Paul Bryan Bio

They had it precariously, but it slipped away from their hands at the very last moment –

Indeed, heartbreak is difficult to cope with, not only when it comes to love but also during college application season. For most graduating senior high school students, it is one of the most pivotal chapters in their lives, for it will play a huge role in their future as it will define which path they will take once they enter the world outside school. Some of them already have a long-standing desire to enter a particular university, just like Noriko Wade – the reason why failing to pass a dream school is just heart-wrenching.

Noriko, 18, resides in Parañaque and is an incoming freshman at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa, Manila, under the program BS in Exercise and Sports Science. During the long college application period, she only applied to three universities: PUP, UP, and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM). Of all these universities, she said that UP is her dream.

It started during her junior high school era due to her curiosity about the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and also because of her seniors who were successfully admitted to the said school. In addition, Noriko revealed during the interview that at first, she wasn't aware that there was no tuition fee at UP. She also stated that before, she didn't care what school she was in as long as she would be able to get a degree. But that dream was rekindled during the UP Fair.

"Habang naglalakad ako sa Sunken Garden, parang na-realize ko na dito parang wala kang mararamdaman na burden. Ma-fi-feel mo na doon ka talaga sa UP," she said.

She then described UP as a university with diverse people and cultures. She also felt that the community was welcoming despite the differences that revolved around the campus.

However, while completing the papers for UPCA, Noriko encountered several obstacles because her former school was strict in releasing her needed requirements.

"Di ba kasi sa UP kailangan magpasa ng Form 137? Sinasabihan akong makulit. Sabi ko "Bakit? Gusto ko lang talagang mag-aral," she recalled.

On May 3, 2023, the University of the Philippines released its UP College Application (UPCA) results for 2023. An immense number of 100,000 applicants flooded UPCA for the academic year 2023-2024. Unfortunately,  Noriko didn't pass the university she was coveting, leaving her devastated.

"Ano, sobrang heart-breaking. Kasi sa tatlong university na inapplyan ko rejected ako lahat. Pero sa PUP kasi waitlisted ako," she explained.

"So parang muntik 'di mag-aral," she jested.

As part of her coping mechanism, Noriko visited a museum and attended Zild Benitez's gig just to help herself move on from the pain the UPCA result has caused her.

Last year, for the third consecutive time, UP didn't administer the annual UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the university used the admission score model they utilized two years ago. UP Office of Admissions director Francisco delos Reyes ensured the fairness of UPCA after drawing a backlash from the applicants on how the university admitted freshmen students for the academic year 2021-2022. Stating that it is not solely about grades but rather, the university also considered several factors.

"UP is a national university so we have to look at the different strata of our society. As an excellence-equity admission system, 70% pagalingan, pero may 30% tayo for economic and geographic equity,” delos Reyes said in a Rappler interview last July 16, 2021.

"We have considerations for economic equity so siyempre ‘yung mga hindi kaya magpaaral. May mga tanong ‘yan sa application form. Kung nasa malayong lugar, bibigyan ka namin ng chance,” he also added in his statement.


Just like Noriko, JB is also a UP aspirant. But what makes them different is that JB was able to pass UP. However, he wasn't able to secure a slot in his first choice program which is BS in Psychology, since it is the most quota course during UPCA. According to him, during the college application season, he applied to five universities: Ateneo, La Salle, PUP, UP, and PNU, and was able to pass all of them. But, he chose UP instead.

"Mas may kakayahan kasi akong mag-aral sa UP kasi 'yon nga, free tuition compared kay Ateneo," he said during the interview.

One of the reasons as well on why he chose UP is because of its great community and competitiveness when it comes to academics.

"I want to be surrounded by people na same ng goals in life - which is to be someone na academically competitive. Also, to be surrounded by people na hindi nalalayo sa masa," JB said.

But, the path toward the country's premier university is indeed challenging. Exams and school projects tried to hinder JB from achieving what he was aiming for. According to him, there comes a point that as part of the student council of their school, they requested an academic ease to lessen the amount of activities they have to submit while completing their requirements for college applications. JB also claimed that one of the disadvantages he faced during this period was the elite-centric process of college application in the country. For JB, students who have access to review centers have more advantages than those who have no means since their access to resources for preparation is limited.

