3 years in UP Diliman, and what have I learned?
A lot more than I ever expected.
It’s true what they say about college being an almost life-changing experience, how it’s when your classes teach you so much more than academics and when you’re mature enough to go beyond the classroom. It’s a preview for the real world, one where you’re free to make mistakes and learn from them.
So I guess this counts as my “Tips for Freshies” post? :D
1. Academics matter.
Whatever anyone says about grades not being the only basis for intelligence or achievement, at the end of the day they matter. Don’t devote every waking hour to making sure you get an uno and don’t forsake actual learning for high grades, but don’t take your classes for granted either. It’s all about balance. You are in this university to learn to the best of your abilities — grades being a social construct imposed students does not give you the right to completely disregard them. Remember that most of your tuition (not all of it, I know — STS is a big issue right now) is paid for by the Filipino people, most of whom can’t even afford to send their own children to school even if they want to, even if they work their entire lives. Grades may not be the only way to measure how much you’ve learned, but they are one of the many ways.
2. It’s important to have a work ethic.
It’s very hard to juggle acads, extra-curriculars and “real life” (what real life T_T), especially during hell week. If you think high school exam weeks were difficult, think again. Which is why the “whatever I’ll just do it the morning of” attitude you and I adapted in high school is not going to work in college. The “whatever I’ll just do it the night before,” might though. (It works about 50% of the time ;P) I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve never crammed, because I have — I spent an entire semester cram-studying Japanese during my morning literary theory classes because the readings for lit theory took entire evenings to read and the class itself was the only “free time” I had. Anyway my point is, that semester taught me how to manage my time. While I would never recommend studying for another subject in class because I myself would never do it again, I do think figuring out how you work best will be very beneficial in college. Are you the type who works best under pressure? Are you OC? (like me) Are you ridiculously punctual? (like me) Figuring these things out will help you figure out how to put some order into that juggling you’ll be doing for the next four years and will hopefully keep everything from crashing down.
3. You cannot control everything.
Sh*t happens. College will have it’s bad days to go with all the great ones, but those are all learning experiences you should take one at a time as they come. There will be times when you can’t see any endings any time soon, especially at the start of hell weeks when you look at everything piled up and just want to sleep through it but personally, those were the experiences I learned the most from. And not just acads-wise, if you get into any messy relationships — boys, friends, whatever (you most probably will) — those will all teach you that there are times when you need to step up, and there are times when you just need to let things run their course. This was a very hard concept for me to grasp, because I’m a “Type A,” OC, over thinking control-freak, but college managed to teach even me to chill a bit. (A bit!!! I’m still super OC)
4. Who you were in high school doesn’t matter.
I say this as someone who was an outcast, super wallflower, relatively okay but not stellar student, and more awkward than awkward during high school. I hated high school, and I have a FB photos to prove it. (;P) In my second year of college I lost a ton of weight (50 pounds at least, can’t remember that well), started dressing better, and took subjects I genuinely enjoyed — I was a lot happier, and I think it showed. It may not have been a “ugly duckling to swan” transformation exactly because I’m not really a swan, but it taught me that most people don’t really care if you were cool or not in high school — they care about what kind of person you are now, in college. And not in terms of looks or anything, but in terms of what you can bring to the table. So if you were a wallflower like me in high school, college is your clean slate. And if you think you did okay in high school, then college is the change to keep proving yourself.
5. Take classes you actually enjoy.
One of the reasons why I hated high school was because I hated math and science. I was did okay, but I’m the type of student who will do well if either I know I can do well, or if I’m encouraged to do well — neither of which I had with math and science. So when college came around of course I still needed the 15 units of MSTs, but what’s 5 semesters’ worth compared to four years of Comparative Literature, Japanese, AH requirements and Social Sciences — majority of which I genuinely enjoyed. I would’ve majored in Economics if it weren’t for the heavy math, because I really like the analytical aspect (we took Econ for a year in high school and honestly I loved it) — but I know that given the factors I have to work with now CL was the right choice, because it has allowed me to enjoy school one way or another. So if you’re stuck in a major you’re not head-over-heels for, that’s what GEs and free electives are for! :D
