The goal is to finish best, not last

Most university applicants harbour fantasies of how varsity life will be like. Most of them even imagine the perfect day at these institutions which act as a bridge to their dream lives. Selebogo Lekalake and her circle of friends were no different. Their plan was to take the Bloemfontein campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) by storm. For them this fantasy included plans to buy ‘Only a Kovsie knows the feeling’ branded t-shirts, attend all the festive activities and to hang out at the student centre with the largest meal portions after a long day of studying. Upon arriving at the UFS for registration, Lekalake realised that things would not go quite according to plan…

After moving in a long queue to register, as if she were part of an ant colony, she was met with another fate which drove her into a panic. “Due to your maths mark, you will have to go complete two years of the extended programme at the South Campus”, she was told. Upon hearing this, she felt a piece of her hopes and dreams melt away.

To her, coming from a previously disadvantaged school had both its pros and cons. For instance as a pro she believes that one could challenge themselves and strive to make it given the limited resources. A con, on the other hand, was that the commercial subjects were offered only with Mathematical literacy. As a result she only had the opportunity to change to pure mathematics in grade 12. “We all know that early stage mathematics lays a foundation for higher grades and one needs that background to prosper in higher grades,” she said. “My matric results came back with a 45 % in mathematics and more than 70% for all the other subjects.”

Selebogo Lekalake’s dream to become part of the University of the Free State (UFS) community dates back to her days in Strydom Secondary School.

She felt cheated for the first few weeks of her attendance at the South Campus. “I felt cheated and undeserving to be there. I kept telling myself that I have an AP score of 34. It was more than enough to qualify for degree in Economics. Yes, I have a 45% for Mathematics, but that’s because of my circumstances in high school, I know I could do better”, she said. According to her, she was consumed by sadness for a while. “I overlooked the amazing structures and delivery of the content the facilitators and lecturers offered,” she said.

It wasn’t long, however, when conversations with her friends at the Bloemfontein campus made her realise that her presence at the South Campus was a blessing and not a curse.

“My friends at the main campus were overwhelmed by the amount of work and lack of understanding that came with it. They credit this to the fear of raising one’s hand in a class clustered with new faces. I was flourishing, on the other hand, with the excitement of class discussions and the level of ease that came with uttering words in a nicely set and well numbered class”, she said.

Lekalake’s mind began to be blown by how each facilitator conducted each session and how academically supportive each was. The transformation from high school to varsity then became a breeze. She enjoyed each class she attended because of the freedom she had to ask a question. Each question which led to her grasping the lecture of the day. Her list of praises for the resources offered to her by the programme are endless. Her lecturers were easily accessible, she learned important skills which assisted with the adaptation of the higher learning environment.

Skills for lifelong learning (VBL108) stood out for her. “The module had information on time management, allocating your time and resources throughout you academic demands. What physical and mental exercises one can do to cope with stress, making notes to help you remember what you’ve studied and building one’s confidence. That, for me was amazing!” Such modules were off great assistance in one tackling the higher learning environment.

The Extended programme definitely laid a solid and informative foundation for the development of Lekalake’s work ethic, character and patience. Through it she has learned that the goal is not to finish fast, but to finish best.

Her best includes being a member of the Golden Key Society as a result of her outstanding academic performance while still within the extended programme. She is currently part of the Economic and Management Sciences Faculty’s internship programme for 2018. That’s not all.

Lekalake, who sees herself as a successful product of the UFS extended programme, is also completing her honours degree in Economics.