For the uninitiated frosh taking their first steps into the University, college presents itself as an entirely unfamiliar terrain—a place where no one knows your name, so you could rebuild it in however way you want from the ground up. Such self-reinvention is possible in college because of all the freedom that comes with it.
Despite the fact that there are some aspects of student life that feel restricted at best, for most of us, DLSU still presents a degree of freedom that our old high schools never had. From class schedules we can design ourselves, to finally being able to bring electronics to school without having to hide them away for fear of confiscation, freshmen are thrown into this suddenly-much-more-liberal environment, and are expected to naturally acclimate to the college scene.
That expectation to adapt may be a much taller order for some. The gap between the high school and college experience is particularly big for those of us who came from more conservative schools. For Romel Saysay (III, MEM-MR), however, the transition wasn’t particularly difficult, although he couldn’t help but compare the two.
A welcome switch
Having graduated from Philippine Science High School’s Bicol campus, Romel is no stranger to stringent rules. Since the school was located in a relatively remote area, most students lived in dorms on-campus. A strict curfew was enforced, and room-hopping after hours was a serious offense that you did not want to be caught committing.
These rules being so rigid and followed to the letter set the tone for the school’s general vibe: cautious. Since students were on campus all hours of the day, there was a constant air of vigilance, in the hopes that you don’t somehow commit an offense. “We ended up following the rules because of it,” Romel concedes, “But it was hard because your classmates wouldn’t hesitate to report you if you did anything wrong.”
All gadgets, such as phones, tablets, and laptops, were to be declared and surrendered to school authorities, only to be used during the designated study hours. The school didn’t have the best Wi-Fi, and with the use of electronics being limited, the library was the student body’s best friend. Acting alongside these limitations was the constant pressure to perform better—to be among the best and brightest students in the country. When asked about these expectations and hardships that came with going to a science high school, Romel shrugged it off, saying “It’s Pisay, and I signed up for it.”
While he says adjusting to college life wasn’t in any way a challenge, he did note that he felt a distinct shift in focus. Pisay had honed in on his academic development, but had also left the other aspects of his life behind. Romel likened this to a “trade-off” that left him a little unprepared for college’s many social norms. Fortunately, he notes that DLSU challenged, and continues to challenge, his personal development, which he has just now started to establish.
Too much assumption
Now for people like Ella*, a first year International Studies student, transitioning from the rather ridiculous confines of her high school’s strict policies wasn’t merely a shift from one place to another, but a release into what should always have been her natural habitat.
“My high school was, I believe, stricter than other private Catholic all girls schools. We weren’t allowed to bring phones or any kind of gadget. If we did, we would have to secure a gadget permit that states our guardian allowed us to bring it to school. Soirees with all boys schools were prohibited too. As for the dress code, we also weren’t allowed to wear skirts or dresses that go above our knees or outfits that reveal even an inch of our skin.”
Ella recalls a particular incident during one of her high school’s annual fairs when a few students were caught wearing ripped jeans were asked to hide the exposed parts of their legs with tape. “It seems so ridiculous when you think about it,” She says.
Well, she doesn’t have to tell us twice. The gadget ban sounds a hundred times more bearable than this hideous fashion faux pas.
The search for a silver lining
Though the rigid list of rules and regulations did help Ella learn the value of obeying rules, she had a thing or two to say about them. “I agree that gadgets can be a source of distraction, but I don’t agree with the gadget permit rule. That rule did nothing but encourage students to bring their phones and hide it somewhere in the back of their skirts or tape it to their clear folders. I also believe that the strictness of my school made me become fearful of authority. Because as a kid, you’re made to think that you should always follow what the authority figure says. You’re taught to believe that if you disagree with authority, you’re disrespecting them. However, as I entered high school, I realized that not everything adults tell you is true.”
Is learning the value of obeying rules the only silver lining in this game of follow (or don’t follow) the leader? For Ella, there was one more thing. “My high school’s strictness benefited me in a sense that it taught me how to think for myself. It made me question the values and beliefs they imposed on the students.”
