The university admission test in Vietnam is widely deemed a reliable measure of success – a top score grants access to higher education, failing indicates incompetence. For Nguyen Vu Nguyen An, however, the road to success included a few speed bumps.
Despite earning a reputation as a high-achiever throughout her high school years, even claiming first prize in a provincial literature contest for gifted students, An’s path to college admission was rife with failure and heartache.
‘Trying hard is just not enough!’
An’s childhood dream of joining the police force meant years of preparing for the Ho Chi Minh City University of People’s Security admission exam.
The university is known for its strict admission guidelines concerning female applicants.
Falling short of a perfect score on the exam’s reading, history, and geography sections would be a huge obstacle for An in achieving her dream.
Unfortunately, the 27.25/ 30.00 she earned on her first attempt just was not enough for the university.
An’s determination drove her to sit for the exam a second time.
Again, disappointment was imminent when she was hospitalized with an unexpected health issue immediately following the first day of the examination.
She had only been able to complete the reading section.
An’s determination to enroll in university led to her submitting an application to the Economic Law program at Duy Tan University in Da Nang City.
Though she was accepted, her childhood dream of working in law enforcement remained a top priority.
That dream came crashing down for a second time when the Ho Chi Minh City University of People’s Security announced that it had stopped testing students on literature, geography, and history.
An’s strengths were now useless.
Realizing the harsh reality that becoming a policewoman was just not in her cards, An decided to refocuse her efforts on a career in journalism – an attempt to concentrate on her second love: writing.
“Trying hard is just not enough!” she said. “Obstacles can bring you down at any time so having a plan B is a must. All my shortcomings have made me stronger.”
The blow before the 3rd try
Considering the socially assumed significance of the university admission test, An’s failures drew heavy criticisms from many of her peers.
Her achievements throughout her K-12 education were mocked and her inability to gain admittance into the college of her choice brought much unwanted attention.
Fortunately, An knew she would always have strong support from her family.
Most supportive was her grandfather, a man who spent An’s childhood providing her with substantial, pressure-free encouragement.
"I don't care which school you enroll in,” her grandfather told her. “What counts is who you become!"
Empowered by her grandfather’s motivating words, An became determined to pick herself up. That is, until her grandfather passed away shortly before she was due for another attempt at the exam.
For a moment, she was ready to give up.
It seemed her goals would always be just out of reach.
But, with some hard thinking, she chose to push forward, constantly reminding herself of how her grandfather would feel to learn she had passed the test.
"It was truly excruciating having to focus on learning during the funeral," An confessed. "I was crying all the time, but I knew I couldn’t quit."
Never give up
To An, seeing peers attending college while she was still struggling with piles of high school textbooks was a major frustration.
Yet in the face of all the hardship and depression, the female student never succumbed.
Instead, she chose to continue pressing forward.
In her opinion, re-sitting the test for a third time was an advantage, considering her enriched experience, enhanced knowledge, and longer preparation time.
Others have objected to her endeavors, pointing out that college was not necessarily the only path to success.
To them, spending 2-3 years preparing for an exam was nothing more than a waste of time.
An would say otherwise, "Time does not count when it comes to pursuing one's dream. I do feel bad for my parents as they’ve had to help me, but the three years were well-spent."
“Each human being has their own life. If we spend our valuable time listening to what others have to say, we have successfully thrown half our lives down the drain” she added.
An’s hard work has paid off: she topped the admission’s list for the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities. She was admitted to the Faculty of Journalism and Communication, a top major at the institution.
The fruits borne were those of relentless efforts and an unyielding spirit.
To her, this was only the first step: she must strive harder and not rest on her laurels.
Now that she has been officially labeled a ‘college student,’ she hopes to become a TV editor or land a job in communications and media, directing popular TV shows.