Pre-college Shopping List (the Kuripot Version)

Hey there CAMPers! Congrats on all your acceptances! My name’s Marianna, I’m a rising senior at Wesleyan University, and I am unashamed to say that I’ve always been a cheapskate. Before I left for college, I was told I’d be able to buy basically everything I needed there in the US. While that was (and is) true, I definitely ended up paying more than I needed to, and I had a smaller selection from which to choose on top of that.

I hope to prevent the same from happening to you, so for the sake of money and convenience, here’s a list of stuff that I wish I had known to buy in Manila before I left for the US. Most items on this list can easily be found in big malls with department stores like SM or Landmark (in fact, that’s where I suggest you look first). And all of these things should be able to fit in your suitcases without adding much weight.


(photo courtesy of

*** Keep in mind that I go to a small college in a small town, kind of in the middle of nowhere, on the East Coast. The best thing you can and should do is get in touch with someone who actually goes to your college, preferably someone from the Philippines, and ask them for more specific advice about what and what not to bring. :)

Stuff to Buy in the Philippines:

1. Pillow cases (standard size)

- There will be a lot more variety in department stores in Manila. Or, better yet, bring over your favorite pillow cases from home.

- Usually, the Twin XL bed sheet set you’ll buy will already come with one pillowcase. But many people buy a set of two pillows so you’ll need at least one more. Plus it’s nice to have extras.

2. Eye mask and ear plugs

- If you’re the type who can have trouble sleeping. Also handy on the plane.

3. A laptop sleeve/case if you don’t have one yet

- I found mine in Landmark for Php150 and so many people here have asked where I got it, haha.

4. Two or three mesh laundry bags for your underwear/delicates

- You can find these anywhere, but I particularly like the ones from Saizen! They’re a third of the price of the ones in Bed Bath & Beyond, and better quality too. Most people don’t need that many (I own 3).

5. Bath/skin/nail care

- You can find an incredible variety of shampoo, soap, moisturizer, lotion, etc. in the US so don’t worry about the products. I’m talking tools: A loofah, nose strips, all your nail stuff (nail clipper, filer, buffer, etc.) – tons cheaper back home.

6. Travel kit with empty bottles/little jars

- Preferably with a transparent case/bag, and TSA-compliant bottle sizes. Comes in handy when you travel around, which many of you will during breaks.

7. School supplies

- At my college, laptops are pretty popular for note-taking, but many people still use notebooks, and some professors actually don’t allow laptops. So if you’re particular about having nice school supplies, and if you can make space in your suitcase for them, I suggest you do – even for just a couple of notebooks, pens, Post-Its, etc. National Bookstore’s quality and its wide selection, for the price, is absolutely superior to that of Staples.

8. Cold weather stuff, if your college is in a cold place

- I know it seems counterintuitive to buy winter wear in a tropical country… but Manila’s so freaking hot all the time so no one buys winter stuff! It is worth at least checking out some sales (and then compare prices online if you like). Don’t buy a lot, just a few things to get you started.

- I personally recommend hitting up all the ukay-ukay stores for great deals (just check that it’s a decent brand & that it’s made of down or a good down alternative). It is possible to find good quality there, you just have to be persistent in your hunt. I got my own practically brand-new SUPER warm & reliable winter jacket for Php650 (vs Php5,000+) in an ukay-ukay in Tagaytay. If you bring it to the US and find it isn’t perfectly warm enough, oh well, it was cheap and you’ll have a back-up.


Side note that doesn’t belong anywhere else on this list:

If you’re planning on printing out a WHOLE BUNCH of photos to decorate the walls of your dorm room (which you should totally do), it’s way cheaper & more convenient to do it online. is my go-to, you just upload the photos and they print and deliver them straight to you. :)

Marianna Ilagan graduated from Saint Pedro Poveda College in 2011. She now attends Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT as part of the class of 2015.

What Can I Do With A Major In...?

(This post has been recovered from the vaults of 2012.)

For those of you who are thinking ahead…

One of the major advantages of acquiring a liberal arts education is the variety of career options that you can have after you graduate. Instead of being confined to a single career field, you’ll find yourself feeling more competent to apply the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired in your liberal arts education to multiple careers.

The website What Can I Do With This Major? provides insight on the variety of career fields that different colleges majors can lead to. You’ll find that being and English major doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to end up working for a publishing company, or that a major in Philosophy would only exclusively lead to either law school or Theology. This site does an amazing job of reassuring you that your major will not define the rest of your life.

If you’re having doubts about applying to a liberal arts college, or if you think that your intended major won’t be able to yield a successful career, you might want to check this website out and think again. Also make sure to take note that for U.S. liberal arts colleges, you usually don’t have to declare your major until the second semester of your sophomore year, giving you ample time to not only explore different fields of study but also decide which field you want to concentrate on for the rest of your college career.

Kaye Kagaoan graduated from International School Manila in 2011. She now studies Creative Writing at Hamilton College as a member of the class of 2015.


