Forward Ngozichukwu, 19, graduated with a first-class degree from the Department of Accounting, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, having scored 4.55 out of a possible 5.0 CGPA. In this interview, she tells TUNDE AJAJA about the choices she made as an undergraduate
What have you been doing since you graduated few months ago?
I graduated on July 20, 2018 and about a month after, I started a graduate internship (pre-National Youth Service Corps) programme at a leading commercial bank. But before that, I was working on the first draft of my first book, which is about how I made first class at 18. It would have about 1o chapters, also detailing school life and how I managed to balance it all. It’s been a bit difficult combining writing with my work, but I’m hoping to get it published by early next year.
Was there anything about your growing up that inspired your interest in writing?
I hadn’t always wanted to be an accountant. It didn’t even catch my attention. Growing up, I enjoyed reading novels and I still do till date. I would read anything and everything as long as it involved story-telling, even non-fiction. So, naturally, I thought I would go for English or something related so I could write novels in future. Somewhere along the line, I stopped writing, but I didn’t stop reading, so I figured I could work in a publishing house and become one of the people that read books and determine whether they are going to be published or not. The truth is that I would still love the opportunity to do that in the future aside from accounting. But, when it was time for me to decide on the course to study, my dad suggested accounting because it’s versatile and very useful. I took his advice and I enjoyed it. On the other hand, I considered studying English in the university for four years a bit unrealistic for me so I agreed to study accounting and I don’t regret it. I have grown to love the field, especially since I already gave four years of my life to it and I excelled in it.
Was having a first-class degree a mandate from your parents or did you make the decision when you got to school?
From the start, my parents had always ingrained in me the benefits of getting a first-class degree and how it could be done. So, subconsciously I already determined, strongly, that I was going to accomplish it and I worked towards it. The Bible says: “Study to show yourself approved,” which implies that one must intentionally work towards success, because God will only bless the effort and so one cannot just leave it all to providence. Even though I could have done better and put in more effort, I thank God that by His grace, the mistakes I made didn’t really affect me badly. Definitely, getting a first-class degree wasn’t easy. Nothing good ever is, but ‘tough’ isn’t the word I would use to describe it, because my desire for a first-class degree was so strong that all the work I put in to get one wasn’t work to me per se, it was more of a means to an end; something I had to do to get a desired outcome. Therefore, I believe that getting a first-class degree isn’t tough; a student has to be willing to do all that it takes and make sacrifices when need be. I know we all don’t have the same capacity, but you have to be willing to do your best and then leave the rest to God, who rewards accordingly and generously.
Talking about ‘doing all it takes’, what were the things you did differently to make it happen?
First, I deliberately took everything seriously; all the tests, assignments, projects and classworks, no matter how small the marks attached to them were. At the end of the day, they played a huge role in determining what my result would be in each course. Also, before exams, I tried to cover every relevant material, even if my friends and I had to read all night, and that brings me to the third point; the deep calleth to the deep, and iron sharpens iron. The kind of friends students have also matters. I had the best of friends, who had the same goal of making a first-class degree. So, we always encouraged and helped one another. When we had to read all night, we would always go to one another’s room at intervals to make sure that none of us was sleeping. Sometimes, we would just stay in the same place and read together. Only good people can bring good into your life, while bad people will bring bad things. By the grace of God, from my first semester in school, I had had a Grade Point Average of 4.67.
How many of you had a first-class degree in your class?
Thirty of us did, out of over 90 of us in the class.
What was your typical day as an undergraduate like? Some students might want to know how you engaged yourself every day.
On most weekdays, our classes ended by 7pm, with little breaks in-between classes. After that, we would eat, go to our rooms and unwind and then try to go to bed early so we could wake up later in the night to read, especially if we had a test. On the average, I slept for about four to five hours daily and six hours on days I was lucky, when I didn’t have any pending work to do. Every day, I tried to spend one hour after class to revise what we were taught. It didn’t work all the time, but I made up for it on weekends. Also, I wasn’t the type to use the library; I preferred to read in my room alone because I didn’t like public places and I could be distracted easily. That underscores the need for students to understand what works for them and maximising it while letting go of what doesn’t work for them. Nobody should do anything just because others are doing it.
