Can’t You See It?

collin_7The day was December 1, the class was Welding, and my email was begging to be opened—hold on. Is this my match story? Did I, surrounded by steel and aluminum, open an email telling me that I had been matched? That’s a great story, and this is exactly how this day, Match Monday, as the people of Facebook have been calling it, happens in my dreams. But like most things, this day—this day that I’d idealized for so long—was completely out of my control.

Let’s go back to Welding. We have some downtime in the class, so naturally I’m playing this new and addicting game called QuizUp with a friend. Essentially, the game prompts you with logos that you then must match to the correct brand name. I’m down by a few points in the game, incorrectly identifying the logo of an obscure car manufacturer, and then the Yale University logo pops up on my screen. Of course, I’d seen this crest hundreds of times before. My thumb quickly fell on the option labeled “YALE.”

At the time I thought nothing of this, but looking back on that particular game, I find it hard to accept anything other than the idea that QuizUp accurately predicted my future. Palm reading, fortune telling, ESP—I now believe in the whole kit and caboodle.

Towards the end of fifth period, my principal called me to his office to get a status update, and I had to tell him that I didn’t know anything. On Monday, this was an extremely hard response to keep giving people, and I’m sure all of the QuestBridge Finalists will agree with that.

I decided to keep my day as normal as possible, so I went to track practice. After just a half-mile into practice, my friend, who was also a Finalist, had “the look.” You might be acquainted with what I’m talking about, but if you aren’t, “the look” is a panicked, deer-in-the-headlights, crazed stare that people get when they are stricken with indecision. My friend ran to the bathroom to check her decision, and I froze—this was not how Match Monday was supposed to happen. Fortunately, she came running out a few seconds later and declared, with the whole distance track team listening, that her phone had died.

This was it. I made a mad dash across the parking lot to the main building to get my hands on the nearest computer—checking my decision on my cellphone didn’t seem right. The people of QuestBridge tell you not to get excited about Match Monday. They tell you that the odds are entirely against you; they even send out emails telling you so, and like a good Finalist, you tell yourself that you believe them. But when your hands start to tremble as you type in your password, all of this conditioning goes out the window.

The burst of information that popped on screen was overwhelming. My brain immediately processed the word congratulations, but I had no idea why exactly I was being congratulated. Oh, wait a minute! I see the word Yale at least fifty times in this letter. The gears started turning and the light bulb clicked on, and in slow motion I ran from the computer to the nearest open classroom, Mrs. Rector’s. I’ve never seen my AP Literature teacher so excited, and I’ll admit, it rubbed off on me. In that moment, as she and I were jumping up and down, I felt like I was on top of the world. Don’t misunderstand me! I’m trying to describe a peculiar feeling—one that I know five hundred other students across the country are trying to process. I suppose you could describe it as surreal.

I don’t think that, at this point in this post, I can actually top what I’ve just written. Therefore, I’ll let you hear from my best friend, Kaylin Bailey, who was matched with University of Pennsylvania.

I had refreshed the page at least a hundred times. An entire school day had passed, five classes a blur in my memory. I was getting worried as school ended because the rule for theater rehearsal prohibits electronics back stage. I was getting a bit frantic and decided to smuggle my laptop into the dressing room… Sue me. I put on my mailman costume. Refresh. Nothing. Just the update from October 21st that I had also obsessed over. I stuffed all my hair into my hat from the men’s section. Refresh. Nothing. I applied the gritty, brown makeup to my face to create the perfect beard. Refresh. My heart stopped. I told myself: everything is going to be okay. Then I clicked on the December 1st update.

I had ranked only six schools: Stanford, Rice, University of Pennsylvania, Pomona, Swarthmore, and Vanderbilt. A few other students at my school were Finalists, too, sharing some ranked schools with me, some not. Our principal and teachers had all known for the past few weeks what was coming. Their questions about rankings and school preferences and interviews and supplements were overwhelming. However, when I found myself in the principal’s office, half-stripped of that dreadfully hot mailman costume with my hair pinned up to my head and my beard smearing off with sweat, surrounded by office workers, teachers, and two other matched QuestBridge scholars from my school, crying and screaming and jumping, I was just getting started with the word overwhelming.

First order of business after making post-rehearsal celebratory dinner plans with my best friend, who matched with Yale, and leaving the impromptu race to the principal’s office to share my news, I returned to rehearsal and hid out in the dressing room, calling everyone I could think of. I may be an expert on persuasive papers, but I am not a big fat liar: I wanted people to know. I wanted them to talk about it. I wanted people to be proud. Heck, we even told our waitress at dinner that night. I wanted everybody to know what we accomplished, even if it meant temporarily giving up my job as the announcement reader at school so that the principal could say my name on the intercom. I will neither confirm nor deny that I was too happy for my own good.

Wearing this t-shirt with my school’s name on it, though, feels so perfect. I’ve fallen in love with every building and program and opportunity that my school has to offer, along with the many that I have yet to eagerly discover. The northern and urban setting is exactly where I belong. I took more pride in changing my Twitter cover photo to a picture of the logo than I have in any other cliché teenage girl post I’ve ever made—and trust me, I’ve made plenty.

We have this ability to envision our futures with unknown variables. As a child, I saw myself behind the wheel of a car one day, without knowing the make or model. Little did I know or care that I’d be in my gramma’s Oldsmobile when I hit the highway for the first time. I think of my wedding one day, walking down the aisle to a mysterious groom whose name and face I plan to fill in later. But my walks from class to class, my dorm room, the city lights surrounding campus at night, the lectures and research, all at some unknown place that might as well have been Narnia—I know now. I know what my life will be and, without sparking a philosophical debate, what my life was always planned to be. Something special happened when I clicked on that December 1st update. I knew ahead of time to scan for the word congratulations: that’s the goal. And when I saw that cute little ribbon on the side of the page that said, “Congrats!” I didn’t have to read any further, because I knew it was Penn.

It’s safe to say that my week has been crazy. What stands out about it the most, however, is what happened on the Tuesday after Match Monday. Our principal announced over the intercom that our rural public high school had three QuestBridge Matches to Yale, University of Pennsylvania, and Haverford. This announcement doesn’t stand out to me, but because of the announcement, the whole school was buzzing. When I stepped foot in my welding class, my teacher asked me whether or not he had correctly heard the announcement that said that I was going to Yale for (practically) free!? As soon as I answered him “yes,” the students in the class began to clap, and I appreciated this. However, once we had entered the welding shop, one of my fellow welders walked up to me and said some very important words: “Collin, I know this might not mean a whole lot coming from me, but thank you. Stuff like this just isn’t supposed to happen to kids from William Blount.”

Yes, QuestBridge has made it possible for my friends and me to attend some of the best schools in the country for free, but QuestBridge has afforded us the opportunity to demonstrate that our high school is neither defined nor constrained by what “should happen.” I am forever grateful to QuestBridge for allowing us to do this for our community.

We’re real people, too! I swear I’m not some made up piece of propaganda… Look (above)! I have a picture of the three of us Questies wearing our beautiful t-shirts.

Lastly, I’d like to say that I love, love, love the Bridge Blog platform! When I write these posts in Word, I don’t think that other people are reading what I’m writing, but from the looks of the Facebook shares I’ve been receiving, you guys actually do read what I write. I hope that I have been and will continue to be an aid, distraction, real person, or any of the above to someone who needs it. That’s right, I’m not going anywhere soon… well at least until August 😉 Speaking of which, shut the front door and hold the phone! Jasmin’s going to STANFORD! Please go check out her post; I’m so proud of her, and I’m so glad that you get to hear from the both of us.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant