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Ria Sookraj’s academic achievements have made her a standout figure in distance learning in South Africa. Having excelled in the 2023 National Senior Certificate examinations as a student at Futures Academy Online High School, Ria shares insights into her experiences and the strategies that led to her success. Here’s what she had to say in our detailed Q&A session.

Can you tell us about your reaction when you found out you were one of the top achievers in the NSC examinations?

“I was really relieved, considering I had a lot of stress over the results, but I felt extremely accomplished and proud to know that my hard work paid off. Being one of the top achievers solidified my confidence in my abilities.”

What motivated you to excel academically during your time at our online school?

“I’ve always wanted to do well in school and academics, and my greatest motivator for a long time was just my desire to achieve that goal. But for Grades 11 and 12, my greatest motivator was gaining entry to medicine. I’ve always wanted to study medicine and I’ve always had a passion for healthcare. It was easy to stay motivated throughout my schooling career because I knew what I wanted my end goal to be.”

How did you manage your time effectively while balancing academics and other activities?

“To be completely honest, I do feel that I could have managed my time better. I did procrastinate and get distracted quite a bit. What helped was having a schedule and planning ahead of time so that I knew exactly what I was going to do and when I was to do it. I also used an app on my phone to keep me from using it and getting distracted. I also found that taking frequent breaks instead of studying for hours on end helped a lot.”

Were there any particular subjects or topics that you found challenging, and how did you overcome them?

“I’d say physical sciences was one of my more challenging subjects. I spent a lot of time making my own notes so that I was able to truly understand the content and the relationships between the information. I also allocated a decent amount of time going through the textbook and past paper questions so that I understood the basics as well as the more advanced questions. Life sciences was challenging, but mainly due to the volume of content. I really just spent enough time making flashcards and using notes shared in class if I needed it to save time.”

Can you share any study techniques or strategies that helped you succeed in your exams?

“I used a lot of flashcards for life sciences and for the definitions in physical sciences. I made my own notes for computer applications technology and just studied them. I made freqent use of past papers for bother mathematics and physical sciences. Active recall and doing questions is the best way for me to study.”

What role did your teachers and support system play in your academic journey?

“They helped me with providing help with questions, teaching, giving resources, but they were also very accommodating to my needs which took a lot of unnecessary stress away.”

How has online learning impacted your approach to education and your overall learning experience?

“Online school helped me adjust to learning on my own, and taking more responsibility and control over my studies. I feel that this helped me now in university, since it isn’t really much of a change besides the fact there are in-person lectures. The structure is the same. Futures Academy also provided me with the flexibility to manage my workload effectively, allowing ample time for completing assignments, studying and even unwinding and relaxing when I needed to.”

What advice would you give to other students aspiring to achieve academic excellence in an online learning environment?

“Be disciplined more than anything, even when motivation might fail—you’ll still have your habits to rely on and get you through the year. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions, which might be harder because it’s online.”

Looking ahead, what are your future educational or career goals?

“I’d like to complete my medical degree, preferably with distinctions. Afterwards, I’d like to specialize in surgery, although I know my mind might change over the course of my degree.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your journey or experience with distance learning?

“Not really, I had a good experience doing online school with Futures Academy, and I’m very confident that doing online aided me in getting into medicine.”

Ria Sookraj’s story is a powerful reminder of how determination, proper planning, and effective use of technology can combine to overcome educational challenges and lead to outstanding success. Her experiences and strategies offer valuable lessons for all students navigating the world of online education