Most university students don't get to shake hands with their vice-chancellor until graduation day.
Yesterday however, a select group of the region's students got to meet University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings before even accepting a place at the university.
Professor Wellings hosted an afternoon tea for 150 students from the region who had achieved the highest ATAR scores, and had UOW as one of their top preferences in their UAC application.
Students from the Illawarra, South Coast, Southern Highlands and southern Sydney - and their parents - enjoyed afternoon tea and an address by Professor Wellings, who personally spoke to many of them.
Former St Mary Star of the Sea College student Siobhan O'Brien said she was honoured to be invited.
"It's a good reward for hard work - and a lot of my friends are here too," she said.
"I got an ATAR of 99.65 and am still deciding whether to do a double degree at the University of Wollongong in mechanical engineering and exercise science, or to do a physiotherapy degree at Sydney University.
"The facilities and teachers at Wollongong are really good and I like the amount of involvement you can have with competitions and clubs and sporting teams."
Lachlan Marnoch, who did his HSC at Oxley College in Bowral, was also among the region's top achievers with an ATAR of 93.0.
One of his top preferences is a Bachelor of Science combined with a Bachelor of Creative Arts at UOW, but he is undecided.
"It seems like a great university, it has a nice atmosphere and state-of-the-art equipment and buildings," he said.
Professor Wellings hopes the high achievers choose UOW, but he said yesterday's event was to recognise their achievements.
"These students have been extraordinarily successful in their studies," he said.
"The afternoon tea is a chance for them collectively to get a feel for what the university campus is like.
"Hopefully it helps them make what is an important choice for them, as a lot of them will go on to do fantastic things.
"We hope they make the UOW their choice, but more importantly, that they pick the right institution for them, with the degree they are passionate about."
Pictured: UOW Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings with a couple of the region's top HSC achievers - Siobhan O'Brien and Lachlan Marnoch. Photo: DAVE TEASE