25 February, 2022 Academic - Old Michaelians

The Chemistry of VCE success – Thomas Williams

St Michael’s students have a long history of continuing to tertiary study and into various post-school pathways. Following the release of VCE results in December, 100% of the Class of 2021, who wished to progress to tertiary study have received tertiary offers and are now taking the next step on their education journey.

To give us an insight into what it’s like to prepare for the VCE, we asked some of our graduates to share their stories and tips for future VCE students.

Thomas Williams (OM 2021) achieved great success in the VCE, gaining an ATAR of 99.65 and taking out the title of Dux of the School for 2021.

For his VCE, Thomas took on a challenging mix of subjects including Chemistry, English, Japanese, Mathematical Methods (NHT) and Specialist Mathematics. While he valued each of his subjects for different reasons, he enjoyed Chemistry the most, appreciating the practical aspects of the subject and applying his findings to everyday life.

“Being educated on the chemistry of food has given me a far greater understanding of what I’m eating. Like most people I’ve seen terms like antioxidants, fats, protein and carbohydrates plastered over food packaging without really understanding what they were. Chemistry demystified all of this. The chemistry I learnt has also been relevant on a far larger scale with my new found understanding of the use of hydrogen fuel and batteries providing me with a valuable insight issues surrounding our climate crisis.”

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    Thomas having fun with his co-leaders on photo day
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    Thomas with friends on Coleman Walk

This year, Thomas is looking forward to beginning a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. While he is still deciding what career to pursue beyond his studies, he is very interested in finding new ways to fight the current climate crisis. “Researching or engineering new technologies to provide clean energy is an idea that is certainly appealing to me. At some point I’d also like to study abroad, maybe in Japan or in Europe. If I have the opportunity, I think it would be fantastic to live overseas for an extended period.”

While his academic pursuits led to securing his first preference at university, Thomas also appreciated the many different subject areas and extra-curricular activities in which he was involved.

“I think what I have most enjoyed about my time at St Michael’s is that I had lots of opportunities to try new things in a wide variety of areas. I’ve learnt to cook in food technology, learnt some basic web development skills in IT, how to work with a 3D printer, Adobe Illustrator and a variety of workshop tools in Design Technology and in Visual Communication. I’ve been able to participate in school cricket, soccer, futsal, cross-country and athletics, and have held several leadership positions in the School. I even participated in House Drama, Debating and several Music Soirees despite how nerve-wracking I found performing for a crowd. I’ve had such a variety of great experiences which have made my school journey extremely enjoyable. In particular, Exodus and Bush Skills stand out to me — the opportunity to get outside and form connections with new people was great.”

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    Thomas cheering for Sarum at the House Swimming Carnival
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    And Sarum at the House Athletics Carnival

It was this variety of experiences and activities that Thomas believes helped shape the person he is today.

I think St Michael’s has helped me become a more outgoing person who is more willing to take things on. I’ve learnt to juggle many activities in my schedule, and to feel comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people, a skill that I am sure will be useful throughout my life. I think most importantly, my education at St Michael’s has taught me the importance of balance, encouraging both academic and extra-curricular endeavours. I feel that I am a now well-rounded individual, largely thanks to my time at the school.Thomas WIlliams (OM 2021)

Reflecting on his time at St Michael’s, Thomas says that a highlight was the Japanese Exchange Program in Year 10.

“I stayed with a Japanese family for two weeks, which definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone — being away from friends and family in a new country. However, my host family was incredibly kind and welcoming and I think I made serious improvements to my Japanese and learnt a lot more about the country. It was the first time I had ever fully immersed myself in a different culture like that which I think was a big achievement.”

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    Thomas on exchange to Japan
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    Thomas on the Cambodia Immersion Project

For future VCE students, Thomas recommends maintaining a routine and preparing for exams early. Thomas found it beneficial to practice exams when possible and revise course material during the year, rather than just focusing on SACs.

“I found that keeping to a strong routine helped me manage my time. I was always a bit of a night owl, but last year I forced myself to do my work a lot earlier and to get a good sleep, which was beneficial for me. I would also recommend starting preparation for the exams as early as you can – it’s easy to think they’re far off but if you’re not doing some kind of revision, by the end of the year you’ll have forgotten a lot of things. It doesn’t take much but doing a little practice throughout the year will save a lot of work in the long run.”