While little children are busy counting down to the day Santa visits their houses to deliver gifts, I have my own countdown as well. I countdown to the day I can touch my country’s soil, hear the honking jeepneys, listen to the symphony of Filipino words and bask in the familiar tropical ambiance I realized I missed so much. I countdown to the days I can use the words pa, naman, na, kase, kanina, bahala, lang, basta, have dinner with my family, taste my mother’s home cooked adobo and hug my parents like there’s no tomorrow. I countdown to the days I can go to the beach with my best friends, listen to their kwento face-to-face and be my weird self with people who understand my humor. I countdown to the days I don’t have to filter my Taglish tendencies, translate currencies, calculate how much tip to give every time I come out of a restaurant, constantly think about time differences, or be informed about the latest happenings in my country a week late. I countdown to the instant I can once again say that I’m back home. 

But that won’t be for another 65 days. 

I never really got a fair grasp of university life abroad until I actually lived it. For some, it’s easy to adjust. But I happened to be a part of the few that thought otherwise. For my first few weeks, I woke up everyday looking at the unfamiliar ceilings of my dorm room and suddenly felt this indescribable empty sensation. Reality sunk in: I was alone, without my best friends, without my family, facing this overwhelming college experience… all by myself (cue music). And it scared me.

I guess the prime suspect in this mystery of my sadness was probably because I was so clingy with the Philippines. I got homesick often: Skype and Viber were my favorite companions. You could only imagine how happy I was when I found out my campus was full of Wi-Fi. My eyes were glued to the pixels of my laptop or phone, chatting away with my friends and family back home (which was bad because it made me miss them even more.) When things suddenly appeared on my Facebook feed be it pictures or event promotions, it was sad thinking about the many moments I was missing out with my friends. And I guess I was also afraid of the idea that I might drift away from them. If I had stayed, I would have been in that photo, I would have gone to that event and I wouldn’t be missing out. If I had stayed, I might not have to be afraid of being forgotten. 

The culture here didn’t help stop my clinginess either. As an international student, it’s hard relating to people who don’t understand the setting you come from or the things you know of. It’s hard connecting to people who don’t understand a big part of who you are. If I had stayed, it would be easier to relate and form bonds with people who understood my background, my humor, my ideals and my being Filipino. 

I tried focusing my energy to what I initially came here for: my studies. But in the academic realm, I had internal conflicts as well. With the many opinionated, outspoken and audacious leaders, debaters, writers, science enthusiasts, and best students in one of the top liberal arts schools in America, I felt extremely inferior.

That first month in school was tough; I couldn’t believe I was going to have to endure about 31 more! But the good thing was it got better. It might have taken weeks filled with some loneliness, the occasional teary nights, numerous Skype sessions, and lots of feel-good food and I’ll admit that I still am adjusting, but with the numerous extracurriculars, engaging and exciting classes, and new people to come across, it was bound to get so much better!

I’ve experienced my first official football game and, although I didn’t understand the rules, I still had lots of fun cheering my school on with the friends I came with. There are always student-run productions every weekend so I get to support my schoolmates in their endeavors. I took a trip to New York with some of my best friends with the help of regular shuttles that Wesleyan provides. And I’m able to attend the many events be it themed parties, dinners, dances, barbecues, outing trips, concerts, open mic nights and other events every week. The problem isn’t finding out where to go; it’s deciding which one to go to!

The extracurriculars that are available have helped me as well. I’m now a part of the Wesleyan Student Assembly, the Pinoy club, the Fusion Dance Troupe, the Freeman Asian Scholars Association and the Class of 2017 Council. I signed up for a bunch of other clubs as well and I hope to be able to try new things in my stay here. We have about 150 official student groups that range from skiing to hiphop to Harry Potter to belly dancing and so much more!

The education here is amazing as well. Even though I felt inferior at first, I realized that the people surrounding me helped me grow and that’s what’s making the challenge all the more exciting. Because I’m in a liberal arts program, I’m able to try different classes that don’t necessarily have to count towards my major. I’m in a class called Taiko, which is Japanese drumming. I get to learn a little more about Japanese culture as well as have fun drumming it out with my classmates. In my classes, I’m also discovering newfound interests. My psychology class is even making me consider taking a double major! With the support from faculty and their openness with the students, it makes it possible to do. 

I do still miss my family and friends back home but I’m finding ones I can be my weird self with little by little. Cliché as it may sound, my true friends will still be there for me no matter the distance, no matter the loss of proximity, no matter what. The people here may be harder to get to know, but once I got to know them, I was amazingly pleased. I met a Japanese person who has lived in Paris and Houston, a Taiwanese scholar who knows Chinese, French, and Thai, a musician who can play the saxophone, ukulele, guitar, piano and gamelan by ear, a person with two step dads and an autistic brother but still finds happiness in the beauty of photography, a Palestinian math genius, a British philanthropist who spent a part of her gap year working in a farm and a Filipino who knows anything and everything about Japan. These diverse sets of people from all walks of life make things more interesting. My eyes open to the realities of life and the beauty that the world has to offer. 

