Summa Cum Laude is the highest academic honor to be given to a student and the road to achieving this distinction is not an easy one to trek. Such is why we’re filled with nothing else but awe and pride at those who are awarded such recognition at the end of their college years
So we asked 8 Summa Cum Laude graduates from University of the Philippines Diliman’s Class of 2017 to share their secrets and heartfelt advice to students everywhere!
Course, College: BA Psychology, CSSP
Did you know: I collect pink ballpens! As in pink yung tinta.
1) Get like-minded friends! When my friends were serious about studying or putting a lot of effort, I would want to do the same and we would amplify each other’s feelings/motivations.
2) Just know when/where you study best, I guess – for me I don’t do well studying at home late at night because I get distracted too easily, so I stay in UP after my classes are done or I study during my breaks. And I study in places like the library because if I’m surrounded by other people studying or doing projects/work, I’ll feel guilty if I start slacking off haha
3) I try to make studying active and creative – it’s super tempting to just read your notes or readings passively but that makes studying even more boring than it actually is haha. I remember during Bio 11 I would get my very messy notes from both lec and lab, then I would rewrite them so that they were organized and integrated, and I even color-coded them and drew diagrams. It felt very satisfying to see something very messy turn into something neat and easy to understand
General advice to college students: Embrace your bibo side! The great thing about college is that there are a lot of opportunities to join orgs, listen to talks and lectures, attend unique classes with fun profs, etc. So don’t be afraid to attend something or speak up even if you feel like a stranger and don’t really know anyone/anything. You’ll learn new things, meet people with different perspectives from you, and generally your enthusiasm will carry you through the ups and downs of college life.
Course, College: BS Business Administration and Accountancy, CBA
Did you know: I’ve learned how to play the piano at the age of 6!
BAA challenged me to study the most efficient way, to cover as much topics as possible and to ensure retention along the way. And I believe that this is true across all fields, and seems to be the greatest mythical challenge every student faces. Each of us may have a different style or method, but what really worked for me is employing the idea of concept appreciation, which I break down into three tenets.
1) First, it’s all about understanding the concepts and lessons beyond their face value. This involves not just knowing just the process to arrive at the right answer, but more importantly, understanding the logic behind it.
2) Second, it’s about reinforcing the knowledge by thinking of “what if’s” or alternative scenarios.
3) Finally, it’s all about expanding our learning curve to seek opportunities outside books and the classroom to apply the concepts and ideas. Hard work and diligence will always be the key, but pure work without play will most likely lead to burnout. Throughout college, I’ve joined various student organizations and competitions, which are actually the highlights of my entire journey. Aside from being a breather, they allowed me to build networks with the most brilliant people inside and outside the university. I’ve taken on bigger responsibilities through the different projects I’ve been part of. Do things outside academics. Take the weekends to spend time with family and to do the things that make you happy. Don’t be afraid to new things and never stop learning.
General advice to college students: College will be a challenging feat. Persevere and don’t let anything or anyone put you down. Persevere but more importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the process and have fun. Finally, never forget that when the going gets tough, your family will always be your number one supporter. And in this regard, I would like to personally thank my parents, Dr. Moises B. Soriano and Engr. Jonaden O. Soriano, for the unending love and support. The bottom line is, we are who we are now because of the things others have done and sacrificed for us.
Course, College: BFA Visual Communication, CFA
Trivia about her: Since 1998, our family has been naming our dogs after Pokémon, but our last three dogs were named after cartoon/anime characters
Study tips: Stay traditional! Laptops and tablets are convenient, but I find the experience of writing and doodling down notes really helpful in remembering information. Another tip is to associate the information with contexts or experiences to make them easier to recall and understand, such as walking through processes as if they were stories, remembering things like ‘oh this one chocolate brand used this type of business strategy to promote their new flavour’, or even something like ‘oh I spilled some coffee on this page of my notebook where this one term was’. I’m a very visual learner, so I also tend to put little doodles or comics next to notes to better remember them.
I find that when you relate or associate information with previous knowledge, experiences, visuals, and/or creations, you get to remember them better when they’re more meaningful somehow. Of course, being truly interested in what you’re learning is a sure way to boost the studying experience, but finding ways in which you could use what you learned or even get amusement from them can be one way to go about studying and enjoying it, or making it more bearable, at the very least.
General advice to college students: My advice to college students is to hang out with like-minded friends who you can also argue with! They’ll back you up just as much as they could knock you down a few notches if you need to. Also stay open-minded, put your all into what you’ve set out to do, remember where you’re coming from — your goals, what you aspire to do, who you’re working hard for — and do things that you enjoy. If you’re not having fun or giving yourself chances to have fun, then what’s the point! We have to care about ourselves, and know how to help ourselves before we can think to help others.
Course, College: BS Business Administration, CBA
Did you know: I love watching KDramas, and I’m currently binge-watching Fight For My Way!
Study tips: I think the most important things to hone are time management and focus/discipline. In terms of time management, I make a calendar and tracker on Excel so I can map out my deadlines, and plan how much time I need to allocate for each one. I also try to take the lead in terms of scheduling group meetings to make sure we’re on track with deadlines. In BA, a lot of our requirements are group case presentations; I try to have the same group for each class so that it’s not as hard to schedule meetings. I also get pdf copies of the books, and try to find PowerPoint versions of the chapters, so that I can read those in case I don’t have enough time to read the book.
In terms of discipline/focus, I try to avoid using social media for non-work stuff. For example, last semester I downloaded the Facebook Feed blocker extension so that I’m not distracted by posts in my timeline. As for staying focused in class, I try as much as possible to participate in the discussion by asking a question or sharing an example. This allows me to stay awake HAHA and remember what we discussed.
General advice to college students: Know your priorities, and focus on them. There are lots of things we wanna achieve in college, but sometimes we spread ourselves too thinly, so we end up falling short.
We tend to spend too much time on what isn’t critical. According to the Pareto 80/20 principle, 20% of events/activities cause 80% of the results, so we need to allocate most of our time on those key things. In terms of exams, this means focusing on the key chapters/concepts discussed by profs. In terms of life in general, I guess this means we should focus our time on those big activities (i.e. a project in an org where you intend to become an Execomm member eventually) that will really lead to achieving our larger goals.
Make time to take a break and have fun! College isn’t just about the grades. Years from now our most memorable moments will be those spent with our teammates, blockmates, friends, and family. Let’s maximize the time we have in cultivating these relationships.
Maximize the college experience by stepping up to lead organizations or joining tournaments. These are super valuable learning experiences that supplement what we learn in the classroom. These also challenge you to take on different perspectives to further hone your skills.
Mary Anne Balane
Course, College: BA English Studies, CAL
Did you know: I bleach and color my own hair! My mom and cousin sometimes help me though. And I love Yuri on Ice! I even mentioned my favorite character from that anime in the acknowledgements section of my thesis.
Study tips: One of the mottos or mantras that has gotten me through college is “it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be.” Before UP, I was a perfectionist. But when you’ve got four deadlines on the same day, you really can’t be a perfectionist anymore. So what I do is I try to focus on just getting things done. As in, when I make to-do lists, I sometimes write “Make ugly draft for final paper” haha I’ve found that it takes the pressure off a bit to just have some tangible output. Even if it is ugly at first, you can still revise it anyway. The important thing is you already have something to actually work on.
In connection with that, I’ve always believed that it’s better to pass something that you think is “mediocre” than pass something “perfect” late. This doesn’t mean that you just give up and pass something subpar tho. What I mean is just do your best to do your best work before the deadline, and even if you think it still needs improvement pero deadline na, i-pass mo pa rin. I’ve realized that, most of the time, I was just overthinking when okay naman pala yung work ko. Plus, if you go beyond the deadline, you just add more stress for yourself and your prof; you’re essentially extending your own suffering.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help as well. In UP, you’re surrounded by all these amazing, intelligent kids and there’s sometimes this pressure to “keep up” and be competitive. But, sometimes when we’re too independent or competitive, we miss out on the chance to learn something valuable from other people or even just make studying even more fun! We have to admit that we’re not and we can’t be the best at everything. And that’s okay!
I’ve also found it helpful to section off difficult tasks into smaller, easier tasks. For example, if I have a 2500 word essay requirement, I’ll start early and just commit to writing 200 words in one day. That way, I get to celebrate little victories as well and I don’t get too overwhelmed with the BIG difficult task.
General advice to college students: Lastly, take care of yourself. Your health, especially your mental health is important — definitely more important than your acads.
Stephanie Ann Lopez
Course, College: BA Psychology, CSSP
Trivia about her: I’ve experienced four courses in four years and I still graduated on time!
Study tips: Different study strategies suit different learners and different exam types. But in general, making mnemonics work pretty well when all you have to do is memorize facts or lists. When you’re faced with a multiple choice- or an essay-type of exam, it is better to learn the material by explaining it to yourself or to someone else using your own words instead of mindlessly memorizing paragraphs. Make your learning meaningful by relating it to your life and as much as possible, enjoy the process.
General advice to college students: My advice to college students is to love what you learn. If you feel that your major is not right for you and you have thought long and hard about it, have the courage to turn your life around. It’s not quitting. It’s making the brave choice. When you love what you learn, your grades will be reflective of your happiness. And whenever you feel like giving up, remember what had motivated you to go this far. Remember for what or for whom your hardships are for.
Course, College: BA Comparative Literature, CAL
Did you know: Kabourophobia — I have an intense, irrational fear of crabs! Keep me away from Kinglers and Ginataang Alimango, please!Study tips: Studying strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all. Different strokes for different folks. Nevertheless, I consider the following pointers very helpful in the recent years. Malay mo, epektib din sa’yo.
1) Re-conceptualize what “studying” is. Study = University-related responsibilities in general, including orgs, acads (what people usually consider as “study”), sidelines, love life, etc. With this mindset, you won’t blame yourself for socializing or doing orgwork, because everything contributes to a process of developing yourself in multifarious aspects i.e. studying.
2) Integrate your academics! Enlist in courses tightly knit with each other, or focus on a theme/topic/project that can be distilled into varied course requirements. You can also bolster each of your research interests by streamlining the contents of your classes.
3) Make time your BFF. Plan what you’re gonna do for the day on the bus. Start jotting down ideas for a paper while riding the Ikot. Make short but sweet reviewers na useable kahit may hangover ka!
4) Love what you’re doing! Stop whining and shift if that’s what your heart is telling you! You’ll save a lot of time, and studying will be a more exciting activity.
5) Speaking of love, humanap ka ng love life na masipag rin mag-aral, para masumpungan ka.
General advice to college students: According to Jean-Paul Sartre, “strut, fret, and delude ourselves as we may, our lives are of no significance.” Sad nu? But the point he’s trying to make is that we must weave meaning for our lives. College life in UP constitutes not a hellweek, but a hell-four-or-more-years, and if you’re willing to live through it just because you’re required or expected to, you’re in for a bad time. Live for something. To Alain de Botton, one of the meanings of life is service. While juggling your course requirements, try joining a protest rally or immersing in farming or fishing communities. We need to realize that there’s a bigger picture out there, and we don’t need to wait until graduation to reassert our participation in it. Start living for something bigger than grades — or the prospect of getting a stable job in this hell of a society — and don’t let education get in the way of your learning. The point of studying the world, after all, is to change it.
Course, College: BA European Languages, CAL
Did you know: Martin is leaving for France this September to pursue a master’s degree in teaching. He plans to return to UP after to fulfil his dream to be a professor. He is frequently torn between two lovers: Chickenjoy and Mini Stop chicken.
Study tips: Find out what strategy works best for you! I realized during my freshman year that I learn better when I read the assigned materials in advance and when I watch YouTube videos explaining the topic. Participate and make mistakes in class. Committing errors helps you retain information better. Try different techniques: make flashcards, study with friends, use the Pomodoro Technique or rewrite your notes. Always prioritize sleep over your studies!
General advice to college students: Go beyond your personal goals. Go beyond recognition, fame and wealth. Root your successes and aspirations in serving the people. Be critical, empathize with others, and challenge your own beliefs. No failure or setback is too overwhelming when you set your eyes on something bigger than yourself. The nation is waiting for you. Serve the people!
Congratulations to the entire Class of 2017! Padayon!