How I Almost Got Scammed

About two weeks ago, in my thirst for higher education, knowledge, and credentials, I almost got scammed by an organization miles away from where I am. It’s a good thing that I had the presence of mine to have become alerted by what you would call “red flags” that would indicate a diploma mill. I thank God for having given me enough wisdom not to be ensnared by the Atlantic International University.

For those who know me, I only had private lessons as my formal training in music (piano and guitar), and everything else I know I have learned on my own through stacks of music textbooks, the times I sneaked into a music conservatory library, stacks of sheet music, numerous recordings, concert attendances, band experience, and experimentation. Such effort has led me to become the freelancing professional that I am now. However, I wanted to take this to a more advanced level, and so for years I had searched for ways where I can manage to get a conservatory-equivalent education while keeping up with the demands of daily life. Unfortunately for me, I stumbled across Atlantic International University. It was a regrettable experience to have crossed paths with them.

I made an inquiry about their online degree program in music via email. I never expected to get such a fast reply. I even received a phone call regarding getting admitted into their university. The admissions department of AIU called me up late night for an interview. What happened next made me suspicious about the organization. They said they were a university based in Hawaii.

I shot straight to the point and asked about fees, scholarships, and financial assistance. Ms. Meyers positively responded that they had a partial scholarship. What shocked me was the fact that they wanted me to either pay the program fee in full or go under a financing plan that required me to pay an enrollment/reservation fee within 24 hours to make sure that I can avail a scholarship of $1,500. They seem to be very hungry for money if they wanted me to pay immediately without any sort of competence testing for a scholarship or a more rigorous interview process.

I looked at their website and they are not accredited. I tried to see if they had a curriculum structure similar to what I see in reputable schools like Berklee; they had none. I did some more digging and I found out the sad truth: Atlantic International University is a diploma mill according to a variety of sources I have read. Its astonishing to see how easily I have been approved for a scholarship. Add to that the fact that the “university” is nudging me to pay them $150 within 24 hours sounds fishy.

To cut the long story short, I sent AIU an email stating that I wasn’t interested anymore.

If you stumble across Atlantic International University, FLEE IMMEDIATELY! You’ve been warned.

There are many times when we can get caught up in many things that we want along with the excitement that various prospects bring. Such elation can lead to rash decisions that we more than likely to regret some time later. It pays well to pause, step back, and then make a logical evaluation of things before making a decision. Most important of all is a prayer to God before making a decision. Proverbs 14:15 (KJV) says, “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” On a later chapter, Proverbs 21:5 (Again KJV) states that “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” We ought not to be hasty or be swayed by emotion; otherwise, we fall, and falling hurts really bad.

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Memories of ROTC: A Big Waste of Time

I remember being a college kid once and also recall that much of the time I spent in the University of Santo Tomas was a big waste of time. One of the largest contributors to time wastage was a Sunday requirement called ROTC.

ROTC, short for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, was a mandatory course when I was enrolled in the University. This was around 1997 so much has changed since then (especially after the Mark Welson Chua murder case). For two years, I had to wake up early Sunday mornings to get dressed in shabby military garb and run to USTs field for “training” regarding military discipline. What I did find out was it only took what could have been fruitful years of my life.

All 1st and 2nd year male students of the University were required to attend approximately 12 Sundays per academic semester. A relatively select few become involved in special units while the rest of us were treated like crap. And like crap, all that we learned was to stand up and sit down under the heat of the sun or the occasional drizzle of rain. For 12 Sundays a semester, our routine was to stand up, sit down, march around a little bit, buy crappy food, and (if we’re lucky, that is) be taught some ceremonial gun wielding. Combat skills learned: ZERO. Some military training huh? This is the “Bahala Na” (let chance take over), “Pwede Na” (that’ll do) mediocrity cultural¬† mentality at work.

ROTC’s intention was to supplement the military with pawns in case the Philippines was involved in a major war. It has that high and mighty aspiration that given the chance, you’ll be called out to fight for your country, be a hero and all that crap that politicians want you to believe. But what good does standing and sitting all day do to train good soldiers? We occasionally had calisthenic exercises for that matter but in my experience, I had not learned to handle a rifle in a combat situation during the time I spent at the ROTC. I have years of experience training in martial arts so I definitely know what it takes to train a warrior; ROTC in the Philippines wouldn’t compare to that. I have relatives serving in the Philippine Navy, and based on their stories about real military training, the kind of thing they hand out in ROTC is a big load of bull. In a real wartime situation, those drafted from the ROTC would be nothing more than mere human shields. This is what taking MS11 and MS12 (the subject code for Military Science) has taught me. Now you tell me if that isn’t a waste of time.

Fast forward to 1998 and I enrolled for MS21 and MS22. This time, I had the option of going for alternative units. Since I couldn’t get a slot to go for a unit called CWS, who were required to provide civil service for only 6 Sundays a semester, I was eventually placed in LES (Law Enforcement Service). This unit aims to teach students some things regarding being in law enforcement in the Philippines. Like the last year, I learned nothing.

So, what did we actually do in LES? Sit and lie down on the asphalt, have an energy drink, maybe a cup of taho (it’s watery silken tofu with caramel and tapioca pearls) and smoke our lungs out to oblivion. Did learn any facet of police work. Nuh uh! I did this for 24 Sundays of that year, but because the ROTC screwed up my records for MS22, I didn’t get a passing mark. So much for attendance.

Not passing MS22 gave me something to worry about during my later years in college as I would not be able to graduate without it. It’s a good thing though that when I was about to graduate, the policy was changed to what’s called the National Service Training Program (NSTP) which only required a year to complete. As a result of that policy revision, since I was “officially” able to complete more than a year’s equivalent of NSTP, I no longer had to pursue finishing MS22. My cousin wasn’t so lucky though as he had to complete his program in Fort Bonifacio prior to the implementation of NSTP.

So now that I’m a parent, I would make sure that my son, when he approaches that age, would not have to waste his time on such an utterly useless program. Might as well he go the CWS route to complete his requirements, but that would be in the next 8 years or so. A lot of things might change and so I’ll have to wait and see. Again, the bottom line is that in my experience, ROTC is a waste of time.