I’m gaining more friends, learning through different experiences, challenging my limits and understanding more about the world and, of course, myself. I still can’t wait until my countdown reaches zero, but, at least now, I’m discovering happiness in every single day leading up to it. 

Mikaela Reyes graduated from Philippine Science High School in 2013. She now attends Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT as part of the class of 2017.

From the Philippines to Princeton

It’s been about six weeks since I first set foot on the campus of Princeton University as a student, and I can honestly say that I’ve loved every minute of it. Everyone has been really nice, the atmosphere has been great, and it has really left me with a great sense that I definitely made the right choice to come here.

I arrived on campus on the morning of August 28th for the start of the International Orientation, which is essentially what the name suggests – all the international students arrived a few days early to orient themselves on US and Princeton culture in general. This was a fantastic introductory experience for me – I met so many people from different countries (Moldova, Romania and Uganda to name a few), and IO was full of so many great activities like a scavenger hunt around the whole campus, a canoe trip, and party for all the international students. A lot of the people I met during IO are my really good friends now, and I still eat and talk with a lot of them regularly.

A week after IO came the official Opening Exercises, where the president of the university, Christopher Eisgruber, gave his welcoming remarks to the Great Class of 2017. This was followed by a pre-rade, where the Class of ’17 walked through the FitzRandolph Gate for the first time (legend has it we’re not supposed to walk out of that gate for the rest of our stay at Princeton, or else we won’t graduate on time). We also had a step sing, where the entire batch sat on the steps and learned the Princeton cheers and songs, and we also sang some popular hits like Get Lucky and Can’t Hold Us. The whole experience was really great – it’s a unique experience that I think is part of Princeton tradition, and it was so humbling and exciting to know that I was going to be a part of that.

After that, classes started, and I have to say that all my classes have been really, really fun. In Chemistry and Physics lecture we’ve had so many demonstrations like the one below, where we tried to recreate the famous fight scene in the Zorro movie. It’s been really great, and I’ve learned so much from everyone. In fact, a couple of nights ago, my roommates and I stayed up until 2 am just talking about math and the philosophy behind it, and as nerdy as that sounds, I honestly really learned so much. It just goes to show that excellence truly abounds everywhere around here.

There have also been so many great opportunities in terms of extracurriculars – right now I’m working with the Daily Princetonian as a contributor, and I’m also on the Princeton Tiger Magazine and part of the Aquinas Catholic Club. There are so many great clubs and organizations here – there’s one for jugglers, one for magicians, one for aspiring bartenders (which I actually signed up for and will take a class in), and all in all, there are so many ways to do what I love and make new friends.

Speaking of friends, the social scene has been great, too. The eating clubs are open every weekend, and there’s always something going on. There’s a thing at Princeton called lawnparties, where people dress up in their preppiest outfits and party on a Sunday afternoon – this fall, we had a lot of famous performers like Chiddy Bang, T-Pain and Aaron Carter. The whole thing was a great deal of fun, and it was pretty crazy to think that I was literally fifty feet away from Aaron Carter and T-Pain and the whole thing was free.

Also, the sheer amount of giveaways has been absurd – so far I’ve gotten two pairs of shades (and one with “Princeton ’17 on the frame), three T-shirts, one sweater, and a free tumbler. It seems like they give us something new every week, which I don’t mind at all – there’s a running joke that you never need to buy any clothes because of all the free stuff they give.

Finally, I’d just like to talk about the great opportunities I got here – I was able to see the President of Tunisia give a talk here, I’m going to the talk of a key figure in the Palestinian Liberation movement tomorrow, and I’ve gotten to meet Maria Ressa, head of Rappler. There’s always something new and exciting that they plan for us – they’re giving discounted tickets to Broadway plays, operas and ballet recitals, which I definitely plan to take advantage of.

All in all, this first month has been really great, and I totally look forward to the rest of my journey here at Princeton. The whole experience has been so overwhelming, and I am really thankful I made the choice to come here.

Lorenzo Quiogue graduated high school from Ateneo de Manila University in 2013. He now attends Princeton University as part of the class of 2017.

The Ups and Downs of Applying Early

The Early Application (EA)/Early Decision (ED) deadline is fast approaching! For most schools, November 1st is that big day. Early decisions come out in mid-December. For successful applicants, acceptance paves the way through senior year all the way to college. For not-as-successful early round applicants, an early rejection or deferral suggests to students that there may be some elements of the application that need improvement. The “Early Round” offers an interesting and complex dimension to the arena of college applications. In this post we hope to answer some fundamental questions: how does when decide whether or not, and where to apply early?


  1. The Early Round allows students to apply by November, and get results by mid-December.
  2. In general, Early Action means non-binding, and Early Decision means binding.
  3. Only students who are ready with their application materials by November can and should apply early. Know and love the school you are applying early to.
  4. Although for many schools acceptance rates in the early round are higher, the pool of competitors is often stronger on average.
  5. ED to a college you see yourself at; if accepted, you sign a contract to attend (finances permitting).
  6. You may EA to a top priority school, or EA to a school you would be satisfied with; acceptance is not binding.
  7. Students who apply early to SCEA schools sign a contract forbidding them from applying early to any other school
  8. Conduct a mental cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether or not to apply early, and where to apply early if you choose to do so.

