How To Choose a Course in UP: A Guide to Quota and Non-Quota Courses

Every year, thousands of students take the entrance exam to get into the University of the Philippines (UP), one of the top universities in the Philippines.

Besides academic prestige, the university also offers the largest selection of undergraduate degree programs in the Philippines, spread across the eight UP constituent universities around the country. 

If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably one of the many hopeful students fighting for the chance to study at UP. You may have heard or read somewhere that, to increase your chances of getting into UP, you must choose a non-quota course instead of a quota course. However, some also say that this type of strategy is ineffective and will offer a different set of tips.

To set the record, we’ll be discussing the truths and myths behind quota and non-quota courses in UP. If you’re still in the process of choosing which course to apply for, we’ll also discuss different tips and strategies to pick out the right course for you.

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Quota vs. Non-Quota Course

Quota courses are usually popular course choices for students, making these courses harder to get into because of the limited slots and the resulting competition. On the other hand, non-quota courses refer to courses that can accommodate any or a considerable amount of students. A common misconception for non-quota courses is that they are easier to apply for because a student is “guaranteed” a spot upon passing the college entrance exam.


Myths About Quota and Non-Quota Courses in UP

1. “Quota” courses and “double quota” courses

In truth, all courses in UP are quota courses. This is simply because there will always be a limited number of teaching professionals and facilities for each course. Although some courses can cater to a larger number of students than other courses, there is no course (even outside UP) that can accommodate an unlimited number of students.

Quota courses are usually the more popular courses that students apply for or shift into. Since there are only a limited number of slots, applicants are usually ranked and only those who make it through the cut-off are accepted.

“Double quota courses” is a non-technical term used to describe quota courses that are even harder to get into. In a later section, we’ll list down some of the hardest courses to get into for each UP campus.

2. “Choosing a non-quota course will increase your chances of getting into UP”

When I was applying for UP, this was one of the many advice I received from a lot of people. Because of this, I didn’t put the courses I wanted out of fear of not getting into UP if I did.

Your course choice won’t affect your chances of getting into UP. However, multiple factors do. To give you an idea of how these factors weigh in on your chances, check out the next section.


The UPCAT Screening Process

Every year, hundreds of thousands of applicants take the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) to get a shot at studying in UP. However, only less than 15% of the takers are successful. The low acceptance rate is because UP can only provide for a much smaller student populace than the number of applicants.

Upon applying for the UPCAT, you will be asked to choose your first and second choices for UP campuses, followed by your top 4 course choices for each campus.

Once you’ve finished the UPCAT, you will receive your University Predicted Grade (UPG), which is a combination of your UPCAT score and the average of your high school grades. Your UPG is the main qualifying factor for studying at UP. 

The UP System will first rank the applicants’ UPGs against each other. After ranking the applicants, the system will then look at each applicant’s (starting from the top of the rank) UP campus choices and check whether their UPG falls within the campus’s cut-off grade.

If their UPG falls within the cut-off of their first choice of campus, they will be granted a slot on that campus. Once they’ve been assigned a campus, the system will now look at their course choices and check the availability of slots for each one. 

Note: Take note that the system will consider the top 1 course choice first before moving onto the next choices. If a slot is available for the top 1 course choice, the system will not check the other choices anymore.

Different UP campuses have different cut-off grades. The cut-off grades are mostly based on the number of applicants for that campus. Simply put, if a UP campus has a considerably higher number of applicants than other campuses, they will have a higher cut-off grade.

The cut-off grades can change every year depending on different factors in the UPCAT application process. To give you an idea, here are the cut-off grades for the 2020 UPCAT:

how to appeal upcat result 1

Degree Program With Available Slot (DPWAS)

There are some cases where an applicant passes for their UP campus, but not for their chosen courses. When this happens, a student is tagged with the Degree Program with Available Slot (DPWAS) status

Students who are DPWAS are still allowed to enroll in the campus assigned to them. However, they must first look for a course with available slots that they can enroll for. The list of courses with available slots is usually released a few days after successful UPCAT takers have confirmed their slots. 

The DPWAS students can then apply for the courses on the list in hopes of being accepted. However, it’s important to know that you aren’t guaranteed a slot in the course you applied for. This is because you will also be competing with fellow DPWAS students for the slots.

