It was a calm early morning. The sky wasn’t it’s usual shade of light blue since the sun was just yet to rise. Right before me was a large gray building with trees and plants to its sides. On any other day it’d be just another concrete structure with people busily going in and out, but today is not just another day. I was waiting there, at UP Diliman’s Institute of Mathematics, for that one exam most high school seniors go through: the UPCAT.
Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck. It was my dream at the time to get into UPD’s computer science program, and right before me was the chance to make it or break it. Waiting there in line for the exam to start felt like an eternity. Luckily for me though I was able to make small talk with one guy who had a Attack on Titan bag. Eventually, one of the staff ushered us into our rooms and after giving instructions, we began the exam. I won’t go into details about what was in the exam. I’ll leave that as a surprise for those who might be taking it in the future. What I will say though is that I didn’t do that well. I never made it to the end of any subtest before the time limit so I had a lot of blank items. Didn’t help that after hearing about it my sister said, jokingly in some faux Japanese accent, “You have dishonored our famiry”. She meant no harm… probably.
In the time since then, I took two more exams — the one for Ateneo de Manila and one for the DOST Scholarship. The entire time my thoughts were one of “fuck I’m screwed”, “let’s hope for the best”, or “I want another Vita Cube.”
Fast forward to December and one morning, while I was groggy from just waking up, I get a phone call:
Aunt: “OMG ANTON YOU JUST PASSED UPCAT WE’RE SO PROUD OF YOU!!!”
Aunt: “YOU JUST PASSED THE UPCAT!!!”
Me: “MA I JUST PASSED THE UPCAT!!!”
Proud and loving Mom: “TUMAHIMIK KA NGA BAKA MAGISING LOLO MO”
* Mom cries in Spanish
Proud and loving Mom (to Dad): “PUMASA SI ANTON NG UPCAT!!!”
Not all of us can blaze through the questions of the UPCAT and undoubtedly at one point some give up hope of getting into UP after what may look like a lackluster performance. In the end only a lucky few will get to walk the halls of any of its campuses. To those who have just taken the UPCAT, or will be taking it tomorrow, don’t give up hope. Nothing’s over until results are out. When they do come out, you do your best with whatever hand you get.
It’s been four years since I took the UPCAT. I didn’t get into Diliman, instead I got admitted into UPLB’s computer science program and for the past three years it’s become my second home and I learned to take advantage of all it had to offer. I joined the programming team and represented the university in multiple programming contests. At one point I was a step away from becoming an exchange student in another country.
Things didn’t always go the way I wanted it too but I just kept moving forward — and that has opened so many doors since then. No matter what your UPCAT result is, it won’t be the only door in your life. There will be countless others. Finding out which one will open is what life is all about.