EA vs ED

First: let’s clear up some differences. EA schools like Stanford and Yale will accept early applications from a self-selecting group of students, and accept, reject, or defer applicants. A rejection is a rejection: the student cannot apply to the school again. A deferral means the student will be reconsidered in the regular round (i.e. when everyone else applies). A student who is accepted early to an EA school wins a slot in the freshman class, but has the right to apply to as many other schools through regular decision as he or she wants. Schools like these often operate under “SCEA”—Single Choice Early Action. This means that the applicant signs a contract allowing him or her to only apply to that school for the early round. Getting accepted EA is a luxury: the successful applicant will have the school “in the bag,” turning Harvard or Stanford or Yale into a backup. Applying in the regular round will add schools to the student’s list of acceptances without nullifying the early acceptance (i.e. best possible winter break).

Early Decision schools like Johns Hopkins have a slightly different policy: students who are accepted early are bound by contract to attend that school. If accepted to Hopkins or Cornell early, for example, and student forfeits the chance to apply anywhere else, and must attend that school. The school guarantees a slot for the student, and the student guarantees that he or she will attend.

So how does the distinction between EA and ED affect the acceptance rates in the early round?

In general, EA rates stay about the same, if only slightly higher. Many of the toughest schools offer SCEA, among them Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton. These schools allow the best of the best to apply early and secure a spot, but do not bind them to taking the offer. It’s as if the school is confident that it is one of the applicant’s top choices. On the other hand, many ED schools, such as Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania, have much higher Early Round acceptance rates. They know that the students they accept early will commit (as a result of the binding contract), thus increasing their yield (number of students attending divided by number of students offered admission). So if your top choice school is an ED school and you think you are ready, take advantage of the higher percentage of students who are accepted in the early round. Again, keep in mind that many early applicants are very, very strong students.

So why apply EA if the acceptance rates are not that significantly affected? First of all, receiving a decision by December could, potentially, help the successful applicant breathe a little easier: if accepted, you will likely apply to fewer schools in the regular round. Also, applying early can be interpreted as you the applicant telling the school that it is your top choice. Again, schools want to increase yield, so showing your preference by applying early could be seen as a plus. Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the ups and downs of EA. When deciding, gauge your level of preparedness: are you ready to show the school of your dreams that you’ve got what it takes?

Applying early is a harder pool

Simply put, students who are ready to apply by November tend to be more competitive for several reasons. First: by having their stuff together by November, they indicate that they are organized and on top of things; this trait often manifests itself in grades, extra-curricular activities, etc. Second, students who apply to school X early often have school X as their top choice. Thus their applications are tailor-made for that particular school, and they see themselves thriving in that school.

From a financial standpoint…

Applying early gives the student the chance to bypass the expensive application process. If accepted in the early round, a student who chooses to not apply anywhere else will save SAT costs, costs of sending SATs, application costs, and the time required to tweak an application to pseudo-perfection. In other words, students who are accepted early can potentially save thousands of dollars.

However, ED is sometimes criticized for being unfair towards certain applicant groups, as detailed in this section from “The benefits and drawbacks of applying early.“

ED plans have come under fire as unfair to students from families with low incomes, since they do not have the opportunity to compare financial aid offers. This may give an unfair advantage to applicants from families who have more financial resources.

The Early Decision: A Mentor's Experience

Ever since I was a little girl, I was hell-bent on studying at the University of Pennsylvania. When I was two years old, my parents took up their MBA at the Wharton School so I pretty much got to live on campus. It’s no surprise, then, that I have come to associate Penn with my childhood. I somehow came to the conclusion that my identity was rooted in the state of Pennsylvania. If I got into its top school, Penn, I would prove my worth not just to myself, but also to my family and the world. To me, Penn was my biggest accomplishment after four years of slaving it out in high school. Penn was the one thing that kept me going through all those long hours studying and tedious times spent at extracurriculars. It comes as no surprise, then, that in my senior year, I applied for Early Decision Admission.

On December 13, 2011, a few minutes past 4AM, I opened my computer and found out that I was accepted into Penn. After spending three minutes jumping, shrieking, and yelling around in my room, reality sank in. As Oscar Wilde once wrote, “In this world, there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” To me, that meant finally realizing just what exactly it meant to study abroad. I had kept my blinders on for too long. I was too fixated on getting in that I forgot to think about what would happen once I actually did. Soon enough, I realized that I was more scared and more insecure than I was before getting that acceptance letter.

The first thought that went through my head was: Am I good enough to be at Penn? I did not know, as I never will, if I got into Penn because I was a double legacy or because I was from a local school in the Philippines (ergo affirmative action). Having played the statistics so they would be in my favor, I wasn’t sure whether or not I really deserved to get in. I began to doubt myself more.  My SAT score was certainly not as high as everyone else’s, my school certainly did not offer the most competitive curriculum, and I didn’t think I did much with my life. I was scared that I’d be mediocre and incompetent next to everyone else on Locust Walk.

