For Mika Zollner, the best thing about winning the top scholarship prize for sculpture was knowing that someone "got" her work.
"It's such unusual art, I was surprised they understood it," the former Wellington East Girls' College student said.
"No-one understands it really. My friends don't understand any of it, and my parents don't really get it or really like it."
The 17-year-old was one of thousands to receive a New Zealand Scholarship this week. As well as the top scholar prize for the subject, she won scholarships for English and design.
"It was really stressful at the end, with a lot of late nights," she said. "I did get stuck a lot, so I didn't have very high hopes."
She discovered conceptual sculpture while at college in 2012. "It's not traditional art, which is what I enjoy."
Her sights are set on a career in environmental management and urban design. She is enrolled at Melbourne University this year, with a broad syllabus involving architecture, design and engineering ahead of her.
"But the prize is kind of making me think maybe I should keep doing [sculpture] in my spare time."
Her top scholar prize will contribute $2000 a year to her tertiary study, though traditionally this was for a university in New Zealand. "I'm going to talk to NZQA, so we'll see."
Another student celebrating this week is Jack Garden. The Wellington College student was one of nine boys and one girl to receive a Premier Award.
He won outstanding scholarships in English, history and statistics on top of scholarships in calculus, geography and physics. "It was a really busy year."
The prize would provide $10,000 annually during a three-year course of study.
"It was better than I expecting. It was really quite a surprise when I loaded up the website."
Set to study law and humanities at the University of Auckland, Jack had given himself a relaxed summer off. "I did take a break from the maths textbooks - time to watch the Sochi Olympics and Sherlock, that sort of thing."
A total of 2386 students won scholarships through the NZQA-run exams, out of 11,000 entrants. Each gets a $500 grant towards further study in that subject.
Wellington College 9
Palmerston North Boys' High School 2
Hutt Valley High School 1
Lindisfarne College (Hawke's Bay) 1
St Patrick's College (Wellington) 1
Queen Margaret's College 3
- The Dominion Post