lucky": Greek Australian Marie-Claire Stevens received the highest possible ATAR of 99.95

On December 18, 2020, more than 66,000 NSW students learned their HSC and ATAR results.

Greek Australian Marie-Claire Stevens was frantically getting herself ready for her first day at her first proper job, when the results were released.

When she logged on, she saw she'd gotten 99.95, the highest possible Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

"I was quite shocked to be honest! My friends had told me I would get that mark, but I refused to believe them in case it wasn’t true! I was more relieved than anything, and glad the wait was over," the young student told GCT.

Marie-Claire was one of 48 students who received the highest ATAR of 99.95.

In her year 6 autobiography, she wrote that she wanted to become an engineer. Years later, and nothing has changed.

"I’d like to work in humanitarian engineering in the future if possible, because I’ve always wanted to use maths and science to help people as much as I can."

The final year of school is the most challenging, and that’s without the additional stress of a global health pandemic.

"I think the worry that came with the pandemic made my peers and I feel united in a way, all facing the same concerns regarding online learning and being unable to see each other. While we tried to stay in contact during the lockdown, we became disconnected and many struggled to maintain motivation, but many of us said to ourselves that if we could keep working hard through all of this, we could do anything."

The young student doesn't believe that her study was greatly affected by the online learning format since it was only brief. However, when assessments had to be postponed or cancelled, there was a lot of confusion as to what would happen, or whether they would even have the chance to sit the HSC exams.

Marie-Claire studied 4 Unit Maths, Advanced English, French Continuers, Chemistry and Physics- which was her favourite subject.

There was several ways the young student stayed motivated during one of the most challenging final school years.

"I think motivation really has to come from yourself, and knowing what you want. I wasn’t striving for a mark or a rank, but just to have no regrets regarding my choices and actions."

She continuously told herself that no matter how hard things seemed, they would always pass, and that the harder she worked now, the more she could enjoy herself after it was all over, knowing she had few regrets.

"Also, when things were looking down, I would push through it and work harder, since there is really no benefit of getting worked up about a mark, and it’s much better to learn from it than anything else."

Marie-Claire also credits having incredible friends at school. "I think at the start of the year we all made a mutual agreement that recess and lunch were a time to talk about something other than school work or exams, so we would always know that we had something to look forward to during the day. A lot of my closest friends also studied similar subjects to me, so we’d have long study sessions together, often over the phone, to make it slightly less gruelling!"

When she wasn't studying, she managed to keep a balance in her life by playing guitar, watching a bit of TV, listening to music or calling a friend before bed just to chat.

The results reflect the amount of work Marie-Claire put in. She is also one of 15 girls who received 99.95.

"I feel very lucky, and I’m pleased that this will bring a lot of joy to my teachers, who really extended me this year and never failed to answer my endless stream of questions! I’m grateful to have had wonderful family and friends around me this year to share the journey."

Marie-Claire hopes to study mechanical or civil engineering combined with law at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) this year.

Bravo Marie-Claire and to all the students on their focus and determination. They demonstrated incredible resilience during a challenging year.

  • More than 66,000 NSW students completed their HSC in 2020.
  • 54,894 students were eligible for an ATAR.
  • 48 students received the top ATAR of 99.95. Of these students, 15 were female and 33 were male.
  • 17% of students received an ATAR of 90.00 or above, 33.9% received an ATAR of at least 80.00 and 50.3% at least 70.00.
  • The median ATAR was 70.15 this year, slightly higher than in 2019.
  • The median ATAR for females was 71.30 whereas the median ATAR for males was 68.70.
*Read More: ATAR Sydney Greek school rankings 2020