Old Boys return – Tom McGregor (2017)

College Dux of 2017 Tom McGregor returned to Joeys to talk to the boys about the strategies developed at Joeys that continue to bring him success.  

During his six years at St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill, Tom McGregor competed in rowing, basketball, cricket and rugby. He was an Acolyte in Year 12 and took part in many other co-curricular activities, including peer reading.

Tom also became in 2017 one of only 42 students in a field of 78,000 to score the highest possible ATAR of 99.95, and made the NSW All-round Achievers list for scoring above 90 per cent in 14 units of study. 

Two years ago, Tom might have advised younger boys keen to replicate his achievement to do their homework and submit their assignments on time – things that are important but, nonetheless, “boring and obvious”, he told Headmaster’s Assembly.

However, with the distance of two years and having moved successfully “from the relative comfort of school into the alien world of university”, two strategies have come into focus for Tom as key to his HSC result and his ongoing success at university: collaboration with fellow students (“involve yourself in group work wherever possible,” he advised), and taking responsibility for his own academic achievement. 

Effective collaboration skills are increasingly recognised as fundamental to the future of work. Within the Joeys boarding environment there is every opportunity to develop those abilities, for the sake of HSC success right now, and success in study, career and relationships over a lifetime.

“Most schools, you go home at 3.30pm and don’t really see anyone until the next day, but here you are together, day boys and boarders; you are having dinner together, then afterwards you’re studying together,” says Tom, who became a weekly boarder from Manly in Year 7. 

“Most schools, you go home at 3.30pm and don’t really see anyone until the next day, but here you are together, day boys and boarders; you are having dinner together, then afterwards you’re studying together,”


“When I was at school, some of my most effective study was not done sitting in front of a laptop, but instead involved a group discussion or a brainstorm in someone’s room.”

Taking responsibility for his own academic achievement involved setting goals, being independent and going beyond the prescribed work. Tom looks back with great regard for his teachers and their role in his success. “I loved all my teachers, they were all really helpful and engaging, and very passionate about their subjects in a way that was contagious,” he recalls.

Tom’s two strategies have continued to serve him well at the University of NSW, where he is studying a Bachelor of Commerce and Economics majoring in Finance, Accounting and Econometrics. 

“I’m really happy with my uni marks, they’ve been very consistent since the beginning,” says Tom, who is considering a possible career in finance or investment banking. 

“There are a lot of group assignments, and you have to work with people – you don’t have a choice. Developing those habits here at Joeys, especially in Years 11 and 12, has worked really well for me at uni and work, and given me the confidence and the ability to work well with others.”

Tom told the boys that, “even if these strategies aren’t for you”, being at a place like Joeys means there are many tools to help boys achieve their academic goals – the STRIVE program, homework support and peer tutors being just a handful of the opportunities to help boys improve the way they learn.

But 2020 HSC students such as Adrian Dawson needed no convincing about the effectiveness of Tom’s strategies. “I really thought his advice is something that me and many of the boys will be trying to implement even more now,” Adrian said. “It means a lot to know that something that seems so impossible [an ATAR of 99.95] is actually available to us at Joeys.” 

Tom meanwhile has continued to balance his studies with many other pursuits, including part-time jobs at the Manly Bowling Club, in publishing and as a homework support tutor at Joeys in 2018. He also plays rugby with the University of NSW Colts. Last year, he took time off to travel with some Joeys mates. 

It’s a busy life but, thanks to the skills he developed at Joeys, he knows how to strike a balance and make it all work. 

“If you can manage to introduce these strategies into your studies in a way that works for you,” he assured the boys, “I guarantee that you will be able to perfect this balance between work and enjoyment, and in turn, get the most out of your Joeys experience.”