He has 2 degrees from 2 universities – both with honors
MANILA, Philippines — The University of the Philippines in Diliman had a record-high 54 summa cum laude graduates who received their well-earned diplomas last Sunday. One of them was Timothy Jason “TJ” Simeon.
Unlike many of the graduates, however, this was Simeon’s second college degree — and the second time he got a Latin honor, finishing summa cum laude. Back in 2010, he got his first degree, in Management Engineering, from the Ateneo de Manila University, finishing as a magna cum laude.
Getting into a course that involves a lot of computation
Even at a young age, Simeon loved mathematics — a subject he excelled at in elementary and high school. This, coupled with his interests in drawing, made him want to pursue architecture.
“During my elementary and high school days in Xavier School, I found myself excelling in math, particularly calculus,” Simeon told INQUIRER.net. “I remember my math teacher telling me I have potential after getting perfect in a calculus exam. That planted the idea to take a degree that involved a lot of computation.”
Because of his performance in Xavier School, Simeon got invited in 2006 to the Ateneo Junior Summer Seminar program, which gave top high school students from various institutions nationwide the opportunity to take college-level courses.
Having finished the program, Simeon automatically gained admission to the Ateneo’s Bachelor of Science in Management Engineering course — on top of a full scholarship grant for graduating in Xavier School as class valedictorian.
Simeon faced a dilemma, however: He had also passed the UP College Admission Test.
He would eventually choose to go to Ateneo.
“Xavier and Ateneo are both Jesuit schools so it was an easy adjustment from high school to college, especially in terms of culture and values,” Simeon said. “I actually found the college schedule relaxed compared to the 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily schedule of high school.”
“I suddenly had a lot of time for extracurricular activities, such as being a tenor member of the Bukas Palad Music Ministry, and organizational work, such as being an officer of the Ateneo Youth Christian Life Community,” he added.
College was not all good times for Simeon as he had his fair share of struggles in some subjects he took — particularly accounting and operations research.
With hard work, Simeon was able to get his Management Engineering degree, graduating magna cum laude.
“My Jesuit education taught me the value of Magis — to do more — not just for myself, but more importantly, for others and ultimately for God,” Simeon said.
“It was this disposition of giving my all and being the best version of myself that I was able to finish my Ateneo degree as a magna cum laude. Ateneo taught me to find God in all things and it was in my academic work, social work, and the music ministry that I was able to do so,” he added.
Back in school: Road to the second degree
After finishing his studies in Ateneo, Simeon worked for five years before his father, who’s also an engineer, urged him to return to school and strive for a second degree.
“My dad, as an engineer, sparked the idea of taking Civil Engineering as a second degree, given how the construction industry is growing in the country,” Simeon said.
“UP immediately came to mind because it was one of my what if’s back in Ateneo. I’ve always wondered how different my college life would be if I had chosen UP over Ateneo. And as the country’s premier state university, UP was the instant choice,” he added.
Despite his previous experience as an undergraduate student, which helped him become more mature in handling personal matters and balancing them with studies, Simeon admitted that working for his second degree was also hard.
“It was both easier and harder taking my second degree. It was harder adjusting back to college life after spending 5 years working in the office. At work, I didn’t have to worry about my job beyond the working hours. I had the weekends to relax,” Simeon said.
“One of the biggest challenges entering as a second degree was that I didn’t have a college block or friends from high school. During my first semester, I found myself eating alone during breaks and studying alone in the library,” he recalled.
Unlike many students, Simeon also has a pressure to live up to his magna cum laude honors back in Ateneo. Simeon used this as an inspiration to fuel him to strive for more.
“Entering UP, I made it a personal goal to finish the degree as a magna cum laude similar to my first degree. I knew I had the academic competencies to excel but I was testing the waters how I would do in the engineering field,” he said.
And he did achieve his goal — surpassed it, even.
Simeon received his Civil Engineering degree, graduating summa cum laude, at UP last Sunday.
“It was with hard work and the support from my parents, friends, and org mates that I was able to reach summa cum laude,” he said. “My parents are the proudest after knowing I made it. They pushed me and motivated me throughout the last 4 years so this achievement is theirs to share too.”
Time management is key
Simeon’s secret to achieving his magna cum laude and summa cum laude honors is not a secret after all: It’s all about time management. He planned his week ahead and kept a to-do list.
“Time management is key and knowing when to take breaks is important. The number one enemy in any course work is cramming. I avoid studying the night before an exam or starting projects close to the deadline. I study as early as one week before an exam and do projects as early as I can,” Simeon said.
Taking a break, however, proved to be important.
“Taking breaks to pamper yourself is also important. I turn to my mobile games to relax myself, especially when I’m overwhelmed with a lot of stress and pressure from the deadlines,” Simeon said.
Getting two degrees has taught Simeon not to be afraid to take chances — a message that he wants to share with other people who are afraid to go outside their comfort zone.
“I encountered a lot of students taking a degree that they weren’t really sure of,” he said. “My advice is to not be afraid to explore during college. Take advantage of the general education units and enlist subjects that spark interest. ”
(Editor: Alexander T. Magno)
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