More than that, having applied only to one school, particularly the one where I had the highest statistical chance of getting in based on my profile, made me wonder what would have happened if I applied to other schools. Did I really belong at Penn? I never stopped to consider whether or not I wanted to go to a large school in an urban setting with an active social life. I never stopped and thought about where my needs would be best met. I had an irrational notion that thinking about what happened once I got in was a jinx. I also was so scared to make myself hope, and later on feel so much pain if I didn’t get in. I did not know what to do, having never prepared myself. Making my decision for the wrong reasons now had its consequences. 

However, in the Fall of 2012, I finally got on a plane to Pennsylvania. When I finally took my first steps after so long on Locust Walk, I realized that I really did want Penn.  Looking back at my freshman year, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything else in the world. The people I’ve met, the classes I’ve taken, and the things I’ve gotten to do made everyday I was at Penn amazing. But even as I sit back and take in the Penn experience, I live every day never really sure about just how good I really am.

For any of you applying ED, here’s some advice I wish someone told me two years ago: 

  1. Think your decision through. Even if you’ve found your dream school, make sure you’ve truly explored your options. You only get to go to college once so make sure you pick the school that you really think is perfect for you.  
  2. Be yourself. I know everywhere you look someone will tell you this but it’s something that cannot be emphasized enough. When you finally matriculate, you have to make sure that you’ll be with people just like you. 
  3. Don’t fully depend on statistics. Even if it’s easier to get into a particular high-ranking school through ED, don’t make that your only reason for applying. You might end up regretting your decision later on. 
  4. If you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. There is another school out there that’s perfect for you, you just don’t know it yet!

Tricia Peralta is a graduate of PAREF Woodrose School and currently attends the University of Pennsylvania as part of the class of 2016.

Writing Your College Essay


When Chris asked me to write about how to write a great college essay, I was a bit hesitant on how much advice I could actually offer. The thing is, my college essay worked for me because it was about me. Actually, it was about my grandfather. However, the important thing was that my essay portrayed the kind of person I was 2 years ago, when I was applying for colleges. Though the subject of my essay was my grandfather, the essay expressed who I was; my goals, my personality, my priorities, and how my experiences with my grandfather made me that person. At least, I think it did that well, and I guess at least one admission officer thought so. 

Anyways, I’m ranting. My point is that knowing what I wrote my essay on probably won’t help you write your own. I’ve seen essays about people, essays about eggs, about hobbies, and about stapling. Each of these was written in completely different styles, with different tones, and by extremely different people.  Why are these essays all good though? They all express the author’s personality extremely well. That is the important thing about college essays. Out of everything that goes into a college application, the essay is the one thing that is completely yours, from the idea to the writing. That’s why the essay should completely highlight who you are. 

This means that when you start writing your essay, I suggest you take some time to reflect upon who you are. It’s not easy to do, especially if you’ve only had eighteen years of life and even fewer experiences to draw on. Moreover, being honest with yourself about your personality, your strengths, and your weaknesses is hard. However, self-reflection is something that I believe is important to do each year, and it’s something many of my mentors have mentioned they do. Of course, ask other people for help in this process, but ultimately, spend some time on self-reflection. After all, only after you understand who you are can you write a great essay about you.

I realize that what I’ve written so far is relatively abstract and doesn’t have much concrete help. So, to make this article actually helpful, I’m including some actual tips.

  • You might get lucky and be struck with inspiration for a topic. I wasn’t, and I doubt that many people did. I suggest jotting down any topics that may come to you and writing a paragraph or two on each just to see how it goes. If something isn’t turning out well, eliminate it. Develop ideas that have potential, and narrow down as you go. 
  • Work on tone. This is pretty hard to do well, but a good essay should “sound” like you. Basically, it’s not just the content of your essay that’s important – it’s also how they are expressed. If you’re generally happy, your essay should “sound” happy just from reading it. If you’re serious, your essay should reflect that. Inject personality into your essay, and it’ll be that much better.
  • Edit, edit, and edit. This essay has the potential to shape the next four years of your life. No pressure, but make sure you do your essay due diligence. Check for grammatical errors, word usage, flow, tone, etc. Also, get others to read your essay. Fresh eyes and opinions are invaluable. Take their advice, and try to understand it, don’t just make changes blindly. 
  • Start early. You don’t have to finish it months before its due, but start thinking about it, jot ideas down, start developing drafts. The earlier you start, the less you’ll need to rush, and the better you can make it. 
  • Relax! While I completely understand the importance of this essay and the weight put on it, don’t overstress about it. While I personally think pressure is good for performance, too much of it is harmful. If you need to, relax; go enjoy something calming, mindless, and fun. It’ll refresh your body and your mind, making your final essay better. Stress will come once you’re college, don’t do it to yourself now. 

I hope my advice has been of some help to you all, and I wish you the best of luck with your applications!

Yujie Wu is a member of Yale University’s class of 2015.

On Rejection and Moving Forward

Back in my obsessive CollegeConfidential days, I read an article stating that we need to treat admissions officers as guides rather than gatekeepers. Like most good thoughts, this one is more easily understood than vehemently believed, and only comes to life in hindsight.

My application process started off with flat-out rejection from Princeton University. After early decision results came out, I stopped wearing orange, developed a dislike for tigers, royalty, and New Jersey. I couldn’t help feeling that validation for everything I had accomplished in my short life was hinged upon an acceptance, or at least a deferral. I thought of myself as a complete disappointment to everyone who had invested time, effort, and faith in me. I kid you not when I say that Beck’s ‘Loser’ was on repeat on my iPod for a month: “Soy un perdedor/ I’m a loser baby/ So why don’t you kill me?/ (Double-barrel buckshot).”

In the midst of Beck’s kind words of encouragement, I soon started wondering exactly why I felt like such a “loser,” and tried to make sense of my rejection. I had rushed through my application, writing both my common app and supplement two weeks before the deadline. I had never pictured myself at Princeton, and it wasn’t my first choice of school because the culture and programs offered did not match up to what I intended to do for the next four years. I had applied for exactly the wrong reasons: vanity and security. With this in mind, I realized that with my lackluster application, I definitely did not deserve to get into one of the best schools in the world.

I can’t say I’m overjoyed that I was rejected from Princeton, but I have realized how necessary this rejection was. First of all, it fostered desperation, and I caught a glimpse of how hard I would have to work to get into a great school. More importantly, it threw all of my motives into perspective, and I was forced to consider why I was applying to certain schools, and how much I could grow at each one. Ultimately, being forced to think about all of this made my regular decision application much stronger, and my vision of and for myself much clearer. When the acceptances came in May, all of the thought and soul-searching I invested into my application allowed me to pick the school where I knew I would thrive.

Through rejection, I have come to see that in a way, a college is applying to you as much as you are applying to them. The admissions officers have read enough applications and created enough successful graduating classes to know who would fit into their school. This means that an application done right, one that portrays a true sense of yourself, requires both rejection and acceptance. This is not a pat on the back as much as it an encouragement to keep searching, yearning, and working for your nirvana.

Gabby Dee attends Brown University as a member of the class of 2016.

THE WISDOM OF ALONE TOGETHER: On the Fear of Being "Alone" Abroad and the Perks of Residential College Life

We hear horror stories of students going off to college and just losing themselves; stories of students who regret not going to a college where most their friends would be; stories of students who consider college abroad a chore, not an opportunity.  We hear horror stories of how difficult it is to be alone in a different country miles away from home.

The truth is, we never will be. 

When I left Hong Kong, I compared it to a horrible break-up. I had fallen in love with the city, the culture, the people. I was finally feeling like I was beginning to belong when I was offered a scholarship, and my parents and I decided it was best if I moved to Yale-NUS College. I left, still in love with the fast-paced lifestyle, the clacking heels of women walking through the MTR stations, the gorgeous waters that surrounded the university I was in.

It didn’t help that before I moved to Singapore, people would look at me with pity and tell me about how small a place this country is. I began to worry. Would Singapore be the best place for me? Or would I be a fish out of the water, in a strange place with seemingly nothing ever to do? This is why last Sunday, when I landed in the Changi International Airport, I was ready to expect little. I was ready to just make the most out of what I had, figure out how the MRT and other similar systems work, focus on getting the best out of college. I was ready to face Singapore alone.

Until I discovered I didn’t have to.

I didn’t even have to ask. I had newly-found Singaporean friends who willingly brought me around. I had friends who offered to go out of their way and help me settle down. I had a friend who even took me restaurant hopping, driving me around the city, welcoming me to Singapore with a fun night-out.Here I was a foreigner, and I already felt like Singapore could be home. This realization has inspired the foci of this post: the fear of being “alone” and the perks of living in a residential college. We hear horror stories of students going off to college and just losing themselves; stories of students who regret not going to a college where most their friends would be; stories of students who consider college abroad a chore, not an opportunity. We hear horror stories of how difficult it is to be alone in a different country miles away from home.

The truth is, we never will be. I have tried studying briefly in New Haven and Boston, a few months in Hong Kong, and am about to take on Singapore. In all these countries, I found someone to bring me around and introduce me to everything local. The memories I remember the most? Dinner trips with my local roommate. Fireworks with my closest international friends. Nights out, coffee breaks, movie nights with anyone who’s left in the dorm. I’ve only been a few days in Singapore, and I have been sleeping in the early hours of the morning. The simple hanging out in common lounge with friends from all over the world whom I would never have met is enough to let me know I’ll be okay. Dinners with professors make learning seem like a fun meal time conversation. (What I love about Yale-NUS in particular is that the professors are trying to find their way around Singapore too!) Living with deans and rectors has also left us with little kids running all around the place, embracing the students into this extended family. When your stomach hurts and tears start to fall from the laughter; when you’re up late watching your fellow students sing their hearts out in an open mic; when you’re walking under the rain, crossing the road with zooming cars, enjoying every bit of the strange land you’re in; when you’re enjoying a good lunch meal with professors and friends; when you’re arm in arm with people who are as alone, but who make it all feel just right—you realize going abroad to study is not as lonely a task after all.

