EAST Loddon P-12 College, 50km north of Bendigo, is about as remote a school as you can get in Victoria.
Jess Baker, of Dingee, Nathan Twigg, of Tandarra, and Amy Mountjoy, of Bears Lagoon, have grown up together through schools at East Loddon.
The school population hovers around 250 pupils and draws from a wide area.
The three have become firm friends over the years and plan to take that mutual support even further now they've left their familiar surrounds.
From this week they will share a house in Bendigo as Jess tackles a physical education course at La Trobe's Bendigo campus.
Nathan, the son of a dairy farmer, is studying accounting at La Trobe.
Amy, last year's school captain, is studying psychology.
Their friendship as they face a daunting first year is just as important as sharing the rent, the phone and power bills.
"It's the first time I've ever left home," Nathan said.
Thousands of country Victorian students will start university this week.
It's been a long, hard road for most of them.
Not only did they perform well enough with fewer resources to achieve their preference, they and their parents needed to find the money just to get them there.
Throw in the challenges of moving away from home for the first time, remote from family and friends the added worry of caring for themselves and even the mysteries of public transport it is too much for many country kids.
City students have the advantage of being able to stay living at home, that's why the statistics are so damning.
Half of city year 12 students go on to university. That number reduces to about a third in the country.
Every student at East Loddon last year wanting to go on to tertiary study succeeded with their first preference.
Teachers such as senior school co-ordinator Sarah Byrne believe the remarkable strike rate has a lot to do with tiny class sizes, with only a dozen students in year 12.
"Rather than missing out as a lot of people make out we believe our students have a distinct advantage," she said.
Riley Thomas will be sharing a house in Melbourne with four other Bairnsdale students after his desperate mum placed an advertisement on a website.
Riley will be studying sport science at RMIT Bundoora.
He has been saving hard from his part-time job as a lifeguard over summer. It is a common theme among the students.
The endless tussle with Centrelink to access government support was another popular theme.
Asset-rich but income-poor farm parents make it hard to access payments. Jess agreed her parents would make sure she didn't starve.
"Without their support I couldn't do it," she said.
John Twigg now has two students at university and a dairy farm, which is rapidly going backwards because of poor milk prices.
"Our aim is for our children to be able to achieve their dreams and we are committed to helping them through uni, although it is pretty tough for them and us," he said.