When I first heard of QuestBridge, I thought it was too good to be true. I was largely alone in figuring out the college application process, not because I didn’t have teachers or guidance counselors who would have been willing to answer my questions, but because I didn’t even know what kind of questions to ask. The QuestBridge flier seemed like it was written specifically for me, to help me escape from the life I was living into a better one. My mother spent more money than she could spare to drive me thirteen hours to a QuestBridge National Admissions Conference at Yale the summer after my junior year, where we heard for the first time about need-blind admission and began to believe that I could go to a top-tier school.
All that following fall I worked tirelessly on my applications, filled with both hope and desperation. When filling out the financial information, however, I ran into a serious complication—they asked for my father’s financial information. My father was an engineer who had been badly injured in a car accident when I was thirteen, causing a stroke that left him paralyzed on the left side of his body. He had been unable to work for several years, but had recently returned to work and was making money again—a lot more than my mother, even with his setbacks. The problem was that none of that money was coming to me. He was in a lot of debt from the time when he had been out of work, and I had recently turned eighteen—he didn’t feel that he had to pay for anything for me anymore. It had long been a spot of contention between him and my mother, one that I didn’t even begin to know how to navigate. But because I still had contact with him, I was required to list his income.
I’m sure I don’t have to linger on the effect this had on me. It seemed like everything I had only recently begun to believe was possible was slipping out of my hands. But I was able to navigate my way through it, and so will you. In the end, even though I didn’t match, I was still given a fairly generous financial aid package to Wesleyan, although I had to work and take out some loans to cover what my father wasn’t going to pay. Still, I made it, and so will you—don’t for a second doubt it. At this point in your life, you’ve been through an impossible amount already, and not Matching isn’t going to stop you from changing your future.
Now that you haven’t matched, you are going to have to think extremely carefully about your options. The first thing to remember is that you can still be offered a totally do-able financial aid package from schools you didn’t match with. Don’t panic! Not matching just means that you’re going to have to wait a little longer to know what you’re doing next year, and I know you’re tough enough for that. When your acceptance letters start coming in, that’s when you’ll have to make some choices. Besides hearing back from your QuestBridge schools, you may be offered strong financial aid to other schools. If you truly believe that you will thrive there, and will be able to use that education to reach whatever goals you have set forward for yourself in life, then don’t discount that offer just because other schools you’ve been accepted to have bigger names. Don’t let anyone tell you what the right path to higher education is for you.
Being a part of QuestBridge means that you already have something a lot of people don’t: belief that your mind, your hard work, and your perseverance, will better your life. That doesn’t change just because you don’t match. As I often remind myself while I’m filling out graduate school applications, you’ve already done the hard work. Keeping up your grades and excelling at academics while poor? That was the hard part. Applying, waiting, deciding—that’s the easy part, so try and enjoy the ride, even if there are a few bumps along the way.