Frequently Asked Questions on College Applications Part 1

As an admissions director in one of the top colleges in the Philippines, I have encountered a number of frequently asked questions and myths about the college application process. Let me address the questions and dispel some of the myths here.

1. What is the best college or university in the Philippines?

I get this question a lot. What is very clear is that there is no clear answer to it. Judging a school as the “best” school is a highly subjective exercise. If not careful, one may actually get into a fight! Even reputable publications and research networks that try to rank colleges and universities face criticism for their methods and criteria. Indeed the best answer to this question may be another question: What course or degree program do you wish to enter? You should not decide by school brand; you decide by course. For example, some colleges & universities are known for business (i.e., Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University), medicine (i.e., University of Santo Tomas), engineering (Mapua, De La Salle University), design and arts (University of the Philippines, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde), hotel management (De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde) and education (University of the Philippines, De La Salle University).

Students who make their college application decisions based on the specific course or degree they wish to study, instead of simply basing their decisions on the school’s name, are making wiser and more informed choices. There are also other ways to measure the quality of colleges and universities. I encourage students – and their parents! – to ask the questions below when visiting the schools’ admissions centers or reading their prospectus or information brochures:

  • Is your college or university accredited? By which accrediting bodies? What level of accreditation was your college or university given? The Philippines has several accrediting bodies, and you may need to check what type of accrediting body is appropriate for the course offered by the school. Two of the more respected accrediting bodies are the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) and the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA).
  • Does the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) recognize your college or university? Some schools may actually be operating without the proper licenses; the implication is this: you graduate without the “special order number” that the CHED confers upon actual graduates. In other words, graduate from a school without CHED recognition, graduate without a degree!
  • If the CHED does recognize your college or university, was it recognized as a Center of Excellence and/or Center of Development? If yes, in which particular fields of the school were these honors conferred? For example, De La Salle University-Manila is recognized as a Center of Excellence in the field of business; it is a virtual guarantee that the quality of DLSU-Manila with regard to business education is undeniable. (Oh look! The CHED has a list of schools that have been conferred Center of Excellence or Development statuses!)
  • What is your teacher-student ratio in both lecture type classes and laboratory classes? The smaller the teacher-student ratio, the better, because the teacher may be able to focus on each student more closely.
  • May I tour your campus to see your facilities? Obviously, a college or university that prides itself on quality facilities will not turn down a request for you to tour; remember that learning occurs when the environment allows for it. If the classroom is too hot, dirty, or small (in relation to the number of students), how can a comfortable and enjoyable learning experience take place? If the computers are running on Pentium 2, or – HORRORS! – green screen monitors, my goodness gulay! RUN AWAY!

2. What are the application requirements?

There are actually specific application requirements that are asked across all Philippine colleges and universities. Many of them, however, also have specific requirements. Therefore, it may be best for you to visit the institution’s website to download its forms and requirements. Here are the links to some of the top colleges and universities in the Philippines:

Ateneo de Manila University

De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde

De La Salle University

University of the Philippines – Diliman

University of Santo Tomas

The usual application requirements include a completed application form, photos, birth certificate, scholastic records from first to third year high school, and sealed recommendation forms. Additional requirements may be requested of specific students. It is best to read the instructions and requirements thoroughly before submission. This way, your trip to the college or university’s admissions center will not be wasted.

3. What test items are included in college or university entrance tests and exams?

College entrance tests are designed to show an applicant’s achievement on specific subject areas and their aptitude or potential to perform in college. It is general knowledge that most college entrance tests have items on language, math, science and abstract reasoning. Of course, the difficulty level of these items will vary across schools. Moreover, specific schools put emphasis on certain sub-tests, and even add sub-tests to ensure that the students they accept can survive the rigors of a specific degree program. For example, a student who desire to study Multimedia Arts would be expected to have some level of artistic skill, as measured by visual-spatial tests.

4. Do you recommend reviewing for a college test? What review centers are good?

I am a firm believer that investing in education is the best investment a parent can give to her/his child. Grace Christian High School (now Grace Christian College) gave us review classes and practice tests as early as our junior year; I was also encouraged to attend review classes held during weekends. The result? Most of our batch were admitted to reputable educational institutions. In fact, I even got a call for an interview with DLSU-Manila’s Bro. Bernie Oca, through the Student Council President of DLSU-Manila, because I apparently landed in the Top 20 of the DLSU entrance test the year when I took it.

From personal experience, I would say that attending review classes really helped me a lot. When I took the review classes’ diagnostic tests, I experienced the feelings of anxiety that I would have otherwise felt when taking the real thing; alam ko na yung feeling, and I knew I could finish similar tests of that kind. After getting my results, I was able to focus on my weaknesses and not waste time reviewing subjects in which I was already strong. Learning about test-taking techniques also proved very practical, and helped ease my anxiety when I encountered questions to which, at first glance, I did not know the answers.

There are many review centers around, including AHEAD and MSA. AHEAD, according to its literature and a conversation I had with its owner, Ms Rossana Llenado, is the leading and most awarded tutorial and review center in the Philippines. With branches all over Metro Manila, AHEAD is easy to find, and boasts of an 85% passing rate for those who took their review classes. Its review process is very similar to what I experienced in high school: an initial diagnostic examination, best taken during the summer period, to identify the student’s weak areas, given in a manner that mirrors the actual test-taking experience. Once these areas are identified, AHEAD holds regular review classes covering test techniques and subject area reviews. Simulated tests are then provided to ensure that students apply what they learn. These simulated tests are the closest students will get to the actual test taking experience including the time pressure factor.

Just imagine the confidence level of a student who has already experienced a simulated test versus one who has no idea what is coming. Who do you think will perform better?

When I met Ms Llenado, a multi-awarded mother and entrepreneur, I found her  humble and open to people. What struck me most was her answer to a question about her goal for AHEAD. She replied – unaware that I was listening in – that, for her, AHEAD is not about quantity but quality. Her focus is to ensure quality review services are always provided to her clients.

Caths Deen and Friends with AHEAD's Ms. Rosanna Llenado

5. If I do not get accepted, does it mean I did not pass the entrance test?

No. The entrance test is only one of the many requirements considered when accepting an applicant. The final acceptance decision depends on a variety of other factors, including but not limited to recommendation forms, student conduct, the completeness and authenticity of submitted requirements, interview results (where applicable), and other specific criteria. Colleges and universities have the right to accept and reject students with due process. There are actually colleges and universities who impose height and skin requirement for their nursing and hospitality management programs.

Continue to read Frequently Asked Questions on College Applications Part 2 here.

Image taken from here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *