Oluwadamilola Ogunwale, 19, graduated from the Department of Economics, Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, with a CGPA of 4.91 in the 2016/2017 academic session. She was also the best graduating student during the session. She tells JESUSEGUN ALAGBE how she was able to achieve the feat
Did you choose to study economics or was it forced on you?
Nobody suggested or forced me to study economics. I chose the course out of my own volition. I discovered that when it comes to relating theory to reality, economics is a great course. I also chose it based on my capability. I didn’t want to go for a course that I would have to push and push to be the best. I wanted something I could do leisurely and attain the best in it.
Had you decided to study the course while in secondary school?
Not at all. I was actually a science student in secondary school, I never intended to study economics. But when my West African Senior School Certificate Examination result came out, I wasn’t totally happy. Physics was particularly a challenging subject to me. I had to read and read to even get a C4 in it. So I decided to study a course where I wouldn’t have to stress myself and excel at the same time. Though I didn’t really like economics while I was in secondary school, along the line, the interest started growing and I thought to myself, ‘I can actually study this course in the university and do well.’ Moreover, economics is like a ‘motherboard’ of social sciences and management courses as it encompasses finance, accounting and others. Eventually, I went for it.
How easy was the switch from sciences to a social science course?
It wasn’t that easy because I didn’t do accounting or commerce and other related subjects while I was in the science class. But even as science students, we were also taught economics. One thing I noticed about the subject then was that I could always relate its concept to real-world situations.
Being in a science class, your parents perhaps must have had expectations of you studying courses like medicine or pharmacy. So what was their reaction when you told them you were switching to a social science course?
They felt shocked. They asked me why I suddenly wanted to switch from sciences to social science. They asked what happened and I told them I didn’t want to study a course that I would have to push and push and at the end of the day still embarrass them. I told them it was better for me and them to go for a course that I would excel in and make them proud. After listening to me, they embraced me. At the same time, my parents are not the kind of people who would force you to study what you don’t want. They believe you should always have a say when it comes to your future and I thank them for that opportunity.
Did you consciously decide to graduate with a first class or was it just accidental?
My first class didn’t come accidentally. I challenged myself. While I was leaving the secondary school, the valedictory service the school had for us was a deciding moment for me. When all my classmates were being recognised and given prizes, I didn’t receive any and it made me feel really bad that after years of studying, I was leaving the school with no prize. There was also an overall best student and I felt it could have been me. I also took the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and I didn’t do very well. My father scolded me. He said, ‘You don’t know anything and you’re doing fashion parade up and down.’ I felt terrible, but those moments challenged me and I told myself that when I got admission to the university, no matter the nature of the school, I would beat my father’s expectations of me.
After those experiences, on your matriculation day, what thoughts ran through your mind?
I told myself that I was there for a purpose and I must fulfil it. I said I wouldn’t take any chances for granted. I reminded myself that every achiever got to that status through purpose and not through luck. I said I too must achieve the purpose for which I was in the school. How to make my parents proud was just what I was thinking about that day. I said to myself that I would be among the best when I was graduating from the university. These were the thoughts running through my mind that day.
How were you able to strike a balance between social and academic activities?
During the periods that we had departmental weeks, for instance, there were no classes. But anytime I returned to my room around 8pm, I would freshen up and pick up my book. Some others would have got tired and just slept off, but even if it was just for an hour, I would make sure that I still read. I must read every day. Also, I tried to wake up very early in the morning to read before going out when we had social activities.
What course did you enjoy most in school?
I loved Statistics. Right from 100 to 400 level, it was my best course. It’s a course wherein once you get the formula, you can do a whole lot of things. It used a direct approach to solving problems. I don’t like theoretical courses because I have a problem with reading. I had to read theoretical subjects over and over again before assimilating them. But once I get a formula for solving courses that involved calculation, I’m good to go. I love calculations. Anytime I’m solving equations, there is this particular joyful feeling that overwhelms me.
Were you a day reader or a night one while in school?
I used to read at both periods every day. It’s more about how I was feeling, not really about the period of the day. However, if I wanted to read in the day, it had to be early in the morning, I could not assimilate in the afternoon. Then, if I was reading in the night, it’s usually from 8pm to 1am for better assimilation.
What was your favourite reading spot?
