Friday, January 16, 2015

UP Ateneo DLSU or UST: Which College for My Beloved Child?

UP, Ateneo, DLSU or UST? Which college/ university is best for my beloved child?

This article is for the parent hoping to guide their child and for the student seeking some insights on what school to choose.  Please share this with those who may benefit…

This question is shared by a few thousand, proud and lucky parents at this time of the year who actually have a choice on which school to send their child. Having been a professor since 1994, I have been asked this question several times. This is an attempt to consolidate my  insights on the matter.

At the onset, I must declare that I have prejudices, biases and perceptions that have been formed from my own personal experience as a student, as a professor and as a parent. Wide and unique as it may be, my experience and family situation is very different from those of those who may read this. Where is my perspective coming from? As a student, I studied in UP (1981 to 1988 for BSChE and BSME), Ateneo (1990 to 1994 for MBA), DLSU (2002 to 2003for Marketing Management) and AIM (1998, 2002 and 2005 for 3 executive development programs). As a  part-time college professor I had the privilege to teach in Ateneo (6 semesters: 1994 to 1997 to BS Management, BS Legal Management),  DLSU (3 semesters: 2003 to 2004). I have also taught as part-time graduate school professor at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business (1997 to 2015) and consulted for a niche and high end school (iAcademy). But perhaps my greatest qualification is my actual experience as a father of my eldest son (Batch 2012:  passed the 4 schools and eventually chose UP for a BSME degree) and my 2nd son (Batch 2015: passed UP and Ateneo and will probably choose UP for a BSEE degree). Lastly my youngest daughter will be taking the college entrance exams in 2017 and she proclaims her plan to study in Ateneo, and I agree with her plan.

Now that the declaration of partiality is clear, here is the best answer I heard for the question- “which is the best school for my child?” I heard it last week from the school director of my high school alma mater (Claret School of QC), Fr. James Castro during the parents and son retreat which I attended.

The complete question is the ‘best school for my child” not which is the “best school.” To choose, here are the ff. steps and questions to answer:
1.     What are your child’s passions and where is he/she good at? What activities does he/she like doing even if there is no grade, no incentive, no pay? It is best to list several passions.
2.     What jobs/ work/ career in the future will allow the child to do his passion as frequently as he/she can? Do list several careers per passion.
3.     What is the renumeration/ pay/ benefits to each career path when your child graduates and possibly even 20 years from now?
4.     What is the best school for each career path? There is no single school that offers the best training for all the college degrees. There are more appropriate schools for engineering which are probably different from those known for pre-med, and different from accounting and even for animation.

Now this portion is no longer part of Fr. Castro’s answer. While course or college degree is a common and practical way to classify school, another way to choose is the school environment- there are the big, liberal schools like UP, big conservative schools like DLSU and the small exclusive, “feels like home” schools consisting of only hundreds of students like iAcademy.  I believe that since each child is different, there are school environments that will actually allow the child to discover, nurture but this same school can suffocate or frustrate a different child’s passion. Bigger and more popular is often not the best choice because in the end it is what our child becomes after college which weighs more to the future employer than the school on the college diploma. Some children will literally be lost in a big school system while others will find a small school too claustrophobic.

Other practical considerations for choosing a college: tuition fees, geography and 20 year career path.

Tuition: I have no personal knowledge of current UST tuition fees but annual UP tuition cost is subsidized by government, which is why the term: iskolar ng bayan and this is costing me P60k a year @ 30k a semester. Ateneo DLSU and iAcademy cost 3x as much,  are at P 195k a year @ P65k per trimester.  A friend shared that culinary courses can cost as much as P 500k a year. Personally, I am not a big fan of trimesters for college since this result in very short times in between studying and I personally believe that the 4 or 5 years of college should not be limited to studying but should allow the student time to pursue different interests like sports, hobbies or experience on-the-job-training or even working in the family business or experience working as a summer crew in a fastfood company.

Geography- travel time from house to school is a practical consideration especially with the horrendous Metro Manila traffic and unpredictable weather that we have. This will be a daily challenge for the next 4 or 5 years and cannot be ignored. Hypothetically, if I chose DLSU over UP, it would have required 4 hours of additional travel time daily for 7 years, That time is probably equivalent to getting a masters and doctoral degree!

20 Year Career Path: College is not just about the degree or the school you get it from.  UP, Ateneo, DLSU and UST are the best schools in the country to shape, nurture different children for different careers. But college is just a start- the reality is that each job you get after college is in a way, another school and another degree. When I completed my BSChE in 1986, I got offered  a cadet engineer job in the Petron oil refinery but I thought  I needed to prepare myself a bit more for a long term engineering career so I took a second engineering degree BSME which I compeleted after only 3 more trimesters in 1988. Having both the BSChE and BSME from UP was my competitive edge vs hundreds of other applicants in winning the lone technical management trainee role for Unilever Philippines (then known as PRC) in 1988. The first 6 years of my Unilever “school” has and still is a major defining and crucial ingredient in all my jobs after it.  So choosing the school and degree is important in that it allows you to start a long term career which you love to do in respectable companies which will provide you your “continuing education” in the real world. So I consider myself a Unilever graduate as well and there are not too many of us as compared to university graduates.

