Newly crowned dux Abbey Freeman felt an "overwhelming sense of relief" when she awoke to discover she had exceeded her ATAR goal by 20 percentage points. The Wodonga Senior Secondary College student scored an ATAR of 95.5, well above the 75 needed to get into her desired occupational therapy course at Deakin University. "I feel like because I got a good ATAR there's so many different areas I could go into," she said. "But I'm still going to stick with what I want to do because I think (my career is something) I've got to really love and enjoy." On Monday, December 11, tens of thousands of Victorian students found out if all their hard work paid off after ATAR results were released at 7am. More than 45,000 students received an ATAR with the average rank of 69.31 for the 2023 cohort, a slight drop from 70.33 in 2022. And 39 students achieved the highest possible rank of 99.95. Wodonga Senior Secondary College principal Vern Hilditch praised the results but emphasised that students "are not defined by (their) ATAR". "Follow your passion, not your ATAR score," he said at a celebratory morning tea at the school. "We have a lot of young people who do extremely well and feel that because their ATAR score was so good, they should move into an area of study they're not necessarily interested in. "And that can have some devastating effects ... you need to be passionate." Heeding his principal's advice, school captain Deklan Brown said he was looking forward to pursuing a career as a firefighter. "I've wanted to be a firefighter since I was very little," he said. "Growing up and watching firefighters all around me, it's just super cool, and I want to help people out. "It's my dream." Simone Herzina, the new dux of Catholic College Wodonga, said she was "thrilled" to wake up and see she scored an ATAR of 99.2. "It's so overwhelming to think that it's all over, but also to get the result that you want after working so hard is so rewarding," she said. Simone said she would be taking a gap year to determine what she wanted to pursue as a career. But she is leaning towards medicine or law. "I'd like to help other people, and I love being in a social environment," Simone said. "In medicine, there are so many different avenues you could go into, but also with law, so many different avenues you could go into. "Being a doctor, you could be anywhere in the world, and that'd be great because I'd love to travel as part of my work in the future." Jeremy Hams received the school's second-highest score of 99.1. He said he was excited to study a Bachelor of Philosophy and Science at Australian National University (ANU) next year. "I'm interested in science, and I wanted to do it at the highest level I could, and that's the best one for the bachelor pathway I've seen," he said. "And it allows you to be with high academic mentors and get the best opportunities in the field." At a morning tea at the school, Victory Lutheran College principal John Thompson congratulated dux Megan Danckert on her ATAR of 91.2. "Victory is extremely proud of our students' achievements, their willingness to strive for their best, and the amazing young adults they have become," he said. "For 2023, 18.9 per cent of our year 12s achieved an ATAR above 80 and 32.4 per cent were above 70. "We recognise the dedication and commitment shown by our students and the role of teachers, staff and families to support them in their efforts." Wangaratta High School principal Dave Armstrong applauded dux Orlando Bulmer on being in the top 1 per cent of all year 12 students in Australia with an ATAR of 99.5. "He's a really bright kid, and now he can pretty much do whatever he wants," Mr Armstrong said. "He's set on studying at ANU in Canberra and he'll probably end up doing a Bachelor of Science with advanced honours there, and then it's anyone's bet. "The sky's the limit with this kid." Cassandra Walters, principal at Rutherglen High School, said "all the students should be pleased their hard work has paid off". However, she said the humble student who scored the school's top mark wanted to keep their identity private. "This is only one point in time," she said as parting words to her students. "From here on, there will be different things that will take priority. "It's been a lot of hard work to get to this point, and you should be congratulated on that. "But you've got the rest of your lives ahead of you, and from this point forward, you're going to embark on an amazing journey."