If you had told Luke Dayberg three years ago that he would be studying engineering at university with a scholarship under his belt - he would have denied it.

In fact, when the Whangārei teenager was 15 he even considered dropping out of school to work full time.

But this year the 18-year-old will be studying a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Waikato and he has received a $5000 scholarship.

"I'd always wanted to be a mechanic because my dad, my grandad and my great grandad - all from my dad's side - they were all mechanics.

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"I didn't really know much about university - I thought that was something you only see on TV and the school that I went to in Papakura, they only advertised apprenticeships."

But in 2016 Dayberg and his whānau moved from Papakura to Whangārei and he started at Kamo High School.

That year he joined the engineering class and won the National Secondary Schools Mini MotoGP - a challenge which involves building and racing a mini motorcycle.

After that he knew he wanted to get involved with motor sports.

"I was speaking to my career adviser and she mentioned a degree in mechanical engineering. I ended up learning a lot about university at Kamo High School."

Once that seed was planted, Dayberg - who is of Ngāpuhi and Tainui descent - worked hard.

Last year he dropped his favourite classes and took on calculus, physics, chemistry, sociology and geology.

"I had to really do a lot of homework and really catch up on stuff I never learned the year prior," he said.

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His hard work paid off and this week he found out he passed NCEA level 3 endorsed with merit.

Outside of academics, Dayberg also took up leadership positions.

He took part in the Spirit of Advantage Voyage in 2017, captained the basketball team, and became head boy of Kamo High School in 2018.

"I wanted to give myself the best opportunity I could, with the lesser privileges I had," he said.

He applied for about 35 scholarships including three or four at the University of Waikato.

He didn't get any of them but they instead offered him a $5000 scholarship which he will put towards his accommodation costs.

"If it wasn't for that scholarship I probably wouldn't make it to uni," he said.

Dayberg has also been working as a steel fixer at Barfoote Construction. He said through the job he gains practical experience and is able to save money for university.

He said he had surprised himself and his message to other students in his shoes would be "aim high".

"Aim as high as possible, even to the point where you think it is impossible - if you fall short, you'll still be higher than when you started."