Durban — In primary school, Nic Thorburn’s teachers suggested that he go to a special school because he was struggling.
This week the Hilton College pupil matriculated with distinctions in eight of his 10 subjects, saying his motivation was to prove to his younger self that he could do it.
“They wanted me to go to a special school in Grade 5 because my academics weren’t very good, but I always knew I could do it. My dad also said, ‘no way, you can do it’, and a lot of hard work later…
“I also wanted to prove to my family that spending all that money was worth it; spending so much money, you can’t not work your hardest.”
In Grade 8, Nic finished in the bottom half of the standard and failed the first test he wrote at Hilton College, but he persevered, determined to overcome his “elements of dyslexia”.
“I read so much from Grade 5, I just read books and books and eventually I could just do things in my mind and I didn’t need to write them down, especially with maths and science,” he said.
Nic said the secret to his matric success was having a well-balanced life, working hard at his subjects but also participating in sport and spending time with his friends and family. Despite the hard work required in his final year he was also the vice-captain of first-team basketball and learnt to play guitar, although “not very well”.
During the day he would go to classes, then participate in sport, and every night he would study from 6pm to 11pm, even during the holidays. Nic said to prepare himself for the finals he worked through about 100 previous exam papers in various subjects.
“My hardest subject is Afrikaans and so my mom made a WhatsApp group with myself, her and then my ouma, who is Afrikaans. Every day they’d send me a little bit of Afrikaans work and I’d do it for them, write it down, and they would mark it.”
The friendly rivalry with his “amazing sister" who had aced her matric exams with seven As and got accepted into Princeton University in the US also spurred him on to do his best.
“Straight after the exams I could only think about results and then the holidays came and I relaxed but the last three days were quite tense,” he told the Independent on Saturday this week.
He has already been accepted to study mechatronic engineering at UCT and is still waiting to hear if his other application to study medicine is accepted, although deciding which path to follow will be tough.
“I really love the sciences and also really want to make a difference, so I think those are the two best courses for that.
“If you get into medicine you almost just do it because it’s so amazing to get in, so there’s a big chance that I’d do medicine and make a difference in that way. Being a doctor, would just be amazing.”
His advice to those starting high school or in matric is to believe that you can do it, doing every single thing the school offers and helping whoever you can.
And while others might be taking a well-deserved break after a gruelling year, Thorburn is itching to hear from UCT so he can start preparing for the next chapter of his life.
“I’ve had fun this holiday already, it’s time to get serious.
“Hopefully, they will let me know in the next few days so that I can get ready for the courses as well as look at the curriculums and stuff, definitely brush up on my maths and science skills if I do engineering, and if it’s medicine, then I’ll work on my general knowledge about medicine,” he said.
Independent on Saturday