The usually empty atrium at the University of the Philippines Office of Admissions on Tuesday was filled with students and parents, eager to see the results of the most recent entrance exams.
Even if the results had been available online just after midnight on January 3, many still preferred to see the posted results.
Roughly 13,000 senior high school students passed the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) for the 2011-2012 academic year.
The figure seems large, but taken into perspective, it represents a small percent of some 67,000 examinees who took the UPCAT in August last year.
The qualifiers are ranked according to their university predicted grade (UPG), which combines their weighted averages of high school grades and their weighted scores in the UPCAT sub-tests on language proficiency, reading comprehension, mathematics and science.
The UPCAT is a five-hour examination in English and Filipino, which many aspiring UP students prepare for seriously.
Some schools even arrange for UPCAT reviews for their students. In Quezon City Science High School (QCSHS), it is an unspoken rule that majority "should" pass the UPCAT.
Among the first people to check the list of passers were QCSHS graduates Meg Rivera and Duane Banzon, who are both in their first year at UP Diliman.
The two students were scanning the list, which was posted on several bulletin boards at the Office of Admissions.
Asked if they were looking for anyone in particular, they explained they were just looking for people they knew. "It's good to see familiar faces," they said, recalling that they themselves were ecstatic when they saw their own names on the list a year ago.
Several parents were also there, nervously peering at the lists, hoping to see their children's names.
Anna Velasco, whose son qualified for a slot in the Comparative Literature program, was evidently pleased.
Apart from the relatively low tuition fees, UP is known for its good reputation.
"This is where the true life is," she says. "In UP, one does not merely survive. They get exposed to all sorts of people. They learn to live, they go through several tests. UP balances the students - they learn to question what they've learned in Catholic schools," says Velasco, who studied at the Philippine Normal University.
She shares that her eldest child also went to UP, and she is very happy that her second son will get to have the same college education.
"They have established their roots, now they have their wings," she says, adding that as a parent, she also learns from them.
Policy of democratization
Based on the university’s “policy of democratization," socioeconomic and geographic factors are also taken into consideration when ranking students.
Because of this, UP has long had a reputation for being a melting pot of cultures from all walks of life.
A few other parents looked pleased, excitedly sharing the news over their mobile phones. Some others were obviously dejected. "Hintayin na lang natin sa mail," said one father to his daughter as they walked away.
After inquiring about their options, they had been told to wait for the UPG or their university predicted grade, to see if it qualifies them for courses in other campuses.
'You deserve UP'
Micah Nazal was sitting down looking glum but brightened up when asked if she passed the UPCAT.
Nazal, who was accepted in the B.S. Economics program shares that she had been so nervous the whole day yesterday that she threw up during her Economics class.
She shares that in retrospect, it may have been a good sign after all. She actually knew the results since last night when she was woken up by her father.
"Grabe, iyak ako nang iyak," she said.
"Congrats, you deserve UP," was her best friend's message to her. Nazal shares that although she was extremely happy that she passed, she was also sad as her best friend's name was not on the list.
She shares that it had been their dream to both go to UP, even though many of their batchmates at Miriam College wanted to go to the Ateneo de Manila University, which was next door to their campus.
"First of all, ang mahal mahal na ng tuition," explains Nazal, adding that this is one way she can help her parents, who have already spent so much for her private school education.
Among her reasons for choosing UP, she lists academic freedom and the fact that UP is a microcosm of the Philippines.
Apart from the UPCAT, Nazal also took the entrance exam at the Ateneo but has already decided studying in UP. In fact, she has already memorized her student number.
Breaking the bad news
"Paano ko sasabihin sa kanya? Ayoko naman siyang umiyak," said one student who had just emerged from the growing crowd.
Albert Cuaresma had just discovered that his brother's name was not on the list, and could not bear to break the bad news.
"I want to put it gently," he says, sharing that he knows his parents will also be disappointed.
He recalls that he himself was so afraid to find out if he passed that he asked someone else to check for him. He was very happy when he learned that he had passed, despite not making it into his program of choice, which was Psychology. He ended up taking B.S. Statistics, and he says he has no regrets.
"Maganda kasi, number one. It's known for academic excellence, and compared to other schools also known for excellence, it's more affordable," he says.
The tuition at UP is still lower than most private schools, even with the strongly-opposed 300-percent tuition increase in 2007.
The top 50 UPCAT qualifiers are awarded Oblation Scholarships, which provide them with benefits as free tuition, miscellaneous and laboratory fees, a semestral book subsidy, and a monthly incentive and transportation allowance.
All in all, there are several reasons why students and parents are eager to be part of UP. It is the only national university in the country and UP takes pride in being the pioneer in higher education through academic excellence. – VVP, GMANews.TV