Would you say your hard work has always been self-driven or were there times that you were coerced?
My parents always talked to me, begged me and even punished me when necessary, to make me take my academic work seriously. So, at that time, it wasn’t always self-driven but I thank God that they were good enough to get me into the university the same year I graduated from secondary school. In one sitting, I passed all my subjects in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, so it was relatively easy.
Sometimes, students find it a bit difficult settling into a new atmosphere. Did you have any challenge as a first-year student?
Not really. I was 14 when I was admitted and my age became a personal motivator because I knew I was going to be in the same class with people who would be at least two years older. I used to feel overwhelmed sometimes, but my very first GPA was a 4.67 out of a possible 5.00. So, that was quite helpful. I had a minor procedure the following semester and that put me out of school for about two months, which made my grades to drop, but I managed to get them back up again to a first-class level in my second year.
Were there times your parents rewarded you for good performance?
Yes. I think it’s important for parents to show that they support and appreciate the effort their kids put in, no matter how little the effort is.
How social were you?
I like to be alone, so I honestly cannot say that I had a ‘social’ life while I was in school. I was always with my closest friends and when I wasn’t with them, I was on my own. However, I took part in some other activities outside my academic work, and that was mostly church activities. I was a sanctuary-keeper; we always cleaned the chapel the day before every service, and we had meetings on weekends. I also volunteered in our Students’ Council Welfare Unit.
Some students tend to shy away from choosing accounting because people outside the profession could qualify as a chartered accountant by taking the necessary exams. What would you tell such students?
I think it speaks more for us in the accounting profession that a person would spend four or five years to study another course, graduate and then start putting a lot of effort and sitting exams to become a chartered accountant. It shows how useful and fulfilling our profession is. The job prospect is quite very broad and the knowledge is applicable and useful anywhere.
What would you describe as your happiest moment in school?
My happiest moments were for every Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria-Accounting Technicians Scheme, West African exams I passed. The results usually came out when we were in school.
Years from now, what would you like to become?
As a chartered accountant, I want to be a consultant. My goal is to be a financial consultant. Also, I would like to work at Bain and Co., a multinational consulting company, or at KPMG. Then, I want to publish books as well; it is something I actually think I was born for. Nothing else explains why as a little child I fell in love with words and the English Language as a whole.
You attended a private university where movement out of the school was restricted and you couldn’t cook for yourself, among other things. Were there things you felt you missed?
No, there wasn’t. I liked living in school; it definitely made life easier.
What fond memories of your growing up do you still have?
I remember vividly how my dad would bring home packets and packets of peanut burger and chocolates whenever he travelled, which he did very well, around the time I was five. I also remember when my siblings and I had bicycles and raced on weekends. I once fell off my bike but thank God I had minor bruises. I also remember my primary school days and how I always got a lot of awards and prizes. It was exciting. Another time, I won a pageant in school while we were living in Port Harcourt – we moved around a bit when I was younger. That was why I attended six primary schools and two secondary schools. During the pageant, I remember all the contestants had beautiful gowns and hairstyles and then we got to the question and answer session where we were asked different questions on Mathematics, English and general knowledge. Based on performance, people were being eliminated until I was the only one standing. I was asked my final question, which was basic arithmetic but involving huge numbers and I had to solve it in my head. I got the question right and I won the pageant. That was equally exciting.
What should students do to have excellent results?
Well, the Bible says that through desire, a man having separated himself, seeks and intermeddles with all wisdom. The desire to have an excellent result is the key, it will make you want to do all the necessary things and it won’t seem so difficult. Study hard and take every work given seriously. Also, they should try to participate in class; it will help their understanding of whatever is being taught, and last but definitely not least, make God the centre of it all and He will crown your efforts with success. From my own experience, I have realised that being above average doesn’t cut it; being good, just good, also doesn’t cut it; you have to be exceptional to get there and there is no other way except to work hard. So, work hard. These days, I laugh anytime I think about how much effort my friends and I put in, because we knew what we wanted and God helped us to get it.
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