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Chinoys on Top: Tips on How to be the Next Summa Cum Laude

To say that Batch 2022 is resilient is an understatement. From being the pioneers of the K-12 Program and the new college curriculum to being the pandemic babies who had to spend half of their college lives online, the Class of 2022 proved that they could conquer the journey nonetheless. Take it from these two Chinoys who did not only survive the past four years, but also dominated their respective fields, finishing Summa Cum Laude to cap off their college journeys. They proved how hard work, grit and determination are just some of the ingredients into becoming the best version of yourself. So we asked them, other than these values, what else can we do to be on top? 

To share some tips, meet Danise Sy and Janrick Cayetano, two cream of the crop of Batch 2022!


Danise Sy

Danise Sy is no stranger to excellence. Right after bagging numerous academic and athletic awards at her alma mater, Jubilee Christian Academy, her chosen university, the Ateneo de Manila University awarded Danise with the Freshman Merit Scholarship (for being one of the top 40 applicants to the Loyola Schools). Throughout her four-year stint, she managed the university’s high academic rigor by finishing every semester with first honors. 

On top of that, she was very active in her co-curricular activities, being the Secretary-Treasurer for Barfoot Philippines and the Project Head of Catalyst: Public Health Crash Course, to name a few. To pursue her passion for health, she also devoted time as a Campaign Strategy and Management Division Intern at the Department of Health and as a Research and Curriculum Intern at the University of California, Berkeley’s Hygiene Heroes Program, wherein she was able to successfully publish a research paper. To tie her college journey altogether, she then graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in BS Health Sciences and a Minor in Management.

Danise is living proof that it is possible for one to excel in both academics and extracurricular activities. However, this feat was not that easy to achieve. Like most students, she encountered several obstacles with online school, from lacking motivation and delineation between school and home to being physically away from friends and classmates. 

To know more on how Danise garnered these exceptional achievements amidst the challenges, here are some tips she shared for the students who are also aiming to get that summa.

1) Learn how to do things online

“It helped me to discover what works for me in terms of organizing my school files in Google drive. I also had templates for more convenient note-taking. I learned a lot as well when it comes to how to engage people online. Some examples of this include asking ice breaker questions, having prompts that ask people to chat, having polls (e.g. mentimeter), and bonding through group dynamics. When it comes to group work, I was able to find to groove as to how we could better distribute tasks so that we’re able to meet asynchronously, meet up to finalize, and make use of everyone’s time efficiently.” 


2) Organize your day

“I usually have a to-do list and things-done list. I list everything I need to do in order of priority and urgency, along with the specific date and time I would need it to be done. After accomplishing a task, I transfer it to the things-done list and that gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, knowing that I’m able to do an X number of tasks for that day. I also utilize Google calendar at times to make sure that I don’t miss out on any classes, meetings, tasks, and assignments.”


3) Do your best

“It’s important that in whatever task given to us, whether big or small, we do it to the best of our abilities. This helps you to be consistent, responsible, and reliable, as you constantly keep yourself accountable when it comes to your output. Your teachers and classmates will also know that you always give your 100% no matter what the task at hand is. Even if anyone tells you otherwise, know that YOUR BEST WILL ALWAYS BE ENOUGH. I can’t even reiterate that enough. This statement helped me in so many points of my life. Since I have a tendency to be a perfectionist, I find it hard to let go and would spend so much time on even the minutest details. While that is not necessarily bad, it’s certainly not efficient especially when there are time constraints or many things to accomplish. Repeating that line to myself reminded me that whatever I passed would be fine because I gave my all during the time I was working on it.”


4) Always remember your ‘why’

“Always go back to your why because this will ground you to keep going and never give up no matter what happens. You may go through hardships, have apprehensions, or harbor doubts, but remember that you are where you are for a reason. While having a “why” like to get good grades or to graduate with high honors isn’t necessarily bad, it’s better to anchor yourself on something that is less conditional. For instance, it could be to learn new things, to have a fruitful college experience, to meet different people, or to achieve your future dream. I remember a time when I had a low grade and this really affected me as a grade-conscious person. I had so many worries and I felt like I was falling down a rabbit hole of uncertainties and insecurities. What helped me get over that situation was my mom reminding me of my passion for learning and my dream to be a doctor in the future. The road to that  will certainly not be easy, but I can only achieve that if I keep my aspirations in my heart so that I can learn to move on, tap onto my potential, and get closer to my goals.”


5) Maintain a work-life balance

“Even though you are primarily a student, this doesn’t mean that you have to be studying 24/7. Making sure that you spend time doing extracurriculars or working on your hobbies can reduce stress and prevent burnout. At the same time, I find that having some activities outside school helps you be happier overall since they can be a source of relaxation and they can allow you to contribute to something other than your studies. This gives you another sense of accomplishment that your academics cannot provide. I myself find the time to join student organizations, internships, volunteer work, and church activities because I feel like they aid me in maintaining my overall health and well-being, make me more well-rounded, and increase my productivity. Doing these makes me feel like I’m able to impact and connect with more people. I also make sure to take breaks from time to time when studying to ensure that I practice self-care and being present in the moment (e.g. eating with family, attending social events).”


Janrick Cayetano

If you’re from the University of the Philippines – Diliman, you’ve probably seen Janrick Cayetano studying in the library, playing different sports at the quad, leading his various organizations in the Chemistry building or hanging out with friends in Area 2. Yes, Janrick is the epitome of work-life balance. Ever since his days at Saint Jude Catholic School, he has embodied this balance ⸺ acing every exam on school days, playing badminton on Thursdays, joining competitions on Saturdays, spending time with family on Sundays, and enjoying life with friends in between. Bringing this excellence to college, he is now the only BS Chemistry student from Batch 2022 who graduated Summa Cum Laude at the state university.

However, like Danise, he also struggled with the lack of motivation brought on by the pandemic. He shared, “nahirapan talaga ako mag acads nang walang gala and other outside activities. As an out-of-the-house person, nagstruggle talaga ako maghanap ng source of energy to maintain my focus and drive in studying and finishing my requirements. Tapos dagdag pa yung 2 years na nakatingin lamang sa screen, parang konti nalang sasabog na mata ko sa pagod.”

Despite the challenge, he still came out on top. How did he do it and how can you also do it? Here are his tips!


1) Find a support system

“I wouldn’t have graduated on time without my batchmates, my friends, and mga orgs ko. Sila talaga naging companion ko sa aking pandemic struggles. Nakikiramay rin sila sa aking paghihirap sa buhay and I think it made all of my problems a little less heavy.”


2) Attend school events

“Dagdag na rin mga online events, hangouts and other stuff which helped me gain all the mental stimulations I need to finish my studies.”


3) Take Breaks

“Set time boundaries. Learn to rest para fresh lagi ang utak.”


4) Don’t let grades define you

“Don’t let grades define who you are as a person. Naging mantra ko talaga yan ever since first year noong after feel ko babagsak na talaga ako for real after ng Bio long exam (thankfully nakapasa naman haha). Remember na your college life is a journey towards developing yourself not just in academics, but in all aspects of yourself rin. Dito sa college mo talaga matuto how to be confidently you, to not let others define your living standards, to develop a sense of moral dignity and empathy to stand up for what you believe in, and to be an overall better person towards everyone.”


5) Enjoy

“Hindi ko ineexpect mag summa. Nag grow lang ako as a person and naging mas masaya sa buhay. Tapos dahil dun, mas nakakaaral ako ng mabuti kasi ok mental state ko.”


We hope these tips will help you achieve your goals and motivate you to always run after them. We can’t wait to see you be the next summa cum laude!

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