Another note on 20 year career projection is that there are some students who already know that their future careers will eventually result in them being active in politics or in their family owned business or in their own businesses which they will start. This has to be factored in the choice of school.

So what is my personal experience? Of the 4 schools, UP was and is the nearest to my house in Diliman 1981 then and Fairview now in 2015. UP will always be my alma mater and the best fit to my “maturity” and “life preparation” level when I finished  as class valedictorian of 151 high school students of Claret in 1981.  UP also had the lowest tuition fee rate and offered the engineering course required by my DOST (Dept of Science and Technology) college scholarship. By the way, I only  took and passed 2 college exams: UP and Ateneo and Ateneo didn’t have the science program where I can use my DOST scholarship. So it was an easy and personal decision for me at the time to choose UP.

On hindsight, my study habits and vision for my professional future was already clear then and I was emotionally and socially prepared to face the culture shock of school organizations (which can take gazillion hours of time) and fraternities  (which I didn’t join). I was ready to interact with students from all walks of life, rich and poor, urban and rural, with different dialects and backgrounds. I was not dependent on professors who are allowed much leeway and almost unlimited academic freedom in their style and content of teaching (unlike the other schools where constraints and controls are more pronounced).  At UP, I was an ordinary joe and as average  like the 15,000 other diligent, honor or  “smart” students from other schools nationwide.  As a freshman, I was aiming to achieve a cum laude rating and this was still on-track until my 2nd sem 3rd year when academic disaster struck:  a heavy academic load of 21 units of difficult subjects, my active role in a school org: UP Chemical Society and a terror teacher resulted in my first and only failing grade in BSChE resulted in my disqualification from this cum laude dream. After getting a failing 5.0 in that ES  11 engineering science subject, I took it the succeeding sem under a different professor, studied real hard and aced it and got the highest possible grade of 1.0 just to prove to myself that this failure was an exception rather than the rule. My UP dream was downgraded from being a cum laude to finishing my engineering degree in 5 years.

In UP, you are not trained for a college degree, you are trained for life. You are not spoon fed by a controlled syllabus and teaching style closely monitored by school admin or by professors who may sometimes be more absent and silent than present and teaching. You learn and find ways of learning in spite of the professor. Critical thinking and deciding with limited information is developed. A large percentage of professors don’t really mind if you are absent many times as long as you pass the requirements and your exams. If your course has a board or licensure exam, you need to take a special review course outside of UP to prepare for this because you will not learn enough inside the campus for questions that will never ever be asked again in your professional career. In UP, we were not trained to answer specific quetions, we were trained to think in a certain way that is applicable to many sorts of questions.

So unlike other schools, UP does not campaign hard for its students to top board exams; UP doesn’t need it so it is up to the students to find a way, and they do. My wife, Marissa, completed her Chemical Engineering degree 4 years after me, graduated cum laude from UST and she achieved 4th place in the ChE board exams, higher than any UP student who took that exam.  I took 2 board exams: passed the ChE board exam in 1986 and placed 6th in the ME board exam in 1988, My UP engineering training was so non-traditional (or critically developed) that in the ME board exam, I even answered that 1 of the essay problems they gave was wrong since the given data was not consistent. To this day, I continue to wonder if that answer, largely influenced by my UP training, got me a better or worse score. And no surprise that that question has never been relevant in the 26 years of being an engineer.

So if your child’s passion is available in a degree program that UP is known for, and if the university is geographically accessible and if your child is ready to face a totally "oblation like" school environment (vs high school) and manage the academic freedom environment then UP may be the best choice.  But, this is a big but, even if your child is ready but you don’t have the time, the parent-child relationship or the opportunity to oversee their wise adaptation to that unconstrained freedom, then there are still potential dangers of distraction from extracurricular activities like school orgs or frats or sororities.

And let’s call a spade a spade: a majority of those who pass UP will enroll in UP.  A considerable number of those who enroll in the other schools will do so only because they didn’t pass UP or they didnt take the UPCAT. Also boys are different from girls. So the opportunities and threats are also different.

But if your child is not ready and will not be nurtured by the very liberal and real world campus of UP, he/she does not give anything up by going to the other schools.  Based on my experience, Ateneo is inclined to more general courses like management and does not focus on specialization to the same degree that DLSU does where there are majors and minors that allow as much option while emphasizing functional expertise.  On my limited stint as a college professor for both Ateneo and DLSU, I noticed that the DLSU classes have a greater number of children from successful Filipino- Chinese entrepreneurs and “big” business owners while Ateneo has a greater percentage of sons from professionals and employees. A fellow parent said that aside from the school and the degree, the “networking” opportunity with studying with future leaders of business offers many long term benefits. On the other hand, if you will have the same classmates in college that you had in high school,  then you may be limiting your network potential.