Because you find you’re all alone together and it is the experience of such that you’ll actually remember most in the end. In the process, you discover more of who you are, free from the shackling definitions of who you should be provided by those who have known you for the past eighteen to twenty years. In the process, you discover more of who you are, together with a bunch of others who are trying to find their way as well. This is what it means to be alone together, to lose yourself and find yourself again, and to be in the company of strangers and still feel like you belong.

Joan Danielle Ongchoco graduated from Immaculate Conception Academy in 2012. She now attends Yale-National University of Singapore (Yale-NUS) as a member of the class of 2017.

It's That Time of Year Again


Hey CAMP! 

It’s that time of the year again - a time for better resolutions, fresh starts, and new pens and notebooks. Except next year, you will be in college! Apart from your academics and extra curricular activities, come senior year, one more thing will surely take up a big chunk of your time: college applications. Without a doubt, one of the hardest things about the college application process is staying on top of everything. Things can so easily get out of hand and so it is very important to always keep the following tips in mind: 

1. Research well in advance.

It is never too early to think about college. You can always research profiles of potential colleges abroad through their websites and forums, and read up on their respective application processes as well. Familiarize yourself with as many terms related to college apps as possible. Browsing through the CAMP website is a very good start as it already provides you with documents on the basic things you need to know. Attend college talks and tours in schools around Manila if and when possible. Especially when applying to colleges in the Philippines, do not hesitate to seek the help of your guidance counselors for this is their area of expertise. Ask them about the various entrance exams and the kinds of preparation you should be making for them. Seek their advice when you are stumped on your college essays. 

2. Prepare for standardized tests and entrance exams. 

The United States has the SATs whereas the Philippines has ACET, UPCAT, DLSUCET, and the like. If you are applying to colleges in the US, it is important to be aware of how the SATs work, as most colleges require them. Most people start preparing for the SATs long before senior year and may in fact take them multiple times prior to sending in their applications. On the other hand, the entrance exams in the Philippines can only be taken once each in your senior year. Review centers and materials can be found everywhere though so make sure that you get a hold of them. 

3. Create a personal timetable.

This is especially important if you are applying to colleges in more than one country. Most countries differ in schedules and so it is of utmost importance to keep track of all the dates, from deadlines for submissions and test dates to release of application and test results. For example, the application season in the Philippines usually begins in June of your senior year so that the results are out by January. However, in the United States, it is completely different. For instance, early applications and early decisions are usually due in October, for which results come out in December, whereas regular decision applications are usually due in January, with results coming out in March or April. Aim to finish applications well before their deadlines. Mark these dates on your calendars so that you don’t miss them.

4. Talk to your mentors.

We are here to help you out and so do not hesitate to shoot us an email if you have any questions regarding your college applications. It would also benefit you to ask us about the challenges we had to go through and our eventual successes. Our first-hand experiences are what make us qualified mentors and so you can rest assured that we have nothing but invaluable advice to share with you. 

5.  Gauge yourself.

It is important to know where exactly you stand before embarking on one of the most rewarding, often humbling, and definitely life-changing journeys you will ever have. In truth, it is as important to know your class rank, standing, grade point average, test scores and the like, as it is to discern how well a fit your potential colleges are for you. Always be honest with yourself and don’t forget to set realistic goals. Don’t stress or worry too much. This way, no matter where you end up after your journey, you will always be happy to know that you did your best and you’re where you’re meant to be.

Bernice Halili graduated from International School Manila in 2011. She now attends the Ateneo de Manila University as a member of the class of 2015.

Overshooting: don't do it!

Applying to colleges was one of the most thrilling and exciting periods of my high school career. It was also one of the most stressful: I had to research dozens of schools and determine which ones I would most like to attend for the next four years. This research period was essential, especially if I wanted to be efficient about where I was going to apply and hopefully get in. The harsh reality about applying to colleges, especially ones abroad, is that most students cannot simply pick and choose which school they wish to attend. A lot of the more reputable institutions tend to be very selective – if not extremely selective – about their admissions. “Ivy League” schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are known for their single-digit admissions rates. Even small liberal arts colleges like Amherst and Williams are comparably selective due to their small class sizes. Unless you have a 4.0 GPA, a stellar extracurricular record, and top standardized test scores such that you actually could pick and choose among Ivy Leagues, I would like to remind incoming applicants to avoid “overshooting” for schools.

The concept of “overshooting” isn’t complicated. As students, we are individually aware of our own grades and test scores; thanks to the Internet and numerous print resources, we can also easily look up the academic averages for students who are admitted to various colleges and universities, especially those in the United States. Overshooting happens when an individual applies to schools that have test score averages that are beyond their own. In addition, it can also happen when someone applies to more colleges than they are capable of, thus risking mediocre supplementary application materials that can harm one’s chances of admission. I was lucky to be admitted to my top school of choice, Hamilton College, but this was also an institution that fit my individual academic achievements. I am, by no means, discouraging anyone from applying to his or her dream school; there’s no harm in applying to a “reach.” However, applying to colleges is, realistically speaking, a tedious and costly process. 

