WOODEND teenager Will Niven has his mornings down pat.
To get to school on time - by 8.30am - the 17-year-old gets up 5.30.
In winter he bursts out his front door and leaps onto his bicycle, wrapped in a scarf, jumper, school blazer, white shirt, undershirt, and sometimes another jumper with the hood underneath his bike helmet.
Then he pedals a kilometre or so down to Woodend railway station, puffing mist, bracing against the wind - "Mid-winter it was minus two every morning for about two weeks" - and then heads for the warmth of his seat inside the 6.56am V/Line train into the city.
"But if I need to absolutely make sure I'm there on time," he said, "I catch the 5.56," he says.
Niven is in year 12 at Melbourne High School and is seemingly willing to give up a little sleep to attend the prestigious secondary college in South Yarra.
He is one of a small cohort of ultra-dedicated students willing to cover long distances in order to receive a top-notch education. Niven's morning commute takes just over 1½ hours, door to door.
Put another way - he travels to and from school for three hours every day. Fifteen hours every week.
"I used to have a routine of doing homework that I haven't finished the night before, but more and more the train ride is turning into 'Get an extra hour of sleep'," he said. He is equipped with noise-cancelling ear buds and listens to heavy metal while he dozes. He doesn't use an alarm.
"I've got a very weird body clock that wakes me up at exactly Middle Footscray,'' he said. He gets off at North Melbourne, then catches a train direct to Flinders Street, and from there another train to South Yarra, followed by a five-minute walk to Forrest Hill. Describing the journey is not nearly so exhausting as making the pilgrimage daily, yet Niven is not an exceptional case.
Assistant principal David Smyth has taught at Melbourne High School for almost 40 years, and guesses that the average commuting time for students at the selective entry school is more than one hour.
When prospective year 8 students have their orientation day in December, one of the final activities of the afternoon is breaking them up into groups based on train lines - to encourage them to travel together and make their long and arduous journeys more interesting.
"It always impresses us the amount of time they're willing to travel for education," Mr Smyth said.
Students from other selective schools such as Suzanne Cory High School, University High School and MacRobertson Girls High School, have comparable travel times.
Teenagers travel across the city and from the country - everywhere from Epping and Braybrook to Tynong and Jindivick - to attend Nossal High School in Berwick.
Georgina Ledin, 17, makes the journey there from her family's 20-hectare hobby farm in Poowong East, in South Gippsland.
Georgina was academic captain at her old school - Marist-Sion College in Warragul - but was thrilled to get into the selective school "where you're just like everybody else," she said, "where everybody really wants to learn."
Her father, an accountant, drives his daughter 20 minutes every day to Drouin station, where she catches a 7.56 V/Line train.
Neither of them sees the commute as a draining exercise.
Instead, the drive is welcome family time - and a chance to mull over her business management homework with an expert.
"I think the reason why I've done quite well this year is because I've had that 20 minutes of conversation every day, talking about case studies," said Georgina, "but also what I'm going to do that night, or the weekend, my plans and my life."