I usually went to the lecture halls when I was reading theoretical courses like Principles of Management and Project Management. I needed total silence when I was reading such courses to be able to assimilate them. But for courses that involved calculation, I read them in my room in the hostel. My spot was my chair and table. Thankfully, I never had lousy roommates all through my stay in the university. When I was in 100 level, my roommate then, who was a senior, was also someone striving to achieve excellence. She made the room so conducive for reading.
What weird place did you usually read in?
I used to read in the toilet. Of course, it was always very clean. And this was because sometimes my friends would come and spy on me. They would start asking plenty questions: ‘What’s she doing?’ ‘Is she reading?’ ‘What’s she reading?’ So anytime I perceived they were coming, I would go inside the toilet and lock myself up. Thankfully, on those occasions, my roommates understood, hence they wouldn’t come knocking on me in the toilet.
As a result of your feat, how many prizes were you given on your graduation day?
I was given 10 awards, including the Best Graduating Student/Valedictorian and the Best Graduating Female Student. I got awards from people like Prof. Bolanle Awe, Prof. Adeniyi Osuntogun and from our former vice-chancellor, Prof. Kolawole Jaiyeoba.
Which one had the biggest financial attachment?
It’s the one from the school, that is, the Best Graduating Student/Valedictorian. I was given N20,000.
When you hear that winners of reality TV shows get prizes running into millions of naira, do you sometimes feel bad?
You know everything in our society is twisted now and it’s unfortunate. Even though sometimes I feel bad when academic success is not rewarded as it should be in our society, I think we all have different paths and I shouldn’t compare myself with others. I believe God’s time is the best.
As a result of your success, did you feel some of your classmates were envious of you?
This is a world where envy and jealousy cannot be eradicated. Some didn’t even express it secretly; they did it openly. There was a particular test I did wherein I emerged as the best student. I got 18/25. The lecturer wrote on my script, ‘Are you sure you’re a human being?’ I later learnt that there was no student that had ever finished answering all the questions in the test or exam of that course let alone getting that kind of mark. He also wondered why I was able to give him exactly the kind of answers he required from students. When some of my classmates saw my result, they felt I was doing something I didn’t want to tell them. I told them I did nothing other than study, but of course they wouldn’t believe.
Did you experience any down moments in school?
Yes. My first down moment was when I was in the first semester of 200 level. I was offering 11 courses and at the end of the semester, I had a CGPA of 4.67. It weighed me down for a while. This was because at both semesters in 100 level, I had a CGPA of 5.00. So I felt bad that it dropped significantly. The second time I had a down moment was when I was in 400 level. I faced some challenges during the course of my project. But at the end, I was able to overcome.
What roles would you say your parents play in your success?
First, without them paying my tuition fees, I wouldn’t have had a first class. Second, they always threw me a party when I collected my result at the end of every semester. They tagged it, ‘Party of Celebrating Excellence.’ Those parties motivated me to do better. I wanted to be celebrated every time. Third, they used to advise and encourage me that nothing was too difficult to achieve. If I didn’t understand a particular course, they would study it and give me their thoughts. I remember there was a particular assignment I brought home from school. I didn’t understand it and I showed my father. He said I should attempt it first. After attempting it, I gave it to him and then he sat me down. Thereafter, he showed me how to go about it. When I got back to school and I submitted the assignment, my lecturer called me and asked if I was sure I was the one who did it. I said yes. I told him I was just guided.
Are your parents academics?
Not really. My father is a chartered accountant and my mother is a teacher. So they are not in the mainstream academic environment. But their combination really helped me a lot.
Who is your biggest motivating factor right now?
I fell in love with Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija when I read her story of how she rose from nothing to somebody. I felt inspired by her story. If as a woman she could achieve a lot, I do feel I can achieve greatness too.
What next after school?
I am currently undergoing my National Youth Service Corps programme at the Landmark University as a researcher and data analyst in the office of the registrar. It has been fun and challenging. But I enjoy it very much. As a researcher, I am learning new things and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I look forward to a better future after service.
What tips do you have for students who also want to graduate with a first class?
In my opinion, diligence and devotion make success to happen. And they should make God first in everything they do. Before reading, it’s good to pray and likewise when you want to take an exam.
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