High school valedictorian Cody Simpson doesn't rule out a future relationship with his ex

Credit: David Livingston/Getty

When former Dancing with the Stars contestant Cody Simpson graduated valedictorian of his Atlanta, Georgia, high school class, he made one thing clear in his acceptance speech: “Intelligence is the sexiest thing in the entire world.”

And the 17-year-old means it.

His love of all things smart is part of the reason why he chose to date older – but now ex – girlfriend Gigi Hadid.

“I’m a big fan when a girl is smarter than you,” the Australia-born pop star tells PEOPLE. “That s why I’ve been with older girls, ’cause I like intelligence.”

Simpson cited a need to concentrate on his career as the main reason why he and Hadid, a model and the daughter of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Foster, are on a break.

“I definitely don t imagine it being over for good,” Simpson says. “We’re still really good friends and we chat. We just had to slow it down.”

With school out, Simpson is as laser-focused on making music as he was on his studies.

“I had a teacher that traveled with me. I never took summers off, and I literally powered through [my schoolwork],” he says. “I focused a lot on economics. I wanted to be in control of my business as well as my music.”

Apart from number-crunching, Simpson also found the study of English and literature to be helpful. “Reading really helps me with my songwriting,” he says, adding: “I do a lot of vocab-widening to improve in interviews.”

Traveling for his career also helped.

“Instead of learning about Europe, I got to go to Europe and immerse myself into all these cultures and get a better understanding,” Simpson says. “I got to go to the U.K. last year and visit Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace and all these places I had learned about.”

When it came to homework, Simpson calculated his thoughts and planned his prose. When it comes to women, however, studied lines are not his thing.

“I have never really used a pick-up line,” the pop star says. “An intelligent way to use pick-up lines is don’t use pick-up lines. The best way is through handling a situation with confidence – hint at a girl but not be too forward.”

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