From struggling to get into a university because of her poor physical science marks to graduating with a master’s degree in Biochemistry in 2023. Ashlin Petersen now has the world at her feet thanks to the Stellenbosch University SciMathUS University Preparation Programme which played such a pivotal role in ensuring her success.
The SciMathUS programme gives high school learners who have already passed Grade 12 but do not qualify for higher education selection a second opportunity to improve their National Senior Certificate (NSC) results in mathematics, physical sciences and accounting. This will enable them to re-apply for university programmes, especially those in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related fields.
To the outside eye, seeing the young Ashlin being capped with her proud mother in attendance, it may have seemed that her life is perfect and complete. But, for a long time, life for this Kraaifontein native was anything but.
Raised by a single mother in this poor, crime-ravaged neighbourhood, she was on the backfoot from the start. But it did not stop there. Adversity struck again in matric at Eben Donges High School when her dream of studying for a science degree was dealt an almost fatal blow because her physical science mark wasn’t good enough to get her into university.
It was then that SciMathUS offered her a lifeline when she was accepted into the year-long programme in January 2015. At the end of that year she was able to improve her physical science mark by 20% and to get accepted into SU to commence her undergraduate studies in Human Life Sciences (Biology). She then completed a postgraduate honours degree in Biochemistry in 2019 and thereafter her master’s.
But it isn’t only her marks that SciMathUS helped her with.
She explains: “The programme also helped me to become an independent thinker and boosted my problem-solving skills. The workshops they offered improved my work ethic and time management skills and taught me how to make notes during a lecture which really prepared me for the fast-paced university environment. It also taught me that hard work and doing things with excellence always pay off and to always pursue your passion as it will give you a better chance of success.”
She says she would recommend SciMathUS to any high school learner who did not get accepted into a university because of their inadequate STEM marks.
“The programme goes beyond teaching and learning. It also includes mentorship, several workshops and endless support. The SciMathUS staff is any student’s dream. Dr Elza Lourens, who taught me Physical Science, is my role model. I have not met anyone as smart, humble and determined like her. Her strength, courage and willingness to help others inspire me.”
But it is her mother who “worked her fingers to the bone for my brother and I” who is her ultimate role model.
‘She always believed in me and supported all my dreams and aspirations. Her selflessness and resilience inspired me to achieve what I did and to change our lives for the better so that we do not have to struggle like we did when I was a child. I am so grateful for her.’