By Karen Galarpe

I craned my neck to scan the crowd for a familiar face. So many high school seniors have been spilling out onto the sidewalk on Taft Avenue in Manila right after they took the De La Salle University College Entrance Test (DLSUCET) last Sunday night. Some of them were smiling, while some looked serious.

Ang hirap naman ng exam! Puro word problems! Mas madali pa ang ACET!” one guy said, talking to someone on his cellphone. (The ACET refers to the Ateneo College Entrance Test.)

Madali lang. Mas mahirap pa ang ACET, pero pinakamahirap ang UPCAT,” said my son when we finally met up. (UPCAT, on the other hand, is the University of the Philippines College Admission Test.)

I found it sweet to see a mom smiling from ear to ear as her daughter was telling her something. And then there was the touching scene where a daughter held on to her dad’s arm, a latte in the other hand, while they walked. She was talking about the exam animatedly, while her dad beamed from ear to ear.

This has been the pattern, more or less, for the past few months as many college hopefuls have started taking those competitive college entrance exams at the country’s top universities. Parents would anxiously wait right outside exam venues, and would be all ears to find out how their children did.

At the University of the Philippines (UP) campus last August, thousands of parents and family members (with some of them even bringing their pet dogs as well) congregated outside UPCAT venues throughout the campus as the examinees went out. The anxiety written on parents’ faces would change to pride and joy as soon as their sons and daughters emerged from the gates.

The same scenario was seen in the next exam, that of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) that same month. Then it was replicated at the Ateneo de Manila University last September and DLSU last Sunday. Before the month is over, UST will have its second UST Entrance Test (USTET) for high school seniors.

If students are nervous about these tests, so are their parents, believe me. Every parent wants only the best for her child, and a good education, they say, is the best legacy a parent can give. Of course, most parents want their children to get the best university education there is, thus the shared anxiety during this season.

Come January next year, expect to see ecstatic status messages on Facebook from parents of college hopefuls as universities start releasing the lists of those who got admitted to their campuses. To see one’s child get into the university of his dreams – that would be a milestone along with the great moments of all time: the day a child made his first step, celebrated his first birthday, went to school for the very first time, attended his first prom, and graduated from high school. Someday, in the far far future, we hope, would be the first relationship, the wedding, and the first grandchild for us. But that seems like light years away. For now, there is college, and so we wait.