Precious Okon, a brilliant lady who graduated with a perfect Cumulative Grade Point Average of 5.0 in 2022 despite being in a male-dominated field, shares her story, from her academics to her social and romantic life and journey to achieving this incredible feat. See details below.
Were You Expecting a Perfect CGPA When You Began Your Degree at Nile University?
Thinking back, I would say yes. I had no doubt about making a First Class, the perfect CGPA was a nice addition. I have always been a highflyer, right from primary school. I have always been first in class in college, Brookstone School (Secondary).
My lowest GPA in high school was 4.7. I remember crying a lot that day and vowed never to go that low again. Every other one was either a 4.9 or 5.0.
I had seven A1s and two B2s in my West African Senior School Certificate Examinations and seven A’s and two B’s in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education.
So, when I got to the university, it did not seem far-fetched to maintain that. When I got my first 5.0 in my first semester in my first year, it further fuelled my conviction that I could ride that wave till I graduated. I am glad that I was able to do that.
To Whom Do You Owe Your Success?
That would be God. He is really my source of success. He helped me understand his big plans for my life and exposed me to people like Apostle Emmanuel Iren, who expanded my capacity to accommodate them.
For humans, there have been a lot of people that have played significant roles, from my parents to my siblings and my mentors, Mrs. Tope Oshuntuyi, Mr. Ere Iyalla, Mrs. Amina Danmadami, and many more.
Many of my lecturers at the university and at different points in time contributed significantly to my life. Dr. Ikechukwu Okafor, Dr. Petrus Nzerem, Paul Okpe, and more played a crucial role in my life.
I also know that the staff at CypherCrescent also contributed greatly to where I am today. I often say that while I was at CypherCrescent, I learned how to appreciate the knowledge that shaped my perspective for my final year.
How Was It Possible That You Never Had a ‘B’ Grade All Through Your Schooling Period?
It still blows my mind, to be honest. I had heard rumors that the university was tough and that it was not the same as secondary school. I was told by many people that I would not be able to make the same grades there.
But one thing I have always been intentional about was my mindset. When people say, “This course is hard,” “This lecturer is difficult,” or “Having an A under his tutelage is impossible,” I would avoid those statements as much as possible and just rid my mind of those things.
One thing is for sure. People have a very high tendency to project their experiences on you. I remember that when I was about to write my United Tertiary Matriculation Examination, I heard a statement like, “This exam is based on luck; it’s not based on intelligence.”
I remember asking questions like, “Why would an exam be over 400, and I have never heard of someone with at least a 300 in it?” and “Why will I write an exam and not pass it after carrying out my due diligence?” Asking these questions caused a reorientation of my mind, and I was able to block out the noise.
With God and hard work, I came out with a 316 in my UTME. I believe strongly that if you can see it in your mind, you can do it. Nothing is impossible to me, and I don’t say that casually. I have the Holy Spirit, so I can do all things.
What Was Your Reading Pattern Like?
Honestly, I did not have a consistent reading schedule. I read about a week before the exams like most people, though there were days I would go back to a difficult concept I learned that day just to be sure I understood it.
What I did, however, was maximize my time in the lecture. I would sit in the front and listen attentively. I did this when I could because sometimes I would sleep during the lecture. These struggles are common to everyone.
I observed that understanding the concept well enough in class made it easier to study later. I would ask as many questions as needed to understand the concept, and I benefitted greatly from other students’ questions.
All these made reading for examinations more like a revision. I was also a textbook person. I did a lot of cross-referencing with textbooks. It helped me to be more grounded in the concepts, and I would get to grasp the full picture.
I love having the full picture because it makes it easier to make deductions rather than just cramming what had been taught in class. I was very bad at cramming. I also did a bit of note-taking when I studied.
I know that helped greatly as well. I learned that from my friends Abdulmalik, Shania, and Aisha. It made it easier to have a reference point and determine the concepts I needed more clarity on.
I also enjoyed teaching. I did a lot of tutorials for my friends, classmates, and colleagues at lower levels. So, doing those just helped more concepts stick because it involved repetition and coming up with simple examples to break down the concepts.
Would You Say Your Upbringing Played Any Role in Your Academic Excellence?
Yes, I can say that. My parents have been very intentional about our education. They did a lot of research on the academic standards of the schools we went.
I was exposed to a computer at a young age, courtesy of my dad. I learned basic computer skills like Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint early enough. These gave me an edge in class over time.
Whose Idea Was It for You to Study Petroleum and Gas Engineering?
This is a funny story. I was indecisive about what course to study. It was between Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering. I was leaning more toward Chemical Engineering since it seemed to have more applications, but my mum was more adamant about Petroleum.
I eventually applied for Chemical at the Nile, and on entering, I was informed that the two departments had been merged into one to form Petroleum and Gas Engineering.
That was how I found myself in the department. It was not exactly by choice but by accident. It turned out to be the best accident of my life because I really love my course. But in it all, I just see the hand of God orchestrating my life according to His best plan.
Why Did You Choose to Attend a Private University?
I had a full scholarship at Nile University first off. But added to that, my parents were uncomfortable with the continuous strikes at public universities in Nigeria and all the negative news that we would hear about cultism, rape, and the like.
I pray for all these vices to become things of the past soon. With all those in view, I made the decision without any difficulty.
What Was Your Experience Like at Nile University?
I would say it was interesting and expository. I got to meet several people from different cultural and religious backgrounds. It was a new experience for me. It would be my first extended stay in Abuja, and I did not exactly know what to expect.
Coming from the southern part of Nigeria, there were preconceived notions about what the North was like. So, being there and seeing it for myself helped to break a lot of wrong ideologies and helped me build amazing friendships.
I also liked the environment; it was very serene since we were not many in the university at the time, though that has changed over the years. We have many more students now, and I think that is a testament to the fact that the university is getting some things right.
There Is This Assertion That Some Private School Graduates Are Not as Grounded as Public School Graduates. How True Is This?
It’s a wrong assertion. I have friends in public universities, and we can have deep conversations on concepts within my field, and there is no difficulty when discussing. I have received academic assistance from students in public universities and aided some students there as well.
I also believe that being grounded is more of a personal decision because anyone can go through either of these kinds of institutions and come out knowing nothing.
If you do not put in the necessary work to understand the concept, then you will not know it, and vice versa. So, I think people should lay that mentality to rest.
What Were Some Things You Could Not Be Caught Doing at Nile University?
I had a very social life, so I was everywhere to a large extent. I played sports, was at most events and hung out with friends at the food court. The things I most likely would not be found doing would be on the negative side, like being called by the disciplinary committee or being involved in a physical fight.
Were You a Sociable Person?
Yes, yes, yes! I knew a vast majority of the students at the university. I think that would primarily be because of my personality. I have a very warm and friendly outlook, so it is very easy to talk to me. I also like meeting new people and making new friends.
Were You Into Extracurricular Activities?
Oh yes! I mean, many people are even bewildered when they discover all the activities I was involved in and still managed to make a 5.0. I have always occupied leadership positions. So, getting into the university was something I was still actively involved in.
I joined the Society of Petroleum Engineers, as I said earlier on. This was in my first year, and I volunteered at the biggest student conference that same year. Then I served with the Nigerian Universities Engineering Students’ Association in my second year, where I served as the Assistant Social Director.
I became the Financial Secretary in my third year. In that same year, I served as the Vice President of the SPE, Nile Chapter, and eventually became the President in my fourth year till I graduated.
I was in the choir at the Nile Christian Fellowship from my first year till my final year. I became the head of the NCF Choir in my third year and was appointed president of the fellowship from my fourth year till my final year.
Also, I played a few sports. I played table tennis and competed at the Nigerian Private University Games in my second year. Then I also played volleyball for leisure.
Was There a Time You Ever Felt Like Giving Up? How Did You Handle Such Moments?
Yes, there were a few times, but the most profound would be in the second semester of my third year during the COVID-19 period.
We had to learn from home, and it was not very easy to adapt because there were many responsibilities at home, and it was not very easy to focus on the online classes.
I was unable to study as much. This was because, after classes, I would need to run errands at home. So, it was time for the exams, and I felt I did not know anything I had been taught all semester.
I just cried a lot to my mum and my sister and told them not to have any expectations of me in the forthcoming examinations. Then they encouraged me that time, and I prayed a lot for wisdom and strength to get through that time.
God really came through. I was able to work out a new structure to maximize my time at home and come up with a new routine at home that helped me study better.
I had to reach an agreement with my parents on the times they could call me, and I had to discipline myself. I had to keep a lot of late nights so I could cover more courses. In the end, all of it paid off, and it worked out well.
Was There a Course Where You Almost Had a ‘B’ Grade?
Crazily enough, it was in my now favourite course in Petroleum Engineering called Reservoir Engineering. We were still learning material balance in that COVID-19 second semester in my third year.
Learning those calculations online was not the best experience. So, it was difficult for me. But my mid-semester grades were already high, so they helped to augment my examinations, and I scaled through.
Why Was Reservoir Engineering Your Favourite Course?
It was very intriguing to study what I had not seen and just demystified it, especially the concept of material balance had a lot of Mathematics in it. My Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme was my second favourite course.
I got hands-on industry experience, and I also got to understand material balance properly. All thanks to Mr. Ebuka Ezenworo, who was my tutor at CypherCrescent.
Engineering Is Seen as a Male-Dominated Course. How Did You Manage to Cope With It as a Female?
This is true. There are more female engineers standing out in their fields. I believe sight is very powerful. So, the more I saw women succeeding at it, the easier it was to see myself succeeding, too.
Also, we had a lot of female students in my class, and I did not feel like I was alone, and we all did well at the end of the day.
How Did You Manage Male Attention?
That was not very difficult. Putting boundaries in place was one thing that helped as just being clear on what I wanted. If I was not interested, I would spell it out.
So there would be no confusion. It made life very easy. Of course, some people were persistent, but it was easy to avoid them since they were not at my university.
What Plans Do You Have for the Future?
I am in my compulsory national service year. Afterward, I will pursue a Master’s degree by God’s grace. I still intend to actively volunteer with the Society of Petroleum Engineers and impact more lives.
What Awards and Prizes Did You Receive From Nile University for Your 5.0 Success?
I received a 100 percent scholarship to continue my education until the Ph.D. level at Nile University. Then I received a lot of plaques from the university as the Best Graduating Student in my department and my faculty.
I also received the Distinguished Franklin Uchechukwu Okeke Merit Award for finishing with a 5.0. I also received some prizes from the sponsors such as China Harbour Engineering Company Limited, Allison Rich, Red Bull, and Mouka Foam. I am really grateful to them all.