Freedom of expression, people
College is a much more liberal setting compared to high school (especially those high schools like the one Ella went to). Is freedom of expression something that should be awarded only after a certain age? Or should the liberty to showcase all the eclectic aspects of oneself a right that should be claimed by everyone regardless of age?
“It’s important that we let children or teenagers be free in expressing themselves or doing what they want to, but let them know that they have their limits as well,” Ella says. “As long as they aren’t doing anything that can cause harm to others or to themselves, I don’t see why we should stop them for doing what makes them happy. Being too strict in everything kids do can cause them to rebel. I think that’s what happened to a lot of people who went to the same high school as me. I think college helped them express themselves in a way they couldn’t when they were in high school. As soon as they went to college, they did the things they couldn’t do when they were still in high school. It’s sad when you think about it because high school is the time when you want to discover yourself and the world. It’s hard to think for yourself when these different values are being forced down your throat.”
Though Ella says she doesn’t look back at her high school’s rigidity with as much hate as her batchmates do, there was something in particular she did not hesitate to make known. “I disagree with the close-minded and hypocritical views they taught us. I hope that they stop imposing these views on young, naive children and allow them to think for themselves.”
Bikinis, swearing, and double black
Diana*, who is also a first year International Studies student like Ella, is no stranger to rules set in stone. She divulges a few of the brow-raising policies her high school made sure were followed to a tee. “[S]tudents could not post pictures on social media in a bikini even when they are at a beach. Swearing online is also not tolerated and if the students do so, screenshots of their posts will be printed out and given to their parents. If we break any of these rules, we could get a formal warning which will end up in our permanent record and we would have to do community service. The year we were going to graduate, a couple of my high school batchmates were talking about bringing “double black” to an 18th birthday party and a teacher apparently overheard and told our advisor who gave us a long talk on it as if she was condemning it.”
Students of graduating classes at Diana’s high school are not allowed to march during the highly anticipated graduation ceremony if they are found to have broken the rules. So let us get this straight…no bikini shots on Insta, borderline FBI spying on students’ posts and comments online, and no double black? It almost sounds like Diana and Ella went to the same high school!
To some, the strict nature of schools like the one Diana went to may seem more good than bad. Is it really? Or does it do more harm than good? In Diana’s case, it was more of a stifling experience than a learning one. “My high school’s strict nature affected me negatively because I could not express myself freely, especially online. I was not allowed to voice out any of my opinions on issues because I was afraid of being sent to the office for doing so. I had to keep my thoughts to myself for years which was extremely difficult.”
Diana even tells of an instance when a DJ was invited to her school’s fair, and as she and her friends were having a good time, security intervened, separating the boys from the girls. Diana says that after this incident, it was bye-bye DJs. “A similar thing happened during our prom but our teacher stopped the music, grabbed a microphone and then proceeded to (sic) reminded everyone of the proper decorum during prom. It was mortifying.”
Experiences like these no doubt leave a lasting impression on a person. In Diana’s case, the mark that her high school’s unbending, inflexible, and stiff set of rules, left on her was not one that deserved to be easily dismissed. “The school being tremendously strict is not something I will ever appreciate. There are many girls I know who came from my school that rebelled when they got out of that school and I have witnessed some of it. If I could choose any school in the country to send my future children to, it would not be the one I went to high school to. I do not want my children to experience what I did in that school. When I graduated, I was finally happy to say goodbye and to never step foot in that place ever again.”
Though a few of them seemed too far-fetched to be taken seriously, these experiences are real-life and no doubt have long-lasting effects on people who go through them, which is probably why some people more than just gravitate towards the liberal atmosphere of college, but end up running to it as a haven–some sort of “safe place” where they are “allowed to express…rather than be constricted to a mindset where [they] are forced to have a certain belief,” as Diana puts it.
Rigidly ridiculous? Ridiculously rigid? Or both?
All that being said, is the rigidity of schools when it comes to rules and policies being followed something that benefits students in the long run? Maybe in some way, it equips them with a regard for the rules which, in actuality, helps them do well in life. Or maybe it’s just plain ridiculous.
But then again, who knows? Tape and ripped jeans might be a thing one day. Just not in our lifetime. We’re begging you.
*Names with asterisk (*) are pseudonyms