A non-option: Go to ?whatever school? and make a mess of your life
IDN?T MAKE IT TO UP, Ateneo, La Salle or UST? What?s a high school senior to do?

?There?s a rumor that the ACET results are out,? I told my 16-year-old brother in a text message. ?Should I pass by Ateneo to check it out??

?It?s not posted yet,? he replied. ?Let me check it first, okay??

?Don?t be so cranky, I was just offering,? I texted back.

?I?m sorry,? was his repentant reply. ?I?m scared.?

The week before the ACET (Ateneo College Entrance Test) results came out, my brother was a bundle of nerves?and with good reason. False rumors about admission results had floated around every weekend since the year started, only to be proven false.

Although anxious Twitter messages about college were the only crack in his otherwise nonchalant façade, I knew he constantly worried about admission results. So when he found out he got into Ateneo, he was understandably in a celebratory mood, good enough to make lunch for me and another sibling without a word of complaint.

Over lunch, he told me about other friends who weren?t as fortunate.

?One of my friends cried to me for 45 minutes on the phone,? he recounted. ?She doesn?t know where to go.?

Later that week, when the UPCAT (University of the Philippines College Admission Test) results were released, another glum-looking friend came over to the house. He was worried about not having a college for the next school year.

Last-minute alternatives

This is the concern of thousands of high school students nationwide. Denied admission to some schools, many are left scrambling for last-minute alternatives.

This is not to say that the only Philippine universities worth studying in are UP, Ateneo, La Salle and UST?not at all. There are many excellent technical, vocational and specialized colleges and universities, and not all of them are in Manila.

While school prestige is something many high school students should aspire for, they should also keep in mind that the top schools are not the only schools in the country, and that studying in other schools (despite pressure from diehard alumni parents) is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is not a debate on which schools are the best, but a guide to the options open to high school students if they didn?t make it to their first school of choice.

Option 1: Appeal

Contrary to what some may think, this is not an under-the-table deal with school administrators. If you think you really deserve a slot in your school of choice, take a chance with an appeal.

Write a heartfelt letter and gather material that could help the college admissions committee members change their minds. Ask for recommendations from teachers and relatives, as knowing the right people can sometimes help (sometimes, but not always).

Most importantly, don?t rely on your parents to do all the work. A discerning committee will see if you really deserve a slot or if you?re relying on someone to get you in. Make them believe you can be an asset to the school.

Option 2: Transfer

Some schools offer late admission dates for exams, so if you didn?t make it to the ones you wanted, scout around for alternative schools ASAP. It?s always wise to have a backup plan. For some reason, there seem to be more colleges for women (Assumption, Miriam, St. Paul, Poveda), with a smaller range of choices for men.

Look carefully at the curriculum; The school?s name isn?t the only thing that counts. What if you find the course of your dreams, with a group of people who can help you get where you want to, in a smaller school?

But if you?re determined to get to the Top Four, stick it out for a year in a smaller school, emerge with top grades, and try to transfer to your dream school. Some schools such as Ateneo will require you to take the entrance exam again, so be more prepared this time around.

Take the year as an opportunity to absorb a hard-earned lesson and fix mistakes you had made, such as bad studying habits or a haphazard exam technique.

Option 3: Stick it out in another school

Again, it?s not the end of the world if you study in a school that wasn?t your first choice. If you haven?t already applied for admission to another school, look for one right away and try to find a college with a course that suits your interests.

For instance, the College of St. Benilde has courses that most traditional universities don?t offer yet, such as Multimedia Arts and Fashion Design. In the end, it all boils down to what you want to do for the rest of your life.

Non-options

Having laid out the possibilities, we think you should also bear in mind these non-options.

Non-option 1: Enter a nursing/culinary school for the heck of it. If your heart is really into caring for sick people or whipping up delicious dishes, apply in a nursing or culinary school. But if you?re going to them just because you don?t want to be stuck with a less ?prestigious? school, and that going to an expensive culinary academy seems a better move than attending a smaller college, then you?re escaping from reality.

Wanting to become a nurse or a chef (or something similar) should come from a desire to be one, not because you didn?t pass the traditional universities.

Non-option 2: Go to ?whatever school? and make a mess of your life. Some students, disappointed at not making it to their school of choice, spend their college years rebelling.

Don?t pick the first school that accepts you thinking you?re not going to do any better. Instead, take it as a challenge to perform well. I met a girl who didn?t make it to Ateneo on her first try and failed to pass when she attempted to transfer, but went on to become the number one student in her all-girls? school.

Aim to be a top student in a smaller college than a mediocre one in a big university.

E-mail the author at biancaconsunji@yahoo.com.