HOW THE EEAS WORKS: A Tale of Two Applicants
Jo. Florendo B. Lontoc
January is almost over. Alfredo Bagombong of Dapdap, Lucban, Quezon Province, and a fourth year student of Dapdap Barangay High School, feels his life suspended like a ripe patola as he tethers the family's carabao to a tree trunk at the edge of the tubigan. His neighbor, Jomari Abaricia, who studies at St. James Academy in the poblacion, feels the same suspension as he clears his desk of his books. Both took the UPCAT the previous August in Lucena City. The results are about to be released. The two are childhood friends but have hidden feelings of competition as is usual among neighbors in a small town. It was the same way for their mothers.
In the University, their test papers, grades and forms have been cross-checked, scanned, inputted, transmuted, coded, run, processed - not necessarily in this order. Complex computer programs and inhumanly patient admissions staff have been running and working tirelessly for the past five or six months, doing the math. Finally, the UPGs are computed and the tally sheets are printed out, ready for the University's assessment.
Alfredo's HSWA (his weighted average grade from his first to third year in the barangay high school) has been computed at 88.94; Jomari's stands at 92.10. Had they known their HSWAs, they would have been surprised because Jomari has always thought Alfredo's grades to be similar to his. But he doesn't know that Dapdap BHS has a grading system that stipulates 75 as the passing grade and 100 as the highest, while St. James uses a grading system with 70 as its passing mark and 95 as its highest grade. Dapdap's grading system naturally leaves its students with higher grades. But all is right, as the University has transmuted their grades, involving simple "linear extrapolation," converting both their schools' passing grades to 75 and highest grades to 95, evening things out for both of them. It now appears that Jomari has the upper hand in terms of high school performance.
Alfredo will have to admit that he has not done very well in school in comparison with the rest of the other honor candidates. All too often, he had been dissatisfied with his lessons, thinking that he could do better reading books in the library. And yet, there had not even been enough time for that, given his chores to do in the tubigan.
Alfredo remembers all those minutes he had squeezed into his spare time to review his old notes. He knew he had to do his best to get into UP, where his family would not spend as much on tuition. At the same time, he has been fascinated by UP. He wants to experience being in the country's best school. Perhaps he has a chance. Applying was an opportunity he did not want to miss. Just perhaps!
He paid particular attention to English, where he thinks he has a lot to do in order to catch up with Jomari. As a result, his UPCAT subtest scores now stand higher than most of the UPCAT takers, particularly in Language Proficiency where he got a standard score of 61.8 with a percentile rank of 86; that is, he performed better in that test than 86 percent of the UPCAT takers. UPCAT standard scores and percentile ranks are dependent on the general performance of the UPCAT takers of the batch. His next highest grade is in Reading Comprehension where he got a standard score of 59.6, better than 80 percent of the UPCAT takers. This should be no wonder to him, because, often dissatisfied with his teachers, Alfredo had taken to reading all by himself to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. He got a standard score of 54.2 in Science and a standard score of 49.6 in Math, his lowest score. He is willing to concede Math to Jomari, who is known as the math wizard. Alfredo remembers Jomari proving propositions in geometry. In Alfredo's barangay high school, students never get to prove anything, because their teacher does not teach it. On average, Alfredo's standard UPCAT score is 56.3, better than 73 percent of the rest of the UPCAT takers.
Jomari, meanwhile, has been pretty competitive in school. He does not have to do much, though, because there are relatively few in their batch, most of whom say that they are going to some private Manila universities for college. He has wanted to try out in UP because his father has been coaxing him to do so. In the end, he got standard scores of 59.9 in Language, 51 in Reading, 57.6 in Math, and 47.1 in Science. On average, his UPCAT standard score is 53.9, still better than 63.36 per cent of the UPCAT takers.
Jomari did not perform quite as well as Alfredo in the UPCAT. However, after his relatively high grades were inputted into the UPG formula, Jomari ended up with a higher UPG of 2.423. Meanwhile, Alfredo's UPG stands at 2.473.
