My Best Foot Forward


Writing things on the Internet is generally not hard for me. I mean, geez, I’m growing up in the most “techy” period in all of history, so I should be used to just typing away, right? I guess the difference is that instead of talking about my day or that really awesome sandwich I had for lunch, I’m now talking about something really important.

So go ahead. Think back to this morning when you had to decide to roll out of your bed, and, oh yeah, remember those three minutes you spent haphazardly putting together an outfit that was presentable, and try to justify why you woke up, why you chose to wear that particular outfit. It’s easy, isn’t it? Maybe you liked the color combinations and maybe you woke up because you had some errands to run. Of course, this is just one scenario out of millions, but each circumstance is the same—easy to justify. It’s simply logical to you—why you did what you did.

But what about the things that aren’t so easy to justify—the decisions you have to make with limited information? Are you so decisive then? Are your intentions exactly clear? Before I start to sound like an end slate of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or that yellowed book you have to read in English class, I’ll jump in to my story, but please keep in mind that it’s really quite hard to be decisive, to justify something, when you don’t have the whole picture.

I found out that I was a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar a few months ago after a long (and sweaty) Cross Country practice. I’ll talk more about this later, but for now, let’s just say that I had no idea how difficult a decision I would have to be making in the near future. Now, before you begin to roll your eyes at “difficult decisions,” I’d like to point out that I’m talking about the word difficult in a relative sense. Sure, difficult as in a “First World problem,” but trust me, your brain will register the same emotional response to any stressful or unknown situation.

You might have guessed that I’m talking about the National College Match process, the tangle of rankings and agreements and bindings that you’re not too sure you completely understand yet. It’s really not that complicated of a thing, but it seems so important to me that I guess I made it difficult for myself. I was responsible for picking eight “things” out of a total of thirty-five “things.” Well, that should be relatively easy, I thought to myself. I make far more than eight decisions a day. I can do this.

Surprisingly, YouTube made picking eight colleges to “rank” incredibly difficult. See, I went to YouTube to procrastinate, as all good high school students do, but I left the website with a problem much bigger than a bout of procrastination—I finally was beginning to realize how serious of a commitment “binding” to a school is. I stumbled across Yale’s Class Day 2012 video, which I’ll link here. Seeing that display of creativity for whatever reason allowed me to see myself at Yale. This worried me because, I’ll just go ahead and say it, MIT is my dream school. For the past two years, I’ve obsessed over the student blogs on MIT’s website, and it almost felt to me like going there, living there, studying there, could be real.

Here I thought that I knew what I wanted, and now I’m suddenly the “star-crossed lover” beaming for Yale? Ugh! How can I make eight sensible decisions when I don’t even seem to know my own self? Here’s the truth: I didn’t. I ranked seven partner colleges, and I’m not necessarily sure that I know why I ranked all of the seven. The good people of QuestBridge will tell you to base your decision on the academic programs, the location, and the potential internships. Hey, I even have a friend who ranked her colleges partly based on The Weather Channel forecasts. And all of these (mostly) sensible aspects are important to consider; however, the schools I put down on my list and the order in which I did so, was based in part on YouTube videos. Yeah, I sat down on my couch with some ice cream and a laptop and watched hours of videos, and believe it or not, it became pretty apparent to me which schools I’d fit in at and contribute to. Could you be one of those students, filming his or her dorm room at UChicago, teasing your suitemate?

So now that I’ve scared you away from ranking colleges because it’s apparently difficult and scary and based on Magic 8 balls, let me convince you otherwise. I decided to rank because I wanted “out.” No, I don’t mean that in a stereotypical, rebellious teenage way. I got fed up with the standardized tests, the essays, the interviews, the “why Yale or Stanford university and not any other university?” questions. Like your school cafeteria’s food, the allure of the college application process fades quickly. That’s not to say that I am not thankful that it exists (we could be placed in college or the factory line based on a test score, which happens in places overseas), but the opportunity to “pass GO, collect $200,” and stop the stress of the application process was worth it to me.

This is what submitting a list of match schools does for you—it gives you the opportunity to end the college hunt early, to find some peace in the last few months of high school as your friends worriedly scramble around. I have to stress the word opportunity. Having the opportunity to be matched isn’t like having the “opportunity” to take the SAT; it’s more like having the opportunity to get an “A+” on that paper you wrote at 3:00 AM for the teacher who doesn’t like you. It’s probably not going to happen. But you do it anyway, right? You do it because there’s the slight chance that you might get that “A+.”

In my situation and in my head, attempting to match simply makes sense. It’s a long shot, but it’s best to put my best foot forward. Let’s be cliché here and say that the early bird might just get the worm. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I have to believe that having your application viewed by these prestigious schools under the assumption that you have overcome some sort of economic adversity could give me an upper hand. In Regular Decision, need-blind means that the people reading your application can’t consider you who has nothing any needier than the guy who is fortunate enough to have vacation homes around the world. The QuestBridge College Match is, at point-blank, an advantage. Why would I not take the risk?

Sure, it’s obviously risky to be potentially making “irrevocable decisions” on what college you’ll be attending, where you’ll be spending the next four years of your life, but let’s face it, opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. So be glad that you were born in the era in which QuestBridge exists, and choose those universities at which you can see yourself both attending and contributing.

I’ll talk to you guys next time! Take care, and I hope you’ll follow me and consider what I have to say over the next several months.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant