An Auckland teen has made a "dream come true" and will be heading to one of the world's top universities on a scholarship worth $100,000.

Ethan Sorrell, 18, who attended Avondale College, says his success showed it does not matter what school you went to.

"Public schools still have great teachers," he said. "You can succeed no matter where you go as long as you have the right attitude."

Ethan found out last week that he had won the Sir Douglas Myers Scholarship, a hotly contested prize for our best and brightest. Dozens applied for the prize, and six made it through the the final phase. Interviews included a joint dinner, which Ethan said was both nerve-racking and enlightening, as he was able to meet other high achievers.

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When he was told he had won, Ethan said he didn't know what to do. He had already had a year of huge successes. He topped the world in psychology and biology in the Cambridge exams, and New Zealand for A-level physics and chemistry. He also played in the First XI, represented Auckland at track and field, was deputy head boy and helped to organise the school ball.

"It was just a dream come true," he said. "I could not even comprehend it. It was too much to take in at a time."

He plans to study biomedicine, in the hope of creating thought-controlled prosthetics. In the future, he wants to return to New Zealand as a leader in his field, and contribute to medical research here.

Avondale College principal Brent Lewis said Ethan was an "impressive young man" who had inspired other students.

"To achieve that kind of success you ... have to have the right talent among the student body, and the right families. And I'm not talking about wealth or education, but about family culture," Mr Lewis said.

Other key ingredients were a supportive, aspirational school culture and quality teachers.