6. Figure out what you want to do in the near future.
When I went into UP I thought I had my entire career planned out. One year in, that plan changed. The next year it changed again to something more plausible because freshie me wanted to rule the music industry after graduation, whatever that meant. But the point I want to make is that these goals are good, and it’s okay if they change. My goals — becoming a good critic, getting a job at so and so — were what kept me going during hell weeks and the many existential crises I went though. At least once a semester, without fail, I find myself asking why I chose my major and doubting myself, thinking that I’m not actually any good at. But then I remember what I want to do, what I want to become, and why I chose my major in the first place. Many times this is the only motivation you will have, because professors will demand more than you think you’re capable of, friends and classmates will be just as stressed out as you are. They don’t have to be big goals, they can be as immediate as goals for tomorrow — but the point is that you need something to aim for, otherwise what are you in college for?
Anonymous said: Incoming freshie here. I have a class from AS and STS at CS Audi right after each other, with no breaks. I think you had a similar situation before. Any tips on what the fatest way would be? :( Also, what other MST GEs do you recommend taking?
Yup! First sem of my second year, I had class on the fourth floor of AS and my class right after was STS. Unless you have a car/driver the fastest way is to walk, honestly. It’s a huge hassle especially during the first sem because it’s the rainy season though, so be prepared! (umbrella, waterproof shoes, a sealed bag, etc. etc.) If the prof of your class in AS seems nice or unless he/she explicitly states that you can’t leave early, you can also try asking your prof if you can leave a little earlier! Explain honestly that your next class is at the CS Audi, most profs are considerate naman. :D That’s what I did! I’d leave around 5 or 10 minutes before the class was dismissed, with the permission of my prof of course.
I’ve been really unlucky with MSTs. T_T I’ve been told that MS 1 is super fun (especially in the summer because I hear there’s a field trip), and that Physics 10 is relatively easy — but I got neither of them. Honestly when you get to actually enlisting for them, because of the limited slots (and choices now that Nat Sci 1+2 aren’t offered anymore) you’ll have to resort to getting whatever you can get, or whatever fits your schedule. Stay away from Bio 1 as much as possible though! Don’t make the same mistake I did. (I got Amparado for Bio 1 in the first semester of my freshie year! Talk about bad luck. D:)
Five UPCAT tips that I hope will be of help
I don’t even know how many “UPCAT tips” posts I’ve made since I started this blog, but because I got almost a dozen asks about them in the last few weeks (:O) it’s probably better that I answer them all in one go through this post.
I took the UPCAT in 2010. I was a scared high school senior who barely passed math, whose parents expectations seemed impossible to meet. My parents told me, “if you don’t get into UP Diliman, you’re not going to college” — first out of pride because they’re both UPD professors, also out of need because as profs they don’t earn much and can’t afford Ateneo, but at the same time they wanted the best for me and obviously to them and my entire family, the best was UP. The UPCAT was the single most important exam of my life, as it is for many others — everything was riding on four hours of a Sunday morning in August.
To cut the long story short, the fact that this blog exists as a chronicle of my experiences in UP Diliman means that I must have done something right that day.
The test has probably changed since, but the experience for over 70,000 students stays the same. It’s daunting, some people who take the test have their entire families’ futures at stake because UP is the best school in the country, for reasons academic *and* otherwise. It’s the whole environment of UP, having the chance to be with some of the most brilliant minds in the country as teachers, classmates and peers, that other schools cannot replace and is a big part of what makes UP so coveted.
But you probably already know that, so I’ll stop scaring you. D:
1. Master the basics
No one can predict what the questions will be, and that’s one of the ways the UPCAT and other entrance exams gauge your abilities. It’s less about how much you know and more about how well you are able to apply what you do know. Anyone can memorize facts, but not all will be able to use those facts in other situations. This is also a very useful study trick, because it’s practically impossible to study and remember every single thing you were taught in high school, especially because it’s already June. Spend your time building solid foundations. Basic formulas you can derive others out of, basic concepts you can apply to entire bodies of science, base words and affixes that you can just identify and combine in vocabulary questions — those are the things that you can and should focus on. And of course, knowing how to apply them. Remember that whatever you study is useless if you cannot apply it to real-life situations or in this case, actual UPCAT questions.
