Irregular student who spent 6.5 years in college top 10 in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineer board exam

MANILA, Philippines – In every journey toward success, one undoubtedly encounters various challenges, trials, and hardships. And upon looking back at how far one has come, it can be said that there is still a long way to go, but you have come a long way. In Filipino, “Malayo pa, pero malayo na.”

Just like the journey to success of Samantha Eve Varilla Arancel, who placed 10th in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineer Licensure Examination (ABELE) held in September 2022, which she exclusively shared with The Summit Express.

Samantha Eve Varilla Arancel
Photo courtesy: Samantha Eve Varilla Arancel

She obtained a score of 83.00 in the mentioned licensure examination, and she was the sole representative from Bulacan Agricultural State College in the province of Bulacan to make it into the top 10.

Samantha narrated some details of her life.

She embarked on her journey in the quaint town of San Rafael, Bulacan. She holds the distinction of being the eldest among three siblings, and she takes pride in being the offspring of Mr. Arnel A. Arancel and Mrs. Ma. Gladys V. Arancel.

She initiated her educational journey at Bulacan Agricultural State College, where she made the choice to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.

Samantha shared that it is still fresh in her memory when she first set foot in their school, starting at the registrar's office.

“The memory of my first day at the college admissions office is still fresh in my mind. The registrar handed me a list of available courses, and there, I found myself contemplating a choice,” she said.

At first, she reportedly intended to take up an Agriculture course, but she got intrigued by the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering program.

“My initial dream was to study ‘Agriculture,' but the long and intriguing title of ‘BS in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering’ gave me pause. To this day, I can't quite pinpoint why I chose this path, especially since I wasn't exactly a math prodigy.”

“One thing I'm certain about is that the ‘LORD NEVER LEFT MY SIDE ON THIS JOURNEY’.”

As per her account, it took her 6.5 years to navigate the highs and lows of engineering, and it resembled a roller coaster journey with its difficulties.

At first, her first year progressed smoothly, with satisfactory grades; however, the second semester of her second year introduced a challenging experience with "Integral Calculus."

This subject marked a turning point in her academic journey when she encountered her first failing grade and transitioned to irregular student status. This period was characterized by a sense of despair and mild depression, as she had never before experienced academic setbacks. It marked the first instance of receiving such a failing grade throughout her entire educational history.

“Throughout my academic life, I had always been an achiever, from elementary school to high school. However, once I entered college and realized the engineering course's difficulty, filled with challenging math and science requirements and a hefty workload, I gradually adjusted my academic expectations,” she said.

Despite this, she was still putting in her best effort every single day, striving to learn and achieve the highest grades possible. But suddenly, her enthusiasm waned when she faced the reality of failing one subject, a prerequisite for many engineering courses.

“This failure changed the course of my life. I became an irregular student, making me ineligible for scholarships due to my irregular unit count, a requirement for financial aid.”

“It was a difficult period, filled with sadness and a desire to escape the daily grind. I felt disheartened and slightly depressed, especially seeing my peers earn honors while I faced a failing grade and irregular status.”

“It took time to move past the disappointment and self-doubt, as I felt like I had let down those who believed in me.”

Nevertheless, the Lord's strength and hope provided her with the resilience to regain her enthusiasm. She accepted her failure, diligently put in daily effort, and assumed a role as a student assistant in the registrar's office, broadening her horizons and building connections with classmates who had encountered similar difficulties.

This journey led her to acquiring fresh experiences, fostering enduring friendships, and uncovering more about her own character.

During this time, she enrolled in summer and midyear classes to make up for the subjects she had missed, but she still couldn't graduate on time. The pandemic in 2020 further complicated matters, preventing them from completing their On-the-Job training due to health concerns.

“It was a journey that spanned 6.5 years, and I was filled with doubt and hopelessness. Could I do it? Could I finish my course? But I didn't give up,” she emphasized.

“I pressed on despite the setbacks, and in the end, I did it! I graduated, even though it was without honors, medals, or certificates, only my diploma in hand.”

“When I graduated, I shared my plans with my parents. I told them I would be taking the board exam the following year, as I was hesitant to rush with just two months to review.”

“My mom was agreeable, but my father seemed unsure. I didn't want to take the board exam immediately after graduation, as it felt rushed with so much to prepare, such as the necessary documents, applications, photos, and the back-and-forth trips to Pampanga to settle everything on.”

“However, due to the encouragement from various people and my co-takers’ eagerness, I eventually made up my mind. I couldn't help but think of a few lines during this time: ‘PASS OR FAILED, AT LEAST I TRIED,’ ‘IF THIS IS FOR ME, IBIBIGAY TO NI LORD SAKIN,’ and ‘SAYANG ANG PANAHON, SAYANG ANG ORAS.’”

