Lara van Rooyen27 June 2023
When Lara van Rooyen walked into Curro Mossel Bay in Grade 8, she had no idea that she would walk out 5 years later as the top academic achiever for IEB within the Curro group – much less be accepted into Harvard University. ‘I worked very hard for what I wanted to achieve, and I didn’t want to wonder what could have been.’
Lara had always been strong academically and was always interested in independent studies beyond the classroom – something her teachers greatly supported. Whenever she had mastered the work well before her classmates, her teachers gave her extra work to help her practice, more difficult exercises to challenge her, or more complex work far beyond what was covered in the textbook. ‘They taught me to love learning for learning’s sake; not just to memorise information. I want to be a lifelong learner,’ she said. The combined effort certainly paid off when she achieved a 92.86% average in her final matric examinations.
While she always had great dreams for her academic career, she never expected to get into an Ivy League university. ‘I just decided to apply and see what happens, even though the odds were overwhelming.’ She was completely overwhelmed when she was accepted. ‘I’m as nervous as you would expect, but I’m more excited for the opportunities that will open up,’ she said when asked about the big move to the United States.
The United States academic year starts mid-August, but Lara – who initiated the school’s community club –has not been sitting still. She has been studying biochemistry, physiology and biology, volunteering at the several institutions and has been making time for everything that she put off during her school career.
Her advice to learners has a strong core message: believe in yourself, work hard for yourself (not for others) and dream big! ‘Consistency and discipline were the greatest keys for me, as well as intrinsic motivation. You have to study for yourself; not for your teachers, parents or some reward. I worked very hard for what I achieved and wanted to be proud of my work and the person I am,’ she said.