As a DPWAS applicant, let me share my personal experience: Upon hearing the news that I passed the UPCAT, I was really happy. However, I was also anxious because of the fact that I didn’t even have a course. Once the course list came out, I chose a course that I thought I would be interested in. After a year in the course and lots of thinking, I decided it wasn’t the course for me and shifted to another course. However, I know a lot of fellow DPWAS students who learned to love their courses and stay in them.


List of In-Demand Courses in UP

Here is a list of the most in-demand courses for some UP campuses based on student feedback and demand for these courses throughout the years. Take note that the demand for these courses may shift depending on the job market and the status of different industries.

UP Diliman

  1. BS Business Administration and Accountancy
  2. BS Business Administration
  3. BS Civil Engineering
  4. BS Biology
  5. BS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

UP Manila

  1. BS Biology
  2. BS Biochemistry
  3. BS Nursing
  4. BS Dental Medicine
  5. BS Computer Science

UP Los Baños

  1. BS Civil Engineering
  2. BS Chemical Engineering
  3. BS Computer Science
  4. BS Electrical Engineering
  5. BS Nutrition

UP Visayas

  1. BS Accountancy
  2. BS Chemical Engineering
  3. BS Business Administration
  4. BS Computer Science
  5. BS Statistics

Important reminder: Even if the course/s you want to pursue is/are in the list, don’t be disheartened. Always include the course/s you want in your course choices. There will always be a chance for you. 


How To Choose a Course in UP: 4 Tips

Now that we’ve established which is real and fiction when it comes to choosing your courses in UP, here are some tips that may help you make a decision: 

1. Follow your passion

This is the most cliche advice you will hear, but it’s also the truest one. Choose a course that you have a genuine interest in. By doing so, studying for your course will seem less like a chore and more like enriching your hobby.

2. Don’t count your eggs before they hatch

That is, don’t choose courses based on the salaries of its job prospects. This is a common mistake that a lot of students make. Oftentimes, students later realize that they are unhappy with their current course because there’s no genuine interest and consider shifting.

Every course has the potential to land you a great job. However, your course will not determine your success in the future– your skills and hard work will.

3. Find out if you can handle the nature of the coursework

Different courses offer different experiences. Before applying for a course, make sure you’re compatible with the nature of the coursework. Some courses may require you to be physically fit to go on field works, while some courses will have you staring at the computer screen most of the time. 

4. Look at what’s in demand

Take some time and research which fields are booming and which ones are declining. You could also look out for career paths that are considered as niche and those that are oversaturated.

Whatever you choose, always remember that success is achievable in any field, depending on the person.


What Do I Do if I Don’t Get My Chosen Course?

So what if you didn’t get your dream course and you still want to pursue it? Don’t fret. Even though it may take a bit longer, there are different ways you can achieve your goals. 

1. For DPWAS students

As mentioned earlier, DPWAS students need to wait for the list of courses with available degree programs before they can enroll. Depending on the course you want, there’s a chance that the course will be on the list. Every year, a lot of students don’t follow through with their UP application. Because of this, the vacant slots will be up for grabs. 

However, if your dream course isn’t on the list, you can also consider the succeeding options below.

2. Shifting

Shifting means that you are transferring from your current course to another course. This means that you also shift to a different UP campus that has your desired course.

Take note that you can only shift out after completing one academic year in your current course. To know more about the different types of shiftees and the shifting process in UP, check out this article.

3. Transferring

Transferring is recommended to those who didn’t pass the UPCAT, but still want to pursue their college education in UP. Similar to shifting, you can only apply for transfer after one academic year.

Related: The Ultimate UPCAT Reviewer (with Free Practice Tests and Answer Keys)

Ruth Raganit

Ruth Raganit obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the University of the Philippines – Diliman. Her love affair with Earth sciences began when she saw a pretty rock and wondered how it came to be. She also likes playing video games, doing digital art, and reading manga.

20 thoughts on “How To Choose a Course in UP: A Guide to Quota and Non-Quota Courses

  1. I’m rooting for all the deserving students in UP. Padayon lang! Don’t be disheartened if you don’t pass now. There will always be other ways. Puhon.

    1. Still undecided what course to take in college. It’s going near but idk what to take in college. UP-Diliman is my dream university. Hoping to pass the UPCAT in God’s will:)

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