To UPCAT takers: Go for it

Days before the UPCAT application deadline, I was asked by our guidance councilor if I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to take the exam without paying for the examination fee. This is one privilege given to top 10 honor students in every school across the country.

I filled out the application form and submitted the requirements. I didn’t feel any excitement. I was fixated on going to St Louis University, where my brother was taking up Civil Engineering. I wanted to pursue a degree in accountancy.

I didn’t know that the UPCAT would change my life forever.

I didn’t get pressured to pass the exam and I never opened an UPCAT reviewer. The night before the exam, my classmate lent me her Nintendo Gameboy and I stayed until 1 am playing SuperMario. I didn’t own one. Who knew when I would get another chance to borrow it overnight.

Perhaps, the anxiety kept me up during the exam. Or maybe, the storm outside motivated me to finish before we got flooded in the gymnasium where the examination was conducted. We were warned it was "right minus wrong," and were discouraged to guess our answers. Just leave it blank, the proctor said. To be honest, I made intelligent guesses. I hate leaving a number blank.

Six months later, a fellow student informed us there were 5 UPCAT takers in our school who passed. I was surprised I was one of them. 

Not a lot of people in my town passed the UPCAT. I was the first one in my family to ever pass the exam. I didn’t mind that I got into Journalism instead of my first choice – Computer Science. I was going to UP for college and that was all that mattered.

Though my parents were willing to pay for a good education, UP was a blessing. I was getting the very best education in the country, and I didn’t have to pay expensive tuition.

I was a ‘mongha’ (recluse) and introvert before college. I just stayed inside the house after school and during vacation. I didn’t like mingling with people, and I was just in front of our typewriter. I could have gone to a smaller university outside my town and would have been contented. Passing the UPCAT changed all that.

I took up BA Mass Communication (Journalism) and minor in Broadcasting. It completely changed me because education in UP goes beyond what is taught within the walls of the university. The professors never spoon-fed us. They were there to guide and encourage us to be the better version of ourselves.

My newspaper internship allowed me to do fieldwork without any instruction. At 19, I was on my own, doing fieldwork, and was expected to produce news stories at the end of the day. Despite the hardship and cramming, sweat and tears, I had the best time of my life.

UP enhanced the potential that I thought I never had. UP opened my eyes, taught me how to think differently, and most importantly, gave me confidence – that what I think matters and should be heard.

The university taught me to aim high and work hard. It is true that passing the UPCAT is just the first step. Surviving UP is a harder challenge. Not everybody who passes the UPCAT survives. I had classmates who failed or transferred to another school.

I finished my degree with honors and a lot of opportunities opened up for me after college. Knowing that my parents are proud of me is priceless.

It all started with taking the UPCAT, and passing it. To everyone taking the test this year, I wish you luck. If you have to give up weekends to study for it, do so. The sacrifices will be all worth it. – Rappler.com

Ayvi Alcain finished BA Mass Communication (Journalism) in UP Baguio in 2003. She worked as an Information Officer at the Philippine National Volunteer Service Agency after college. She migrated to Edmonton, Alberta Canada in 2008 and currently works as a Registered Nurse at University of Alberta Hospital. 

The next UPCAT will be conducted on August 16, 2014 or August 17, 2014 in designated examination venues across the country, according to UP.