HOW I SURVIVED GRADUATE SCHOOL IN UP DILIMAN + MASTER OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION (MPA) FAQs


“You are too young to pursue a Master’s degree.”

“Why not consider taking some time off. Take a break and get more relevant work experience first.”

 

I heard these statements a couple of times, resulting in a sense of inferiority and frustration at some point during the first semester.

I may be the youngest by age, least experienced and perhaps least accomplished student in my batch, but these factors didn’t stop me from fulfilling my dreams. I pressed on, determined to finish what I started.

I am a firm believer that no one is too young (or too old) to learn, to make a positive difference in the community, and to serve the country. After all, everyone has different goals, talents, and learning preferences.

ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT POSTGRADUATE:

If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section.

Q: Did you go straight to graduate school after undergrad?

A: I worked for a year before I entered the MPA program. I was 21 years old when I started grad school.

 

Q: Did you ever feel discouraged during your school years?

A: I guess the feeling of mediocrity all started way back in undergrad, when my professor once shouted at me and called me an idiot during one of my presentations. It was about ASEAN, but crammed with information. For a period, it eroded my self-esteem to the point that I slowly believed it myself. The following semester, she was my professor again and I tried to fight off that ’not good enough’ feeling by attempting to redeem myself with a better grade.

Fast forward to grad school, I remember feeling intimidated by some of my classmates who were lawyers, politicians, executives and professionals. I would sometimes attend classes feeling quite lost while all my classmates seemed knowledgeable about the topic. There were moments I’d ask myself, ‘Why do I feel like I don’t belong here?’

I had bad days too just like any other person would have. On those days, I would cry, whirl to grab hold of my faith, pray hard and re-evaluate my situation. Having a strong support system and maintaining a positive outlook helped me during difficult times.

Q: Why Master of Public Administration (MPA)?

A: Remember the professor who called me an idiot? After finishing my last two semesters in undergrad, I turned out strongly motivated to step up and follow in her footsteps. Not only did she earn a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of the Philippines, but she also passed the Foreign Service Officer’s Exam (FSO) way back in 1959. This has always been my dream – to pass the FSO exam and to serve as an ambassador someday, just like her. I’d get there one day, one day.

 

Q: What is the application process for the MPA program in UP Diliman?

A: Download Application and Recommendation forms on NCPAG’s website: http://ncpag.upd.edu.ph/academic-programs/downloadable-forms/

After that, pay the application fee of Php 500 to the University Cashier’s Office, then submit accomplished forms to the Center for Public Administration and Governance Education (CPAGE). The last step is the Admission/Entrance Examination.

 

Q: How many units in total? What were your subjects?

A: 36 units for the MPA Plan B Track

Core courses (15 units)

PA 201 Theory and Practice of PA

PA 208 The Philippine Administrative System

PA 209 Ethics and Accountability in the Public Service

PA 299.1 Research Methods in Public Administration I

PA 299.2 Research Methods in Public Administration I

 

Survey Course (3 units)

PA 241 Public Policy and Program Administration

 

Field of Specialization Courses (12 units)

PA 242.1 Methods of Policy Analysis I

PA 243 Program and Project Development

PA 244 The Policy Process

PA 245 Program and Project Implementation

 

Elective Courses (6 units)

PA 291 A (Federalism) Special Problems in Public Administration

PA 291 B (Issues in Disaster Risk Governance) Special Problems in Public Administration

 

After completion of all 36 units, I took the Comprehensive Examination.

 

Q: How much is the tuition fee?

A: Php 2,000 per unit. Multiply that to 36 units and that’s around Php 72,000, excluding the miscellaneous fees.

 

Q: Should I get a Master’s degree?

A: Graduate school can be fun, but it is no joke. On the one hand, earning an advanced degree is rewarding. On the other hand, it is a time-consuming commitment and a combination of sleepless nights and exhausted mornings. Clearly, it requires self-discipline, dedication, faith, humility, passion, persistence, proper motivation, and the list goes on. So I am not here to convince you to pursue a Master’s degree as it is not a decision to be taken lightly and maybe not the right path for everyone. You should be physically, emotionally, and mentally ready for it. But when the time comes that your decision is made, then by all means pour your mind and heart into it and be willing to endure temporary discomfort, hardship and failure. Trust God and ask Him strength to take one more step until you finish the race.

 

Q: Is work experience required for MPA?

A: Yes, at least one year of professional work experience.

 

Q: Are there Latin Honors in MPA?

A: None but a graduate student with an average of 1.25 or better is given an honorific scholarship called a University Scholar.

 

Q: Can you give some tips on how not to feel intimidated or too embarrassed to ask questions in class?

A: I know how intimidating it can be to ask questions, but that is perfectly normal. There are so many things to know but we don’t have the capacity to know everything that there is to know, really. (Can you count how many times I used the word ‘know’? Lol). And I’m pretty convinced that no one is expecting you to know EVERYTHING, so don’t be too frightened. Ask away and grab every opportunity to learn and gain wisdom from your professors and classmates.

 

Q: What is your current job?