2. Know your strong suits, and strengthen them even more
In high school I already knew that my strength was English grammar and reading comprehension but I didn’t slack off and just assume that I’d do well because I was good at it already. In fact I did the complete opposite — I spent even more time on English, studying even harder. I knew that no matter how much math and science I studied, I had a limit. That didn’t mean I just gave up on math and science — I did as much as I could. But I made up for my weaknesses with the strength of my English and reading. The result? I was in the 99th percentile for both language and reading comprehension that year and my math and science scores were in the 87th-90th percentiles as well. My math and science were okay, but the scores I got for English and reading sealed the deal for Diliman, for my first campus choice and my first course choice. Your strengths can become your weaknesses if you don’t take the initiative to treat them as your strengths, remember that.
3. Stay healthy
I don’t think a lot of UPCAT tips include this, but my personal UPCAT experience taught me just how important it is to be physically capable of taking the test. Sitting down for four hours straight after months (maybe even years) of stressing over the UPCAT is very, very tiring. My best friend had a fever during the UPCAT and although she got in to Diliman as well (because she really is smart ;D), it’s such a nuisance to be sick during the exam. I myself also injured my left hand a few days before. Thankfully it was my left hand (I’m right-handed), but I took the UPCAT with an ice pack on my bandaged left hand and it added so much stress to my already-stressed self. So stay healthy, and don’t get injured! You’ll thank me for this when you get into UP. ;D
4. Remember that the UPCAT is not about “passing” in the traditional sense
ie, that anyone who gets a certain score is automatically admitted. No. A lot of factors determine who gets in, such as who else takes the exam with you. UPCAT scores are ranked and the top students (not sure how many exactly) are considered qualifiers. This means that you can’t just set a target score to meet and be assured that you’re going to get in. You have to do the best you can do because you don’t know how many others will be smarter, or as smart as you. This is what scared me the most about the UPCAT — not because I didn’t think I could do my best, but because I thought very lowly of myself when compared to others. Still, this is extremely important to keep in mind because it is what will push you to do your absolute best. And it might even show you that you’re more capable than you think you are.
My high school senior self will probably scoff at me for saying this, but seriously — stay calm. Put just enough pressure on yourself that you will study your head off, okay, but don’t spend sleepless nights worrying or spend all your time freaking out. It’s not healthy, and it’s not conducive to productivity. College has taught me how valuable time is — the time you spent in unproductive distress, before and during the exam, could have been used to study and find actual ways to succeed in the UPCAT. I think I said this somewhere else before, but we all have different ways of relaxing as well. I was told not to study the night before, to just watch a movie and take my mind off the exam — I’m sure a lot of people will tell you this, because it works for them. But what works for some people might not work for you, and I knew that piece of advice I received wouldn’t work for me. I over think, so if I tried to take my mind off studying I knew I’d just spend all my time paranoid. I was studying the morning of the exam, I was studying over breakfast in the car. It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t prepared, because I was, it was that it calmed my nerves to know that I was doing everything I could possibly do. So whatever you think will relax you and give you peace of mind to take the exam, do it. Even if it means studying all the way up to the last minute.
Writing this post gave me a chance to look back on the very reasons why I’m here today, and it’s timely because senior year starts in less than two months and I know I’m going to need all the encouragement I need. Hopefully I’ll see you in Diliman next year! ^_^
Anonymous said: Hi! I'm an incoming senior and I plan to take the UPCAT this coming August. I really, really want to study in Diliman. It's my dream school ever since I was a freshman. Can you give me some tips on how to pass the UPCAT? Please. Thank you very much and I wish you all the best in your studies!
I’ll do a post on this soon! (For now, keep studying ;P)
Anonymous said: Hi? I'm a freshie about to get in to Diliman this year. What happens the first few weeks of college? Are there games or activities for the freshmen? Because I'm terribly shy and I don't want to embarrass myself in front of loads of people. Are there auctions? Oh god no! :(
It depends on your home college — some colleges are more active with activities for freshies, others not so much. But for me at least, I didn’t do anything I was extremely uncomfortable doing. You don’t *have* to go to all the activities — but it would be good to go to them so you get to know the people you’ll spend most of your four (or five) years in UP with.
At the same time I didn’t limit myself either — college is the time to really get out there and come out of your shell (I’m still super shy, but it was worse in high school D:) so try to ease your way into activities, orgs, and meeting new people in general. I’ve made some amazing friends in college, friends I would never have made if I stayed shy. Good luck and I’ll see you on campus! ^_^
Anonymous said: Hi It was nice to read your 10 things you have learned in the enrollment. I'm a transferee from other university who have been admitted in UP Diliman. I had already passed my requirements in OUR and I just got my temporary CRS account. Can i ask something what will be the next step? Whats with the pre enlist..? Registration? btw hows upd? the profs? Can u give me some advice? Thank you ji hope u can help me :)
Your home college probably has registration instructions (on a website or an FB page if you can’t go to the office directly) — it’s more or less the same for all colleges, but your home college will have room assignments and other specifics. I don’t want to give the wrong information either! :D But if you’re not enrolled for the mid-year term, then enrollment (pre-enlistment, manual enlistment, etc.) isn’t until August (I think! Check the academic calendar ;D)
UPD is great! It’s very diverse, and the same applies to the professors — you will encounter professors who you don’t see eye-to-eye with, professors who don’t teach the way you prefer, but you will also encounter professors who will make you go out of your way to meet requirements (to prove them wrong *or* right) and professors who will actively encourage you, professors who show you just how much they love what they’re teaching you about. That’s one of the many things I like about UP — professors teach in the ways they see best, and it teaches you how to adapt and broadens your perspectives. Even the profs I didn’t like that much taught me a lot about how I learn best. In UP everything is an opportunity to learn, as it should be. So I guess that’s my advice for you (and whoever’s reading this as well? ;D) — there is something you can learn from everything you experience in UP, easy *and* difficult alike.
whenthegroomliftstheveil said: Is it possible for a mediocre student like me survive in UP? I mean, I'm not that smart. Its just that I need to believe an average student like could bear the pressure in UP now that I'm close enough to be admitted. Some piece of advice dear? Ty! :)
From my personal experience, it’s definitely possible. I wasn’t a particularly outstanding student back in high school and even up to now I don’t think I’m as good as I’m expected to be. I didn’t expect to pass the UPCAT and qualify for Diliman, and up to now I still wonder how it all happened. But I’d like to believe that I’m surviving here because of two things — I’m surviving because I really want it, and because I try to work as hard as I can. To me, success is half hard work and half natural/inborn intellect. And while it’s cliche to say that hard work will take you places, of the two factors it’s the only one you can really control. So you might as well put in all the work you can. At the same time, for me personally I only put in the work if I really want something, if I’m really interested in the work I’m doing. And I’m fortunate enough to study something I genuinely like, if not love. My major will allow me to do what I want to do for the rest of my life, to the best of my abilities, so what’s there not to love?
I don’t really know if I’m qualified to be giving advice, but I would say that you need to really want to stay in UP to survive. You have not want it because it’s a chance of a lifetime, because it’s a privilege given to very few, because you now have the honor of giving back to all the taxpayers who sacrificed their educations for yours, and you have to want it for yourself. Because most of the time, especially during the most trying, stressful periods of your stay, when the workload gets overwhelming, it will be your only motivation. It’s pretty good motivation though! :D
Reasons don’t matter…What’s more important is how an experience makes you go off to another world, how you live your life there. In that other world. And what you think of the world you left behind.”
— Natsuo Kirino, “Real World”
Last GE ever! :O I was in the last batch of free-choice RGEP and therefore I swore to never take Math simply because it’s possible, but it has come to the point where I’ll take anything I get. Because MSTs are nearly impossible to get on CRS! T_T