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Rethinking the college dream

When the news that the University of the Philippines college application results came out last July 15, I suddenly recalled the days when I desperately waited for my own result, wondering whether I had passed the stringent UP College Admission Test.

It was May 2020, well over two months since the pandemic began ravaging our country, and the university was about to render its verdict on who was in and who was out.

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The application process of the state university will forever haunt me. As I went out of the examination room on Oct. 5, 2019, I knew in my heart that the chances were dim for me. Still, there was hope that maybe, just maybe, I would come out victorious.

But I did not. The grim message flashed: “Thank you…” No congratulations. No green-colored text that would signify some sort of celebration. It was a long messageeloquently written, which in the end basically said that you  were not accepted.

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I didn’t cry. Thankfully, I had four applications in other universities and passed three of them. But the UP rejection still slightly broke my heart. As I wrote in my blog: “It’s like as if poop was dropped on your dreams. A slap on your face. An insult to your intelligence.”

Fast forward to 2021, one academic year later. I’ve realized that being crossed out of the list of UP passers has absolutely made no difference in my college life. Nothing. Whether or not I got to enroll in any of the Big 5 universities has had no bearing on the fact that I would be near-knackered by the mountain of responsibilities that come with college studies, and that where you receive your diploma does not equate to success.

Beyond the world rankings, name recognition, and prestige accorded by the premium schools is the fact that all students are experiencing the same things: stress, anxiety, and paranoia as we juggle responsibilities in a completely different setup.

Facebook and Twitter are filled with the grievances of students across different institutions, all of them wondering whether they can make it past the academic year without being transformed into robots. In personal conversations, fellow students share how they have devised their own mechanisms to learn, let alone survive. Some would rather float in the air for the meantime, because they are already overwhelmed.

I contemplated early in the year whether being an “Isko” would have made me more satisfied. But it turns out that being a Thomasian or an Isko at this time is the same. We take quizzes and exams and finish projects under similar circumstances: intermittent internet connection, a house full of distractions, and an environment providing no motivation to hold on at all.

So, whether or not applicants passed the UP admission process this year is only a minor roadblock. The real test lies ahead, and it doesn’t consider the school we are in. It is in our hands whether we can be effective and responsive citizens of society, no matter the alma mater indicated in our CV.

Of course, there is an emotional toll when we learn that we didn’t qualify for the standards set by the school we were aiming for. But we can’t stop at wailing, punching the wall, and brooding for days. Moving forward, we have to accept the setback and try to work on other options. Who knows, maybe we’d be more productive down a different path.

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I implore incoming freshmen to rethink their college dreams by not pinning their hopes on one university, and damn everything else. If there’s anything the world has taught us in the past year or so of the pandemic, it’s that the unexpected can always happen, no matter how we prepare strenuously for something. I once crossed my fingers, too, for my UP application, and prematurely imagined how I would commute to the Diliman campus and where I would stay during my four-year stint at the university. As it turned out, the dream remained a dream.

That does not mean we should not aim anymore. We stumble, but we rise. We fail, but we work toward success in another direction. We weep, but we learn. Life does not end when we see the “Thank you…” message.

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Eduelle Jan T. Macababbad, 19, is from Taytay, Rizal.

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TAGS: college dream, Eduelle Jan T. Macababbad, UPCAT, Young Blood
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