The sun has just dropped behind the peak of Mt. Banahaw; the rice paddies are engulfed in the dusk of the mountain's shadow. Alfredo has an urge to think about his future but holds it off like fear. At the University, his school, Dapdap Barangay High School, has been noted as "disadvantaged," and a 0.05 palugit has been subtracted from his UPG, which now stands a little higher at 2.423. Alfredo and Jomari, for all intents and purposes, are tied.
In the forms, both listed UP Diliman as their first choice of campus. Both have seen the postcard pretty pictures of the University in their social-science textbooks. By this time, UP Diliman is experiencing the usual glut of applications, making admission to it the most competitive. UP campuses, through EEAS, have just set aside 70 percent of their quota for those getting the highest UPGs, palugit included (resulting in what is now known as the Effective Predicted Grade or EPG). This particular year, Diliman is able to fill its 70 percent with applicants who have EPGs of 2.31 and above. These brilliant students have just been assured of their slots. They of course do not include Jomari and Alfredo, with their EPGs of 2.423.
The odds are against them. But hope beckons as UP Diliman fills up the remaining 30 per cent of its slots. This is known as the geographic equity round. For this, Diliman has been choosing applicants coming from under-represented provinces. At this stage, both Alfredo and Jomari would have prayed that they had the highest EPGs among all those from Quezon province who took the UPCAT.
Earlier in the academic year, UP asked the Department of Education to provide the University with the senior high school population for the entire country. Using this data, UP computed the proportion of students to accept from each province, major town or city, so that admission would be more geographically representative. If in the competition for the top 70 percent, the province, town or city does not yet meet its quota, the University looks at the next-ranking applicants from the area to fill up the remaining 30 percent of slots. As it happens, there are as yet not enough qualifiers from Quezon Province in the top 70 percent based on this quota. Quezon is declared under-represented. Perhaps, Alfredo and Jomari would be considered next. However, the applicants to be considered for geographical representation must still have EPGs that do not fall below the campus' absolute cut-off.
Unfortunately, in the case of those applying in UP Diliman, Alfredo's and Jomari's prayers are useless because Diliman has a "deep selection parameter" of only 0.1 in coming up with its absolute cutoff for the remaining 30 percent. This means that, after filling its top 70 per cent with applicants who happen to have EPGs of 2.31 or better, Diliman will now only accept applicants for the remaining 30 per cent if they come from an underrepresented province, town or city and their EPGs are not lower than 0.1 below 2.31, or 2.41, UP Diliman's absolute cut-off.
Had Alfredo and Jomari found out that many more students from Quezon got EPGs higher than 2.41-enough to fill in the slots for their home province they would have run to each other as friends and consoled one another in their common misfortune. Their 2.423 was simply 0.013 short of UP Diliman's "deep selection parameter." In all likelihood, however, UP Diliman will not be able to fill up the 30 per cent during this "geographic equity" round because many from under-represented provinces, towns, or cities will simply have EPGs that fall below Diliman's absolute cut-off. The remaining slots will then be given to other applicants with the highest EPGs regardless of where they come from.
Mr. Abaricia Senior, had he known Jomari's non-qualifying status in UP Diliman, would be upset, for had he not himself made it to Diliman for college? Mr. Bagombong, on the other hand, has all this time settled for agriculture for his son. Their land is small, but he needs all the help he can get to harvest from it. It pleases him that his son has selected UP Los Baños as his second choice of campus.
And so Alfredo is now considered for UPLB, his second choice, where the UPG cutoff had earlier been stipulated at 2.800. However, the applicants who have made it to UPLB's top 70 percent have, in fact, UPGs much higher than 2.8. In fact, the lowest EPG for their top 70 percent is 2.516. Alfredo's EPG of 2.423 thus makes it to the campus' top 70 percent. Thus, Alfredo's academic fate, his being a UP qualifier, has been sealed. The next step would now be to evaluate him for the degree programs he has chosen in UPLB. This is the second stage in the admissions process. The first stage has dealt with whether or not an applicant can get into a campus.
During this second stage, each academic program uses its own predictor, which is computed also from the UPCAT subtest scores and HSWA. For example, Social Science courses rank qualifiers based on their UPGs, while Engineering courses would rank them based on their math predicted grades or MPGs. Qualifiers are processed using their predicted grades in math (MPG), the biological sciences (BSPG), the physical sciences (PSPG), or in the University in general (UPG) depending on the courses they have chosen. But Alfredo need not worry about these yet. At this point, he will be happy just knowing that he has qualified into UP. Perhaps, he can apply for a scholarship.
On the other hand, when choosing his campuses, Jomari felt that if not Diliman, then Manila would be the next best thing for him. Having failed to qualify for Diliman, Jomari is now being considered for UP Manila admission. Unfortunately, UP Manila can only accept about one-fourth the number of qualifiers that Diliman can. This results in an EPG cut-off that is even higher than UP Diliman's cutoff for its top 70 percent. Once again, Jomari falls short. Of course he might just qualify for geographic equity. Unfortunately, competition has been extra tough this year, and with the smaller number of slots available, the quota for Quezon qualifiers has been filled with a relatively high EPG cutoff of 2.353, higher again than Jomari's 2.42. Unknown to him, Jomari's UP plans have been thwarted for the second time.
Alfredo and Jomari, of course, will not know of the state of their applications until the results are released. Right now, Alfredo is busy reheating the leftover rice from lunch, while picking vegetable shoots to be steamed. His younger brothers and sisters would be coming home from either school or from working at a basket-weaving shop in Sitio Lansonisan. Meanwhile Jomari starts preparing for his term paper on Shakespeare. But his mind slips back to his application to UP, his father's alma mater.
He could have opted for UP Visayas. Mr. Abaricia Senior owns a fish pen at Dalahican Bay, but in recent years the harvests have been dwindling. His father has been thinking of sowing clams on the bamboo spokes, but he has yet to learn how. A fisheries degree in UP Iloilo would earn him and his family respect and a livelihood as well. He would be happy living with his distant cousins in Miag-ao. If he had placed UP Iloilo as his second choice of campus, what could have happened?
First, Jomari would have to contend with the fact that the University has specifically established its regional units to serve the geographical areas they cover. To avoid crowding out these campuses with students from Luzon (who may not even enroll if accepted) and for these campuses to continue focusing on serving their regions, a pabigat of 0.05 or more (depending on the campus) is added to the UPG of applicants from Luzon who want to enter UP in the Visayas or UP Mindanao. In this case, Jomari's UPG would have had a .05 pabigat added to it to become an EPG of 2.473. This is then what would have been used to process him for his second choice of campus. If he had, however, put down UP Iloilo as his first choice of campus, no such pabigat would have been added.
For this year, UP Iloilo's actual cutoff is 2.7. Jomari's EPG of 2.473 would still have been good enough to qualify him in UP Iloilo. Unfortunately, since Jomari never put down Iloilo as a choice of campus, he was never considered for Iloilo. As an afterthought, if his father were to insist on a UP education for Jomari, regardless of campus, he could always try to appeal his case to the Iloilo campus. He would simply present his non-qualifier slip on which is indicated his UPG. The UPG in the slip neither reflects the palugit nor the pabigat. The campus being appealed to makes its own assessment of these walk-in applicants. Perhaps they will waitlist them, ranking them according to their UPGs and later deciding whether to admit them or not depending on how many among those accepted through the regular processing do not show up. Perhaps, they will not accept them at all if they believe that the applicant only wishes to use the campus as a "jump-off point" to their first choices of campus. It does not really matter even if the UPGs being presented very well make it to the campus's cutoff. Even campuses are allowed some discretion in their judgment. But then again, Jomari can actually afford to study in the other prestigious schools in the city. This will be just as well for him, for he will be with his high school classmates, whom he has grown very fond of.
In any case, hopefully through their college education, Alfredo and Jomari will discover things far bigger than the discrepancies in the states of their lives as neighbors; circumstances larger than Barrio Dapdap, Lucban, Quezon Province; surely bigger issues than which one of Dapdap Barangay High School or St. James Academy or whose parents prepared their offspring better for moving on.