As such, here are some of my personal tips to avoid “overshooting” and approaching the college application process efficiently:

  • Expand your college search. The U.S. has thousands of colleges and universities that are not limited to Ivy League and U.C. schools. Britain has more than Cambridge and Oxford. Read up on as many different schools as you can. Your priorities for a “dream school” just might change in the process.
  • Choose your colleges based on how well they fit YOU, not just based on their name. Trust me on this one. I’d never heard of Hamilton College before I started looking up colleges, but I’m really glad that I chose this school because it was the perfect fit for my personality and academic needs. Higher education is going to take up four years of your life, give or take, and you’ll want to spend them somewhere that you will love.
  • Don’t apply to more than ten schools. This is the part where researching schools is important. There are thousands of possible schools to apply to, and their websites just make each institution seem like the perfect place. Look beyond their websites and read college reviews and forum posts to find which schools are a perfect fit, and then keep trimming your list until you get to ten schools or less.
  • “Reaches,” “Targets,” and “Safeties." You can divide your list of ten schools into "reach,” “target,” and “safety” schools. Reach schools are the most selective schools with admissions rates that fall under 20 percent. You should apply to at least one of these, but no more than three. Target schools should realistically take up most of your list. These are schools wherein you academically fit in terms of your GPA and standardized test scores. I would also recommend having one to three safety schools wherein you feel like you would be a “shoo-in” for admission. If you’re applying for financial aid as an international student, you can obviously play around with these proportions as you see fit.
  • Read the supplements. On a more practical note, check out the supplemental requirements of each college on your list when the Common Application comes online. Be realistic about the amount of time that your college applications will take up and make sure that you have enough time to finish each application to the best of your ability. With this in mind, applying to four schools that have three supplemental essays each might not be the best idea.

The whole college application process is just that: a process, the aim of which is to gain admission to an institution where you will learn and thrive for the next few years of your life. If you need help choosing colleges, narrowing down your list, or getting a reality check, shoot me an email. I won’t bite. 

Good luck!

Kaye Kagaoan graduated from International School Manila in 2011. She now attends Hamilton College in Clinton, NY as a Creative Writing concentrator and member of the class of 2015.

Studying for the SAT (without a tutor)

Hey guys!

In this entry, I wanted to take the time to address the SAT, especially as many of you who took it in June will be receiving your results soon, and planning ahead for your next round of testing. The SAT is by no means the most important part of your application, but I think what’s important to keep in mind is that it is a piece that you control. You can make a conscious choice to get better at it, and this is where we want to step in and help.  

First, as a disclaimer, I am by no means an expert on the SAT in the same way that a real tutor is. I’ll just be talking from my own experience, and from the little things I’ve learned along the way!

The most common thing you’ll hear people tell you about the SAT is that it’s about practice. Practice, practice, practice. It’s easy to see how that helps boost your scores; a large part of what the SAT tests is how well you know the SAT itself.  Without a tutor, however, the actual learning from practice is a bit more difficult. To make the most of your practice, you have to practice smart.

Practicing smart means doing more than looking at questions. I found that, especially for the math and reading sections, the questions all began to look like they covered the same topics. They started to look more familiar, more comfortable, and altogether easier. It’s really easy to skim over sections and say, “I’ll only do this question if I don’t recognize it.” I did exactly that more than few times. What I realized later was that I was missing out on a crucial experience—the moment when I would get a question wrong and have no idea why, because my answer had to be the right one. 

It’s in this moment where you have to turn to everything you can find in order to explain this discrepancy between your confidence, and the right answer. This means more than just finding out why your answers were wrong, it means finding out what gave you the confidence in your other answers. While the first is easily found in a tutor, the second is actually something that might be easier to do on your own. Follow your thought processes, and look at what your preconceptions of the topic are, and what your first impression of the question was. Practicing smart is all about thinking deeper about how to learn best from each question you do. 

Also, don’t try to do it all alone. Studying for the SATs can get very dull, exasperating, or at the very least, monotonous. Having a group does wonders for your general disposition and your ability to keep on trucking through difficult problems. Just as importantly, your friends, mentors, and classmates provide a peer group to review and improve your essays. Without a tutor, it’s still relatively easy to find answers to multiple choice questions, but it can be much more difficult to figure out whether or not the essay you wrote was actually good. So find people who know what a good SAT essay looks like. Talk to everyone and anyone who might be able to help, and look for some exemplar essays online. 

It might sound like a lot, but compared to the costs and commitments of a tutor, I think they end up being about even. In the end, take all these pieces of advice with a grain of salt. These are what I wish I would have known, but I also realize that every one of us has different study habits and learning preferences. Find what works best for you—these are just guidelines and recommendations to get you started. No matter how you choose to go about preparing, stay driven and stay focused!

And of course, good luck! 

Matt Borja graduated from International School Manila in 2012. He now attends the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as a member of the class of 2016.