Saturday, August 16, 2014

My UPCAT Experience

It's UPCAT today and tomorrow. My fb newsfeed this morning tells me that several of my fb friends and their friends' children are taking the college admission test of the University of the Philippines, or what is more known as UPCAT. I happened to be at UP Diliman last Thursday to inquire about registration for my hubby's re-entry into UP as a graduate student and at the Diliman campus this time around. He's successfully gotten into the MBA program. Yay! :)

Last Thursday, guide signs as to building names, parking areas, drop-off points have already been put up. Exam takers, one sign says, are to be dropped off within 10 seconds. Now, that says a lot about the exam takers. Many will be bringing private cars. I know it's saying the obvious, but let me just say that those from the lower middle, middle, and upper middle classes have a better chance at passing, and that profile of UP students would reveal this. 

Some twenty years ago, I was among the thousands that flocked to UP Diliman. I took the UPCAT at the daunting UP College of Law building, in a large, air-conditioned lecture hall. The testing room I was assigned put me to the very edge, my hands clammy and my insides churning. I was nervous lining up, well, the whole time I guess. At the end of the exam, I had to nurse a one-of-a-kind headache, the worst I had gotten I think. I put so much pressure on myself. I had to pass because it would be embarrassing if I didn't as both my two older sisters passed it and already got their UP diplomas. Add to them my father who is also an alumnus, and imagine how much I wanted desperately to also make it. Plus, I was born in Los Banos, in a small well-knit community right outside the UPLB campus. So growing up, UP was always in my radar, and I felt I had to study there, too. 

Thank God, I did make it. During my time, there were no established review centers yet, or none that I knew of. There was just the stock knowledge to rely upon and a bit of self study before the exam. I didn't pass with flying colors though. I didn't make it to the course of my choice which was nursing, but I did make the cut for UP Manila, only that I had to find a college that would accept me because I did not have any course of 2nd choice to take there. 

I decided instead to get into UPLB (my second campus of choice) for practical reasons as I had grandparents there who were more than glad to feed me and support me through college, with the help of my sisters who were already working and my generous stepfather.  I applied for scholarship but the application for STFAP was so complicated I just gave up my bracket 4 or 5 (can't remember now).   You had to indicate how many electric fans and TV sets you have and your siblings' incomes as well! I was lucky I did not have to worry about board and lodging, thanks to Lolo and Lola. There was enough money for my weekly roundtrip fares to Manila and my daily expenses for photocopying and snacks. Tuition was only P225 per unit, and one semester only cost less than P6,000. But the "Seventeen" shirts I liked buying from Cinderella store I got mostly from extra money I earned from being a student assistant.

My freshman year was difficult, I had to catch up especially with Math, even communication arts. Majority of my block mates were from the upper middle class, I could tell from their clothes, confidence and the way they talked to each other. It was a good thing there were two others who were not as "sosyal" and who talked in Tagalog just like me. Hehe, we got along and were kind of the outcasts in Block 37. :)) My blockmates' social profiles were not however representative of who were in UPLB that time; it was skewed to the upper class maybe because most of my block mates came from families who were hacienderos in light of our course -- agribusiness. Now, why did I take that course which was worlds away from nursing? Simply because it was my sister's course. I wanted to follow her footsteps so to speak. 

Was UPCAT difficult? English was not, Math yes, and Science was really difficult for me. Those studying in science and exclusive schools or very good private schools have an edge. The lucky passers who come from public schools and private schools that are not in the category of the really good (synonymous to expensive) ones are mostly the top,  at the least, 20% students of the graduating batch. I scored poorly in Science, it was a good thing that my scores in English and Reading were high enough to pull up my average to make the UP Manila minimum university predicted grade or UPG. I was not smart, just diligent and had a thing for the written word. And that was it. 

A UP education paved the way for my first employment that came even in advance of the April graduation. And thanks to UP, I found the man who was to be my husband. We took the same course. And he is doing well in his career, as with all our common friends from college. 

If you're diligent and motivated and from humble roots, UP is almost a sure ticket to success. So it's really worth taking that one chance, the UPCAT. 

Incidentally, I had time to kill this morning while I was waiting on my son who was attending a career orientation, organized by his school. They invited all the high school students from grade seven up. Representatives from schools like Mapua, University of Asia and the Pacific, University of Santo Tomas, Saint Scholastica, Saint Paul and Arellano University gave presentations. The students warmed to UA&P's fantastic speaker and slides. 

Garrett now is thinking of enrolling with UA&P. And I found myself convincing him of making getting accepted into UP his priority. I have five more years to convince him. But in the end, I will have to step back and let him make the decision on which university to go to and what profession to pursue. He knows I'd like for him to consider medicine. But he has other thoughts like video games programming, oh no! :) 

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