Twenty-two-year old Umossoh Otobong was the best graduating student of BOWEN University, Iwo, Osun State in the 2012/2013 academic session, with a 4.97 CGPA from Accounting department. She shares her experience as an undergraduate with TUNDE AJAJA
What was the attraction in accounting for you?
I have always loved Management Science for some reasons and I like Accounting as a course and as a profession. I see it as a versatile field, coupled with my proficiency in mathematics. I had always wanted to be among those who could provide solutions to problems. That geared me towards Accounting because it is a course that is needed everywhere and there is nothing we do that does not involve management, either of money or situations; the knowledge of accounting is key. It goes beyond counting or recording money.
Can you still recall your elementary and secondary school experience?
I used to be playful when I was young, not beyond normal though, but my dad was very strict, and he would take none of that. In fact, he used to flog me and he had a way of making me prepare ahead of my class to ensure that I came out best. That helped me eventually because when I was in primary three and my brother was in primary five, I was able to do some of the things primary five pupils were doing. My secondary school period was my formative years because competition was very severe as there were many brillant students in my class. Then, you had to try your utmost best to be among the best. Being the best was not enough then, you had to be your utmost best to have a place, and that was when I learnt to study very hard.
Did anyone influence your choice of Accounting?
My mom was very encouraging and supportive. She steered me towards my choice. She told me to do whatever I had in mind to do and not what people felt I could do.
How about your dad who coerced you into being serious?
My dad had no input, not because he didn’t want to but he couldn’t. He had passed on at that time. He died in 2006 when I was in SS2.
What impact did your background make and how much did it influence you?
My dad was a great disciplinarian. He instilled in me the desire to be the best and I’d say without his drilling, I don’t know if I would have been this serious and committed to my academics. I know that coercion into studying is not enough because we always have a choice to make but he did his best and I thank God that I yielded.
One would have thought you were a genius to have a 4.97 CGPA?
Well, God has given me the gift to understand things speedily and I tried my best to work hard, coupled with God’s grace, so, I can’t say if I’m a genius. My secondary school really helped me because I learnt that putting children in classes that were very competitive could help them to work hard. If you put them in a class where everybody is average, no one would care about being the best. They tend to relax, or become local champions. You may be brilliant but you may not be motivated enough to work on yourself to bring out the best in you if you don’t see other people doing well or you have nothing at stake. So, for me, the hard work was self-driven.
How easy was it passing your West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination and Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination?
I wrote both WASSCE and UTME twice, not because I failed though. I passed UTME the first time I wrote the exam but my mum said I was too young to enter the university, so I had to wait for another year. I wasn’t happy, and I kept telling her that I wanted to go to school but she did not allow me, so I had to wait. I believe she had her reasons. While waiting at home, I wrote another WASSCE to include Commerce. I was in the science class in school while I had always had preference for Management Science. Commerce was necessary to study Accounting, so I wrote WASSCE again to be able to study Accounting, my preferred course. It was the best decision eventually because if my mother didn’t tell me to wait, I would have gone to school to study a different course. So it’s better. I wrote another UTME and passed, so I had no problem with admission.
How was your performance as a first year student?
My performance in my first year was exceedingly satisfactory. It laid a very good foundation for my success.
Can you still remember your grades?
I had 4.89 in 100L first semester, then something above 4.7 in my second semester. The rest was 5.00. I had 5.00 from my 200L to 400L when I finished. It was God’s grace. I just decided to make my mom’s investment in me worth all her sacrifices, so it was the desire to make my mum proud that motivated me to be my best. If my father were alive, I would have loved to impress him and make him proud too.
Did you ever plan to be the best graduating student in your set?
Yes. I attended the university convocation ceremony in my first year and I saw how the best graduating student was celebrated. I decided that I wanted to be in that position one day. It wasn’t very easy to get there but thank God I attained it. I wouldn’t say I did anything that was so extraordinary. I slept and read normally, even though I read more sometimes, but not beyond the extraordinary and I could read anytime. I was also involved in a few other things. I’d just say I’m highly favoured and God blessed my efforts.
What were the extra efforts, sacrifices or commitments you made?
Well, I wouldn’t say I sacrificed anything but I let go lot of many social gatherings and I made sure I understood a particular topic before the lecturer moved to the next. However, during exams, I spent most of my time reading and I read with my friends too, even though some of them found me boring when it comes to social life because I wasn’t really going out.
How often did you use the library?
Oh, very often, in fact, almost everyday, as long as there was time. In fact, I had a seat there that I was very fond of and the duration of my visit depended on my itinerary for the day.
Can you still remember the lowest grade you had?
Yes, it was a ‘B’. I had it only twice in 100L; one in my first semester and the other one in my second semester. I expected more than a ‘B’ in the first semester course, I was thankful though, but the one in second semester was not really a surprise.
Did you know all along that you would be the best graduating student?
I had an idea of it when I was nominated for an award in my 300L, but I wasn’t really sure until after our final examinations in 400L. I was not even informed I was the best until the day of the convocation. My mum was also there, and it was very rewarding.
Was there peer pressure on you?
Birds of same feather flock together. My friends had the same priorities like me. So, there wasn’t a lot of peer pressure. If anything, it was mutual encouragement to do better.
How did you use your leisure, or you never had one?
I had leisure. I spent such times watching movies, reading books and chatting with friends.
It is believed that men love to associate with brilliant and intelligent ladies; to what extent were you disturbed and how did you handle the gestures?
I was disturbed to a reasonable extent but I tried as much as possible to be respectful, polite and friendly with the opposite sex. I was not very social, so many people didn’t know me, hence, my exposure to them was somehow limited.
What are your future plans and aspirations?
By God’s grace, I plan to be a chartered accountant (currently working on that), qualify into as many professional bodies as possible, further my studies, keep myself relevant and be the best at whatever I put my efforts into.
Were you told stories by anyone about how difficult it could be to have a First Class and did such affect you in any way?
Yes, I was. However, I always told myself if God could help other people make first class, why wouldn’t He help me?
Where would you like to work?
I’m aiming high. I love to work in the World Bank or somewhere I will be relevant, help provide solutions and be adequately appreciated.
What would you advise students, both the incoming and those already in school, to do to have an excellent result?
Well, I’ll advise them to work hard and study, not only for the sake of passing examinations but also for the sake of having adequate knowledge of their chosen fields. And most importantly, pray, because we can do nothing without God’s grace and favour.