I passed UP, now what? | Inquirer Opinion

I passed UP, now what?

I always knew I would get an admission to the University of the Philippines (UP). My entire life as a student has practically been the epitome of the very formula that yields an Iskolar ng Bayan—straight A’s, a plethora of extracurricular activities, and a collection of shiny gold medals. I was the quintessential science high school achiever, and perhaps even more. The thing is, unlike almost half of the student population, UP was never my dream.

It was the midnight of April 19, 2024, when my phone rang repeatedly with notifications from my peers. The inevitable has finally come; it is time for high school seniors across the country to brave the results of the University of the Philippines College Admission Test. As for me, it is the time of year to relapse and relive the bitter truth of life.

About a year ago, I experienced the same thing. It was a sunny third of May, nothing extraordinary, just another day for a 12th grader waiting for graduation. All of a sudden, nothingness turned into a day of chaos. Screams of excitement and cries of agony filled the air as everyone pulled their phones out of their pockets. The University of the Philippines College Admission (UPCA) results were out; the day I dreaded most was now upon me.

As I attempted to face my UPCA result, a part of me wanted to see a rejection letter. If I were rejected, I at least have less of a reason to consider UP as my university. In the back of my mind, however, I have always felt a sense of connection between UP and me, an unexplainable energy that keeps pulling me toward the university despite making a run for it. Since I was a child, my family envisioned me to be an Iskolar ng Bayan, the first UP student in the family. By studying at UP, I would bring pride and joy to the family, but most of all, I would ease the financial burden of my single mother. Alas, just as I expected, there it was, in bold green letters, written the word “CONGRATULATIONS.” I now held my ticket to UP.


It did not really matter to me then; I already had a solid plan—to live my university life in the streets of Taft, sport a green and white lanyard, and take chemistry as my major. I had it all: my dream school and course; what could go wrong? Everything.

It has always been said that it is wiser for a high school senior to opt for their dream course over their dream university. But they fail to mention how there is always a price to pay, whichever one chooses. Imagine having it all in the palm of your hand; the only thing you had to do was take it. I could not, though. The price tag on education is a couple of zeroes over my budget.

Entering UP felt like a life sentence; it was as if I was forced to live thousands of kilometers away from my hometown, only to waive my tuition. I hated this feeling. I couldn’t help but think UP was not for me, and the university never failed to make me feel like so. My first semester at the university changed my life in ways I never would have expected. The trajectory of my life went south, somewhere I never thought I would find myself in.

Everything I held onto as a high school student deteriorated into rubble right before my eyes. What was once a line of straight A’s now barely recovers from a sea of F’s. I am way too drained from my classes even to consider extracurricular activities. I barely had any friends; I sometimes ate lunch alone. And the final blow that sent me to rock bottom was a grade of 5.00 on my 5-unit major. This would not have happened if I am not in UP. I was so ashamed of myself that I shunned the university.


Yet, despite the challenges, the university and its community embraced me tightly for all I am—flaws and everything in between. Through UP, I discovered a potential in me, a side I could have never tapped into in any other university. It dawned on me that this was a matter of perspective. I needed to open my eyes and live in the present. I had been so focused on what I couldn’t have that it hindered me from enjoying what I did have, the unique opportunities that UP offered me. The person I am today is a product of UP, its students, faculty, and everyone else that it encompasses. My identity is built upon the fragments of the people I encountered at the university; without them, I would not be me.

Over a year after my UPCA acceptance letter and a few months after my hell of a semester, here I am, walking the halls of the University of the Philippines Baguio as if it is my runway. I am still lost, though, perhaps even more than when I first stepped foot on the mist-covered steps of the university. I anticipate the day when I will no longer feel lost within the walls of UP, but for now, I find the journey thrilling. After all, the only way is up when you hit rock bottom.


This is a love letter to the next generations of freshmen after me, from one Isko to another. The university awaits you, just like it awaited me and everyone who came before me. It might feel like you should be somewhere else, somewhere better than this, but this is where you are supposed to be. You are home.

Welcome to UP, Iskolar ng Bayan.


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Kelvin Clouie N. Palad, 19, is a physics student at the University of the Philippines Baguio—he’d rather study fashion, though. Writing is something he loves to do, but only when it is not a requirement. He is from the plains of Angeles City, Pampanga.


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