On the day of the board exam, she was acutely aware of her incomplete preparation. A substantial amount of material needed studying and revision, and the gravity of the situation weighed heavily on her. Nevertheless, she had no alternative; she had to proceed with the exam.

“Another phrase echoed in my mind: ‘TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT’, so I braced myself to confront the board exam, with the Lord as my steadfast companion,” she stated.

“I carried my faith and trust in God's divine plan with me throughout this challenging journey. Despite my awareness of my shortcomings, I chose to place my trust in the Lord. I knew that if it was His will for me to pass, He would provide the means.”

In the days leading up to the exam, fear and anxiety gripped her.

“I couldn't quite understand my emotions because this was the moment of truth, the judgment day to determine whether I would pass the exam.”

Fear crept in as she acknowledged the brevity of time and her incomplete coverage of essential topics. She had significant gaps in her preparation, compounded by her reliance on self-study. Enrolling in a review center wasn't an option due to her late graduation, and most review centers had already closed their doors.

“The uncertainty loomed large, but my faith in the Lord never wavered. It only grew stronger, and I placed my trust in His plan for me,” she said.

“Privately, within the depths of my own thoughts, I continually manifested my belief that I would attain my license in 2022. I held onto the vision of becoming an Engineer in September 2022, just a few days after my two-day board exam. I persisted in manifesting this goal, even when I lacked any concrete assurance. All I had was my unwavering faith, and I believed that the Lord was right there with me, guiding my path.”

September 20, 2022, had at last come, the eagerly anticipated day of result revelation. She was filled with anxiety, uncertain about how to handle the impending news. She had been well aware of this day's significance for some time. The anxiety was so intense that she made the decision not to disclose this information to her parents or family, concerned about the potential pressure and disappointment they might experience if the outcome didn't meet their expectations.

“The day had arrived, and my anxiety had me drowning in a sea of ‘what-ifs.’ What if I didn't pass the exam? What if my name wasn't on the list? I was overwhelmed with fear and trepidation, but there was no turning back. September 20, 2022 was indeed the day of judgment,” she emphasized.

At precisely 6:15 PM on September 20, 2022, her phone received a notification from the PRC. Without any delay, she instantly recognized that these were the results of her board exam.

“I clicked on the link, my whole body trembling, and my heart racing, as I scrolled through the list, searching for my name.”

“When I found my name, ‘ARANCEL, SAMANTHA EVE VARILLA,’ at #58, tears welled up in my eyes. I checked again to make sure I hadn't read it wrong. But it was real, and I had passed!”

“I was so overwhelmed with joy that I ran to my parents’ room and told them, ‘MA, PA ENGINEER NA AKO!!!’ THANK YOU, LORD! The night was filled with tears of happiness, and the joy my parents felt was inexpressible.

The happiness reached even greater heights when she decided to check the list of topnotchers.

“The first name I saw was mine, #10 ‘ARANCEL, SAMANTHA EVE VARILLA,’ and my school, ‘BULACAN AGRICULTURAL STATE COLLEGE-BULACAN.’ My goodness! My parents were beyond euphoric. That night was a celebration of pure happiness, and we were on cloud nine, knowing that I had not only passed but had also achieved the bonus of being one of the topnotchers! We couldn't thank the Lord enough for all the blessings.”

She added, “While I may not have attained Latin honors or Dean's List recognition, and I faced challenges such as a failing grade, irregular student status, delayed graduation, no medals or certificates during my graduation, I successfully passed the board exam on my first attempt and secured a spot among the topnotchers. TO GOD BE THE HIGHEST GLORY!”

So, what life advice can she give to her fellow board exam takers? She listed down six things to remember:
  • Embrace failure, it is an integral part of life.
  • You will never know unless you try!
  • Success is sweetest if you come across different hurdles and setbacks
  • No matter what, keep going ☺
  • Don’t give up, there’s a wonderful plan for you. Believe it!! and
  • Surround yourself with positive people

She also had given 10 tips and techniques on reviewing.

1. Create a study schedule (print a calendar template and write down there your scheduled subject for that day / week).

2. Organize your materials (notebooks, textbooks, review mats, pen & highlighters, calculator & scratch papers).

3. Don’t memorize, comprehend.

4. Solve, solve, solve, practice, practice, practice.

5. Find a review buddy / group study (4-5 people only as much as possible.

6. Write down all the formulas and equations and post it on the wall.

7. Use flashcards for terminologies.

8. Take breaks (use pomodoro technique).

9. Stay healthy (stay hydrated and eat well).

10. Sleep early (don’t drink too much coffee).

At present, Samantha has not mentioned any specific plans or her next steps as a licensed engineer.

Congratulations, Samantha! Prepare yourself for the “true battle” you will face in your more professional life: becoming a full-fledged agricultural and biosystems engineer!

— Richard, The Summit Express

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