When people talk about taking the UPCAT, it’s usually all about test-taking tips, how to manage time and what type of snacks to bring. We also hear about how the exam deducts a fourth of the wrong answers from your total score. They also never fail to remind about how high school grade is 40% of the UPG. All these, while important, deal with the exam itself. There is another much less talked about aspect of the UPCAT — filing the application.
Choosing your course and campus involves some serious decision-making and a bit of strategy. What you write in those forms can increase your chances of getting into UP. But more importantly, filling in the UPCAT form or any college application form requires you to make choices that can greatly affect your future. There’s a bit of pressure to do it right. Below are some tips I wish someone told me when I was a high school senior.
1. Choose your course first, campus second. In the long run, it’s your course, not the campus, that will play a part in your career and future. Make sure to choose the one you really like, regardless of what campus it’s offered in. Broad Comm in UP Diliman may seem more coveted and prestigious compared to the one in UP Baguio, but in the long run it doesn’t really matter. Try applying for jobs abroad and they won’t even recognize the difference between campuses. It’s the course that matters.
2. Second choice campuses are important. When I was teaching review classes, I’ve heard a lot of students express distaste for campuses that are far from where they live, so much that they say they won’t even bother writing them down in their UPCAT forms. I have a couple of issues with that. First, there is more to UP than Diliman and Manila. Provincial campuses are still part of the UP system and they still provide quality education. Second, even though you think there’s no way your parents can afford to send you to UP Visayas in case you pass, it’s still easier to apply for change of campus if you’re already an UPCAT qualifier compared to if you’re a non-qualifier applying for waitlist. And even if you do end up in Baguio or Los Baños or some campus you didn’t intend to attend, well at least that will be an amazing experience.
3. Check out rankings when choosing campuses. Or even when choosing a university in general. Look at board exam results of the course of your choice, and find out which schools have the most number of passers. Also check out the topnotchers. This will help you determine which campus or school offer good degree programs in the respective fields. While passing and topping the board exam depends more on the student, it still helps to have a good background.
4. If you still don’t have a course in mind then you’re in quite a pinch, since the deadline for submission of forms is tomorrow (June 22). Don’t worry, I myself waited last minute before filling it up. I ended up with my first choice (BS Development Communication in UPLB) and I have no regrets. If you really can’t decide, think of your favorite subject in school. If you don’t have one, think of the subject you do best/get the highest grades in, and choose something related to that. This is because some degree programs place grade quotas on certain subjects. For example, most communication programs expect you to get higher scores in the Language and Reading part of the UPCAT. Engineering subjects look at your math scores. If you choose a subject you’re good at in high school, it’s likely you’ll do better in that part of the UPCAT and you’ll have a higher chance of getting in.
5. Don’t choose a course with the intention of shifting. I’ve heard a couple of parents tell their kids to take non-quota degree programs and programs with fewer students. They think that as long as they get into UP, they can later shift into the degree program they really want. Don’t do it! In order to shift to a different degree program, a student must have good grades. But the reality is, a lot of students don’t get grades good enough for shifting in their first year. It’s crazy how a large percentage of freshmen get a 5.0 on their first Math subject. Besides, it’s difficult to do well in a course you’re not very interested in, coupled with adjusting to college life and other freshman woes there is a high chance you won’t be able to shift. So my tip is choose the course you want from the start. If you don’t pass then perhaps it’s best to try a different campus or university.
So those are my tips. I know I ended up publishing this post a bit late, but I hope it helps. (Like I said, I filled in my form last-minute so I guess this post will come in just in time for someone.) Remember, deadline for submission of UPCAT Application is tomorrow June 22, 2012! Good luck and I hope you make the right decisions!
PS. It’s not recommended, but if you really need extra time you can submit your application late. However, you’ll have to pay an extra Php150 late submission fee.