Apr 16, 7:49pm via Web

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by jshaira on Twitter

Ateneo Survival Guide: University Culture

Every school has a unique culture all its own.  In fact, the atmosphere of a school may very well be one of the deciding factors of whether to study in it or not.

If you’re thinking of studying in the Ateneo College, allow me to tell you a little bit about it.  This should also help mitigate the effects of the culture shock for you as well, especially if you didn’t come from the Ateneo high school.

Before I proceed, a caveat:  I’ve based the following observations on my experience of the school’s culture at the time.  Since the only constant is change, your experience of the said culture may end up being a little different from what I’ll be describing here.

The People

My mother once told me that you could immediately spot an Atenean by counting the number of books that that person carried around.

Of course, that was during her time.  Nowadays, Ateneo college students can look pretty laid back—except during exam time.  If it’s the geeks who carry the books, it’s the rest who carry themselves with a certain sense of confidence or accomplishment.

Oh, and it’s fairly easy to spot a guy who came from the campus’ high school—he’s usually the one following the ladies around.  Seriously.

The presence of the fairer sex may be no big thing for you if you’ve spent some time in a co-ed institution, but for those who’ve had to live with a sausage fest for four years, studying in the college may be likened to a captured wild stallion escaping his corral.  It is a breath of fresh air in more ways than one.

Over on side of the university’s teaching staff, expect to run into a motley crew of professors and other school staff:  they can range from the extremely orthodox to the delightfully kooky to the maddeningly eccentric.  Some may astound you, others may entertain you, still others may bore you to tears, but one thing’s for sure, you will learn something from them, regardless.

Campus and Academic Life

One look at the Ateneo compound will tell you that it’s quite conducive to the pursuit of knowledge.  Several buildings housing classrooms, departments and other facilities are spread out over the entire campus.  The landscape people made sure the area was dotted with grassy fields and a bit of foliage for good measure.  All in all, it’s perfect for contemplative walks or peripatetic sessions.

Like any good academic institution, Ateneo has its fair share of student organizations for that extra-curricular flavor.  In fact, there are probably just as many organizations as there are courses.  Some organizations cater directly to certain majors, such as the various management societies.  Look around enough and take your pick—chances are you’ll be able to find something that captures your fancy.

The academic pace in Ateneo can get pretty hectic during the so-called hell periods (hell week, hell month, etc.).  Fortunately, the University has its set of chapels and its very own church where one can concretely practice theology.  It’s not surprising to see the number of pray-ers getting down on their knees as the final exams draw closer and closer.

The Choice

If this sounds like a good atmosphere for you, by all means, apply at the Ateneo.  It won’t be an easy journey, but then again, the really worthwhile experiences normally aren’t.  If there’s one thing I can guarantee you about it, however, it’s this:  after going through it, you’ll never be the same again.

Why Study in Ateneo?

Why go to Ateneo de Manila University?  An old jest says, “If you’ve got the money and the brains, go to Ateneo.”  This is a typical joke of university students; nevertheless, it is not without basis.  Over the years, Ateneo has developed a reputation as a superior higher-education institution in more ways than one.

If you’re not entirely sure why you should consider Ateneo University as an option, do read on for the things that make Ateneo a good university option and why you should go and file that ACET application.

Distinction

As I mentioned in another article of mine, the Ateneo University bears the distinction of being one of several Philippine Universities mentioned in the Times Higher Education Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, 2008 Edition.

Even without this honor, though, Ateneo’s reputation for quality education has already preceded it.  My mother, a Maryknoll alumna, once told me that you could always spot an Atenean in her day by looking for two telltale signs:  a distinct English twang and a ginormous pile of books.

Admittedly, the English twang has mixed with Filipino over the years, yet the books and the brains are still very much there.

Aesthetics

The Ateneo University has apparently undergone a bit of a renovation process lately.  For example, older complexes such as the Social Science Buildings have also received much-needed facelifts.  Besides that, some nice new buildings have sprung up in recent years- one of which is the John Gokongwei School of Management.

Aesthetically speaking, the Ateneo campus is ideal for those philosophical, peripatetic sessions.  While not as large as, say, the UP Diliman campus, Ateneo still has its share of tree-studded walkways and wide open spaces.

The University Church is always a good place to stop by for some quiet contemplation or emergency prayer session when exams come up.  The Moro Lorenzo Sports Complex is also a nice place to work off a sweat, or even to vent those primal emotions once in a while (and believe me, there will be times when you will need to do so.).

“Heading Down the Mountain”

As Ateneo is a Catholic University, you can expect to go through some form of social outreach program as part of your education.  This may sound like a double-edged sword for some, but the good news is that the program can potentially exercise your compassion and empathy muscles like no other one can.

A good case in point is the course on Theology of Liberation.  It has a mandatory outreach program that requires students to spend some quality time with the underprivileged for a few days.  Students will then be asked to process the experience and share their thoughts and insights about it, and perhaps even do something about it if possible.  It’s amazing what you can learn if you’ve never been exposed to this kind of thing before.

The Jesuit Training System

Perhaps the one thing that makes an Ateneo education stand out most is the Jesuit philosophy behind the college education that they provide.

You see, the Jesuits have a rather unique approach when it comes to education.  They believe in the soundness of a strong core curriculum as an academic foundation.  While Ateneo does allow for specialized training, it is not interested in being overspecialized.  Allow me to explain.

The Ateneo Core Curriculum requires that each and every student receive basic to intermediate training in various subject matters including Mathematics, English, Filipino, Philosophy and Theology.

The point of the whole thing is to provide the student with at least a general competence in a variety of subjects, so that no matter where he or she is placed, that student will always possess a certain degree of knowledge in something other than his or her field of specialization.

It’s basically an exercise in versatility.  If you think of an Ateneo graduate as a specialist with a primary and a secondary specialty, then the core curriculum subjects make up that person’s secondary specialty.

The First Step

The points I’ve mentioned above are some of the many good reasons for choosing Ateneo as your source of tertiary education.  Granted, it an Ateneo education is no easy trek (both academically and financially), but you will find the results to be well worth your effort in the long run.

What to Expect from the Ateneo College Entrance Test or ACET

The Ateneo College Entrance Test or ACET is your means to an Ateneo education.  Of course, you’d also have to have money for the fees and tuition, but that’s incidental, he he he.  The ACET is the make or break exam that will determine if you will Pass Go or Head on to Jail (to people who are determined to study in Ateneo de Manila University, Jail and Other School are practically synonymous).

People tend to fear what they do not know or understand.  And yet, there are those who fear what they believe they know and (tragically) understand.  The Ateneo College Entrance Test (ACET) belongs to this latter category.

You’ve probably heard all the ACET horror stories that are circulating around, perpetrated by those who’ve gone before.  Some of those stories are based in fact, but chances are they’ve been blown way out of proportion.  The mind does have a tendency to play tricks on us.

This article, however, will not.  “There is no knowledge that is not power,” so goes the old Mortal Kombat saying, so use this power to your advantage when facing the ACET.

The “Unfinishable” Exam?

Before you can cry foul, let me say this first:  “unfinishable” is not a word.  It’s only a term I’m using for this occasion to help me drive my point across.  There, satisfied?

There’s a reason why some people have dubbed the ACET as the “unfinishable” exam:  the time limit involved is somewhat tight.  Since you’re given only five minutes to answer certain sections, your mind will most likely panic unless you’re armed with some kind of plan.

The trick, of course, is to know what you’ll be up against before hand and to prepare in advance.  Having a watch with you will be of tremendous help – all you have to do is to note the time limit for each section and pace yourself accordingly.

One word of caution before we proceed:  if you’re going to bring a watch, make sure that it’s a real clock, not the watch on your mobile phone.  Otherwise, the exam proctor may bust you for suspected cheating.  (It’s actually happened to someone before.)

Now let’s take a look at the subjects involved.

While the ACET will throw in the standard issue Science, Math and English topics, expect your skills in the latter two subjects to be tested big time.  ACET takers have reported a lot of questions involving problem solving, statistics, conic sections (basically Maths 2 and 4 material).  Now, aren’t you glad you’re from a science high school?

There are also sections on reading comprehension and essay writing.  Yes, you read it correctly – essay writing.  Remember that essay question they threw at you when you first sent in your application form?  If you can manage that, then you should be able to manage the ACET English essay writing portion as well (insert screams here from those who have let other people write their admission essay, he he he).

In the essay writing section, explain things well but be brief.  You don’t want to pass an “excitingly and wonderfully profound masterpiece” that no one got or read because it’s not complete, do you?  It also won’t hurt your chances to put in a good word for the Ateneo de Manila University in your essay.  It may even help; believe me, ego-stroking still works in this day and age.

Expect some questions on current events as well.  I expect the powers at be in Ateneo de Manila University throw in these questions just to keep you on your toes.  You may wish to make a habit of reading the papers weeks before the big ACET day.

Exam Etiquette

One thing you should keep in mind is that the ACET is not the UPCAT or U.P. College Admission Test.

You:  “I know that, you dummy!  ACET has only four letters while UPCAT has five.” {I’m sorry; couldn’t resist ribbing you a bit, he he he).

In ACET, you can bring some snacks for when you take the exam.  However, unlike in UPCAT, the exam proctor won’t allow you to eat and drink during the exam.  Wait until the snack break to munch on your sandwich or sip on your bottled water.

Newsflash: If I were you, I’d steer clear of carbonated drinks.  In fact, you should steer clear of anything that has ever caused you a tummy upset in the past.  For instance, if you have lactose intolerance, you’d better bring only food and drinks that don’t have milk in them.  You don’t want to be running to and from the CR just when you’re getting all warmed up about the ACET.  For drinks, water is still best.

If you still have some time during your break, walk around and limber up a bit.  Your ACET session may take place in one of the covered courts, so feel free to explore, chat with friends (please, not about the exam – do you really need any more pressure?), and make new friends (uuuyyyy).

Lastly, don’t forget to take a quick trip to the “comfortable room.”  The exam is pressure enough; so be kind to yourself and get rid of any building pressure in your bladder.

Go and Do Likewise

Now that you know what to expect, the next thing to do is to apply it.  If you’d like more detailed suggestions on how to properly prepare for the ACET, I’ve discussed them in greater detail in Preparing for the ACET.

For now, just remember that you do not need to fear the ACET.  It is a difficult exam (and an extremely hard one for those who are not prepared for it), but with enough preparation, prayer and guts, it can also become a quite manageable college entrance exam.

To know the ACET Schedule, click here.