A: Aside from being an entrepreneur and running this blog, I also work at The Asia Foundation as a consultant and research assistant. Dr. Ena, my classmate in PA 291 (also my teacher, mentor and role model), invited me to be part of their team last year. I witnessed how passionate and dedicated Dr. Ena, Ms. Krish, Sir Julius, Ms. Kamille, and the rest of the team were in revising the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund Guidelines. The revised Fund Rules introduced the streamlining of funding requests for LGUs DRRM programs and the shifting of focus from reactive response to proactive disaster mitigation, prevention and preparedness. Now I’m part of the Airport Infrastructure project and so far the outcomes have been very promising. I’m extremely fortunate to work with exceptional, brilliant, humble and hard working professionals – Ms. Twinkle, Ms. Vero, Attorney Armie and Captain Ben.

 

Q: How do you balance school, work, blog and business all at the same time?

A: My goal is to excel in everything I do, but I also know my limits. Sometimes, there’s a lot on my plate and I get overwhelmed. It is not always possible to get everything done in a day so there is a need to identify tasks that are urgent and non-urgent, more important and less important. I know my priorities and I adhere to them so I can keep my focus. I also have learned to say no when necessary without guilt to some opportunities, projects, social gathering and other additional commitments.

 

Q: What is the title of your graduate research paper?

A: ANALYSIS OF MUNICIPAL DYNASTIES IN RIZAL: HOW IT RELATES TO LOCAL DEVELOPMENT

 

I remember I had dengue few days before the submission of my graduate research proposal but I still wanted to finish writing my paper and it caused a sudden drop in platelet count. Yet the worst part was after I submitted online, my professor emailed me back saying the deadline for submission was moved. Lol. In the end, all the hard work paid off. It honed my research skills and was later on awarded as the Best Graduate Research Paper.

 

Q: How to choose a good topic for research paper?

A: Select a topic that interests you, choose one which is close to your heart. If your heart is not into it, then there’s a possibility that you will burn out. Like what I always say, write what you love and love what you write.

Once you have a topic in mind, research about it, formulate a research question, and ask your professor or MPA advisor for feedback, whether it is too broad or too narrow. Don’t be too discouraged if there is a need to modify or refine your topic. That’s part of the process.

 

Q: What are the best study tips?

A: Don’t think you know it all. There’s always more to learn. Let your heart and mind be open to improving.

1. I find it easier to study at my own pace but since I’m not always a hundred percent motivated, a group study session helps me stay motivated and one study partner lightens the workload.

2. Either you start with the topics you find easier or you start with those you find more difficult than others.

3. To prevent study burn out, take regular breaks. Studying all the time might sound productive, but it is not necessarily a good thing and definitely not healthy at all.

 

Q: Any tips for comprehensive exam takers?

A: With lack of preparation comes failure, but with determination comes success.

  1. You won’t be able to memorize everything, all at once, on the same day. So the earlier you start, the better.
  2. You may get overwhelmed the moment you see all your reading materials from the first until the final semester, so it’s best to reorganize your notes from all classes and create a study schedule per subject.
  3. Past compre exams are always useful but try to anticipate potential questions and refer back to questions raised in class.
  4. For exam proper, read instructions, understand each question carefully and make sure you answer is responsive to the question. It’s important to be organized – give examples and have a beginning and an end essay type.
  5. The MPA Comprehensive Exam is a 2-day exam, 8 hour each day from 9 AM to 5 PM. It’s really hard, actually the most difficult exam I’ve ever taken in my entire life. BUT I really prepared for it. I studied in the UP Main Library from 8 AM until midnight for weeks. I reviewed all my notes and readings not just once, but twice or even thrice.

 

Q: How to get high grades?

A: The older I get, the more I realize that grades are not everything. There is more to life than academic achievements. Keep in mind that your mental well-being is way more important than getting good grades.

But to answer your question, self-discipline is the answer. Practice discipline and use it later on as a weapon to think and analyze more. It is completely okay not to believe everything you’ve been taught in school. You have the right to question anything you feel the need to. You have the right to criticize and challenge tyrannical practices and injustices. Again, you have the right to question any information you think is incorrect.

 

Q: What advice do you have for young people?

A: One mistake does not define your whole life. As the saying goes, a mistake only hurts you if you do not learn from it.

  1. Stay grounded. No matter how well you do in life or how successful you think you are, bear in mind that there is always room for improvement.
  2. Move forward into progress, embrace change and get past your fears.
  3. In order to reach your full potential, you must be willing to serve, work hard, walk alone, be different, try, and fail and try again.
  4. Finally, know your purpose and be driven by it. Don’t do anything for the sake of doing it. Don’t live only for yourself, but rather be motivated by love for God and for our country.

There you go! I hope you find the advice in this FAQ guide useful and if you have anything you would like to add, feel free to write a comment below.

No caption could adequately capture the amount of gratitude in my heart.

Maraming salamat, UP! I am eternally grateful.

To my Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the fullness of Your grace, for the countless blessings, and for never leaving my side.

To all my professors, family, friends, and readers, thank you so much for believing in me. Thank you for the unending love, support, motivation and encouragement.

 Lagi’t lagi, para sa Diyos at para sa bayan! Glory to God!

Monina M. Nuguid

Master of Public Administration

Major in Public Policy and Program Administration

University of the Philippines, Diliman

 

Best Graduate Research Paper (2017)

University Scholar – 1.08 GWA

       

 

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