This website requires JavaScript.

‘WORK SMART, NOT HARD’: UP Diliman Chemical Engineering Freshman Impresses With Flat 1 General Weighted Average

‘WORK SMART, NOT HARD’: UP Diliman Chemical Engineering Freshman Impresses With Flat 1  General Weighted Average
Chemical Engineering student Sachika Azumi Saguisa

Are you a student who’s struggling with your subjects? This University of the Philippines (UP) freshman may serve as your inspiration on how to study better.

In her first year of college, Chemical Engineering student Sachika Azumi Saguisa kickstarted her journey with flying colors as she got an impressive general weighted average (GWA) of 1.000 during her first and second semesters in UP-Diliman – a feat that most students would aspire to attain.

Netizens took notice of the 19-year-old’s achievement when the Facebook page of the Gabay Isko organization posted her grades last July 18. The post immediately went viral after posting.

While she has exceptional grades, Saguisa admitted that her first year in college was not smooth sailing, especially when she entered the university amid the challenging blended learning modality due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like other students, she also had courses that she found too difficult in the first and second semesters. According to Saguisa, Filipino and chemistry (or Chem 17)  were the “hardest” courses she encountered.

"Filipino has always been a struggle for me, and all of my friends know this,” Saguisa, who was born half-Japanese, told The Philippine STAR / OneNews.PH on July 30. When it comes to her chemistry subject, the freshman student described it as “notoriously difficult.”

Apart from this, she admitted that she felt anxious as she did not have any friends when she started her first year.

“I remember crying for three whole weeks because I had a rough start; I entered [the College of Engineering] with no friends at all,” she recounted.

Despite facing struggles, she managed to beat the odds and ace all her subjects with her hard work. "To be honest, I didn't expect it at all, but I was hopeful. I felt like I had a chance because I know how hard I worked for those grades," Saguisa said.

Saguisa also managed to make new friends along her journey, calling them her “best support system.”

Aside from academics, Saguisa also shared one life lesson from her teachers: “I realized how important it is to have someone to talk to, even though it is not about academics.”

“I definitely survived because of communication, especially with teachers. You can always approach them as long as you respect their consultation hours,” she said.

‘Work smart, not hard’

So what’s her secret to maintaining her impressive grades? For Saguisa, she’s a big believer of this approach: “work smart, not hard.”

"I value efficiency among others because ‘work smart, not hard’ has always been my motto. You don't have to spend your entire day studying," she said.

According to Saguisa, she prefers to study “at most convenient times and (at her) most convenient duration.”

“On some days, I find myself working for two hours straight and some days just 10 minutes, and that's alright," she added.

While some students work all night to accomplish academic requirements, Saguisa noted that prioritizing sleep improves her efficiency in doing her tasks.

"I grew up with chronic insomnia; sleep has always been the last thing on my list. But I promise you, your performance and efficiency will improve if you get enough sleep," she said.

Saguisa stressed that maintaining a study-life balance includes coping mechanisms against the draining studies and other extracurricular duties one has to do.

Saguisa said she spends her free time with the things she is passionate about –  music and arts.

“I learned (to play) quite a few instruments growing up like the flute, piano, lyre, guitar, ukulele, and drums (still learning this one). I also enjoy digital art! I usually produce publicity materials for my organizations,” she added.


Due to her sudden popularity on social media following her exceptional achievement, Saguisa admitted it also added pressure on her.

"I have no intention of maintaining a perfect grade, but now it almost feels like a responsibility,” Saguisa said, citing the attention coming from traditional media as well, and expectations from people.

With her feat, some people could not help but compare her to Tiffany Grace Uy, the UP-Diliman Biology major who graduated in 2015 and obtained a GWA of 1.004 – the highest grade in the school's history since World War 2.

How does she feel about the comparison? Saguisa confessed that it became one of the “main sources” of pressure towards her academic performance.

"I think people are giving me more credit than I deserve in terms of intelligence. It is easier for me to accept compliments on diligence or time management because I know exactly what I worked for and how I got there, and ‘natural intelligence’ is definitely not one of them," she explained.

And while she’s been a decorated student during her senior high school years (she graduated with highest honors at Caraga Regional Science High School), Saguisa bared that she was "not much" of an achiever when she was in elementary.

"I always made it to the list (around fifth to seventh place) but it was never my goal to be an achiever," she said.

Change of plans?

Choosing the program that suits one’s interests and goals is one of the challenging aspects of entering college life.

Saguisa noted that her current program is a different track from her first choice when she applied for college in UP Diliman, which was Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Accountancy.

“I am not particularly happy, but I also don’t regret choosing my course. Engineering is the safest option for me as someone who is undecided. I can always dream bigger any time,” she said.

Asked where her motivation is rooted from despite not being happy with her current course, Saguisa credited her mother.

“I find my motivation through my mom. She is trying to give the best educational experience for me, and the least I can do is be grateful for everything she’s done,” she said.

Saguisa bared that her mother is “the only direct family member I have left” as her Japanese father died when she was in Grade 1. “I grew up witnessing how strong she is as a single mother and how hard she tried to provide anything I could ever need.”

Currently, she said she plans to pursue Medicine, adding that the country’s healthcare system amid the pandemic urged her to consider taking that path.

“Hopefully, I can pursue Medicine. It was never my plan to be a doctor, but the pandemic made me see the shortcomings of our healthcare system in the Philippines. I am just one person, but hopefully, I can be an active agent to improve our system,” Saguisa said.

“Medicine is a long road. If not, I might actually settle with my degree and work as a chemical engineer,” she added.