"Napapakita na sa college applications pa lang, napaka-elite-centric na ng sistema natin," JB added.

Now, JB is currently a freshman student at UP Diliman under the program BS in Family and Child Development. When asked if he would continue his program, without any hesitation he answered yes. "Itutuloy ko siya. 'Yong reason ko for that is the community," he answered. According to JB, more than half of their class chose a BS in Psychology as their first choice during UPCA but all of them failed to secure a slot in the said program when the results were released.


What is more disturbing than the current generation of critical thinkers? Budget cuts. The government is fond of decreasing the budget for state universities and colleges rather than allocating enough funds to further improve the quality of education. But no, the past and current administration loves to play the minimalist role wherein scarcity is enough and adequate is too much. Next year, 30 of 117 SUCs all over the country are about to endure another budget cut under the Marcos administration.

Based on the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP), 117 SUCs will acquire only Php 100.9 billion in 2024, Php 6.2 billion less than the Php 107 billion budget they have this year. The UP System is on top of the list as it will suffer the most of the proposed 2024 budget cuts. An enormous 2.9 billion pesos will be slashed in its 2024 funds.

For Noriko, these budget cuts are one of the many reasons why there is too much competition when it comes to college applications. She said that these cuts lessen the chances of a student to enter his dream university. Adding that only if the government gives enough funds to SUCs, students would be able to enter their desired institution. The same goes for JB. He believes that budget cuts are the ones to be blamed for why applicants are not able to get their priority program.

"Actually for me, yes. Kasi ayon nga sabi sa'min, naka-base 'yong dami ng mga papasok sa pamantasan sa pondong ibibigay ng estado," JB stated. "Kung mayroong budget cuts, edi bawas din 'yong mga estudyante na makakapasok sa unibersidad and sa program na gusto nila. And nakakalungkot kasi sabi nila, ang edukasyon ay para sa lahat pero hindi siya ganyan. Hindi ganon ang nangyayari kasi nagkakaroon ng limitasyon," he added.


Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno received flak from the people after claiming that the RA 10931 also known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017 is unsustainable. He even called the law 'anti-poor' and cited that the students not being able to finish their degree is a waste of funds. Instead, according to Diokno, the resources should focus on improving basic education.

Later on, he added that the beneficiaries of free college education should be filtered and stated that the way the law was implemented is 'unwieldy, inefficient, and wasteful.' On the other hand, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Prospero de Vera defended it, emphasizing that it is the 'best anti-poverty strategy.'

"We've been implementing free higher education for five years now. The results are out there to see. Number one, participation in higher education has significantly increased - 41% of university students are actually enrolled in universities vs. 30+% in the previous years. That's a significant increase," de Vera said in a statement.

There should be no competition when it comes to education at all. Students shall not be competing against each other to gain the most coveted price – education. It shouldn't be treated as a trophy to be claimed as a result of applicants proving each other during the period of college application. Noriko Wade and JB are both manifestations of Filipino students whose dreams went in vain because of the faulty system.

Noriko wants to imply to her fellow students who share the same experience as her that it is not yet too late to chase their dream university since there are other ways of achieving it. She also said that students like her should demand quality education.

"Dapat talaga silang mag-demand sa government para mabigyan sila ng dekalidad na edukasyon," Noriko Wade stated. She ended her statement by saying that there should be no entrance exams in the first place since it is provided in the constitution that everyone has the right to education.

Finally, for JB, college is not a race, but rather a bridge that prepares a student to be the best person of themselves. He also added that one must explore for them to know what they want and they have the freedom to shift programs if they feel the need to.

"Kung kailangan natin ng ibang programa para matulungan tayo as skillset na kakailanganin natin sa susunod na mga panahon, why not? Do it, kasi makakatulong 'to sa atin," he said.

"Bilang isang iskolar ng bayan, dapat palagi tayong bumabalik sa masa at mamamayan. Na ang bawat hakbang natin, ibabalik natin sa mga taong tumulong sa'tin. Hindi siya dapat [required] pero isa na 'to sa way natin para magpakita ng pagpapasalamat sa effort ng bayan na nagpaaral sa atin," he ended.

Noriko Wade and JB is one grasp away from securing their dream. Unfortunately, the force of the faulty system is much stronger than their grip.

Indeed they had their dreams precariously but it slipped away from their hands at the very last moment.