Johannesburg – Getting things done as soon as possible was the secret behind Toni Panzera’s success in the recent IEB examinations.
Panzera, 18, earned a whopping 12 distinctions – making her the highest performing matriculate in history at St Stithians Girls’ College in Johannesburg.
"It's a surreal feeling, it's weird, I don't really think of myself ever as one of the best, I kind of just put my head down this year and worked as hard as I could to get the best results possible," she told News24.
"Overall, my passion is learning, and so I wanted to take a wide variety of subjects."
Panzera credits her success to her high school accounting teacher, Martin Perold, who taught her the subject mostly after the formal school day had been completed.
"He's really just been there for me personally and also academically - for just supporting and helping me through hard times," she says.
"So a massive thank you to him because without him this definitely... would not have been possible at all."
Looking towards 2018, Panzera plans on studying mathematics at a university in the United States.
"I am pursuing it mainly because firstly I love maths and secondly I am not sure what I'd like to do one day," she explains.
"Maths is quite a broad course that sort of opens up many doors and allows you to get into other related fields with a mathematical background."
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Panzera has already been accepted into the University of Denver and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, but is still waiting to hear from Brown University where she'd ideally like to go.
"My big dream in life, currently, is to obviously study in America and get accepted [and] get a scholarship [or] financial aid to achieve that dream."
She advises future matriculants to "focus on your goals".
"Don't procrastinate, it is honestly the worst thing you could do. You should really just get things done as soon as you get them because otherwise you end up having this massive workload and it is just not fun," Panzera says.
"I [also] think it is so important to have a clear picture in your mind of exactly where you want to go and what you want to do, and I think if you don't lose sight of those you won't really go wrong."
Passion for writing
Panzera, who calls herself an avid reader but mostly "had to study for fun the past year", ultimately dreams on writing a book one day.
"I have always been passionate about writing and creative writing," she says.
She believes the world would be a better place if more people worked with drive and ambition.
"Too many people are focused on doing the bare minimum and thinking as little as possible," Panzera says.
"The workplace needs more thinkers and dreamers, and people who are not afraid to take risks."