Another key difference is that UP will not promote religion or spiritual development to the same degree as the Catholic triumvirate of Ateneo, DLSU or UST. But the UP student has easy access to structures that will provide the same atmosphere for a Catholic- there is the UPSCA student organization and of course the well known UP Chapel or the Parish of Holy Sacrifice.

And before the critiques out there point that there are other schools beyond the 5 mentioned in this article, I say AMEN to you and agree totally. However, my personal experience has only with these 5 schools so I hope that is a good enough reason.

Lastly, if animation or game development is your child’s passion and he/she will perform better in a school with less than hundreds of students in 1 building only instead of thousands of students in multiple campus building, then options like iAcademy may be their best answer to the question of which school.

Just like the wrong question in my board exam, the question- which is the best college is flawed. There is no such thing. The correct question remains- what is the best school for my child in 2015... (the answer may change in the future...)

In the end, this "correct" question is common to many parents and to many of their children – but the right answer is uniquely different for each incoming college freshman.


Bong De Ungria said...

Sharing friend's comments on the my Facebook page where this post was shared:

Chris M Sia Ateneo!
January 17 at 12:15pm · Unlike · 1

Florentino Eugenio No contest. UP
January 17 at 1:03pm · Unlike · 1

Jeffrey Tanchanco Nakaka inis problema mo idol! Congratulations!
January 17 at 7:07pm · Unlike · 1

J.v. Sayo UP hands down!
January 17 at 7:21pm · Unlike · 1

Bong De Ungria Salamat Jeff. Simula pa lang ng challenge yan. Tunay na laban ay ang day to day college
January 17 at 8:15pm · Like

Jeffrey Tanchanco Tell me about it! Got 1.5 years left to go for my 2 kiddos (ADMU & DLSU) Tinding laban Ng totoong buhay.
January 17 at 8:26pm · Unlike · 1

Bong De Ungria Laban para Kay daddy. Kailangang kayod track
January 17 at 8:34pm · Like · 1

Alice Cornejo UP po
January 17 at 8:51pm · Unlike · 1

Ronald Dennis A. Reyes Remember in UP, many are called but few are chosen!
January 17 at 8:51pm · Unlike · 1

Ronald Dennis A. Reyes For Engineering, Law and Medicine courses, UP hands down!
January 17 at 8:55pm · Unlike · 1

Eymard Joaquin H Mallillin Ateneo of course sama sila ni Gian ko !
January 17 at 9:21pm · Unlike · 1

Jing Humphreys UP opened our eyes to the world, not just education Bong De Ungria. Can you truly say that about the others? Good luck and Congratulations!
January 17 at 10:29pm · Unlike · 1

Vicki Saldajeno-de Leon Bong, congratulations to you and your child! I'm sure you are extremely proud.
My take on this --- what is your child's intended major? I'd probably use that to help my child make a decision. So many parents get caught up with having their children go to the universities they went to, without considering what would be in the child's best interest.
January 17 at 11:22pm · Edited · Unlike · 3

Rebs Andal Medicine - UST pa rin. We are everywhere.
January 18 at 1:17am · Unlike · 1

JamesFelizardo InstrctionalStrategist Have no idea how BSME courses fair out in the Green and Blue universities. Why didnt he take the entrance in MIT?
January 18 at 1:53am · Unlike · 1

Girlie Tan If i may say sir UP pa rin, iba pa rin experience.
January 18 at 3:38am · Unlike · 1

Bong De Ungria Salamat To the Maroon 5- alice Alice Cornejo Ronald Dennis A. Reyes Girlie Tan Jing Humphreys Florentino Eugenio j.v. J.v. Sayo ay 6 pala Kayo...
January 18 at 5:46am · Like · 1

Bong De Ungria Hoping that He will take his masters as an eagle Eymard Joaquin H Mallillin and Chris M Sia, like dad... What do u think? Jeric De Ungria
January 18 at 5:47am · Like · 1

Mars Aaron Hi Bong De Ungria! I would refrain sana from commenting but since it came from you, I would and I should. How can I say No? My dad went to UP, 1 daughter from DLSU, 2 daughters and 1 son from ADMU and as you well know I am from DLSU. From the hundreds ...See More
January 18 at 8:11am · Unlike · 3

Elvira Cruz your former adviser who is a thomasian n a claretian forever says ust mabuhay bong
January 18 at 2:10pm · Unlike · 1

Oscar Gomez Jr. Hi Bong. I admire your effort to be objective in this important selection process. It’s a lot easier to just follow the popular choice, the sentimental choice, or the dictates of tradition. Going through the exercise before for my own children, I reall...See More
January 18 at 3:47pm · Unlike · 1

Arnel Agustin Anong course nya?
Yesterday at 11:44am · Unlike · 1

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