Breaking Down My College Breakdown

David Guirgis, 2015 National College Match Finalist and QuestBridge Blogger

So right now, I’m in the midst of “the college process”—a euphemism for near-psychotic levels of panic and self-doubt if there ever was one. Rewind a fair bit to the weeks before the National College Match application was due, and you’ll find an awkwardly tall senior with unruly hair hunched over a computer, stressing. Yeah, it’s me, and as of that moment I had a million pages open on my computer. They ranged from word processors with essay drafts and outlines to the CollegeBoard website, where I was taking screenshots of test scores I wasn’t happy with for an application to a program I wanted (so, so badly) but wasn’t sure I’d even make.

After I became a College Prep Scholar in late April of last year, I discovered a world beyond my state university—one that I desperately, desperately wanted to be a part of. I ended up falling in love with schools I didn’t dare dream about because my numbers didn’t quite match and I didn’t want to get my heart broken. But at the College Prep Scholar’s Conference at Yale, QuestBridge introduced us to this crazy idea: we’re beyond our numbers. All of us have a chance to become a part of schools we’d never imagined being a part of before. And, leaving the conference that night, I promised to hold on to the optimism that got me there to begin with.

But the thing about self-doubt is that it’s like the ivy on UChicago’s campus; it’ll completely smother you over time. And for a while, it did. I read essays from prospective NCM Finalists that I thought were better than mine. My Biographical Statement had been (and probably remains) the most personal, emotionally draining thing I’d ever written, but I started thinking it wasn’t good enough. I saw SAT scores that made me gasp audibly, IB curriculums that made me want to cry both for myself and the other person, and Subject test scores that dwarfed mine by a mile. Long story short, I began to think that none of this work and extra stress was worth it if I wasn’t even going to become a Finalist anyway, let alone match to the school of my dreams.

Since I became a Finalist (!!!), I’ve taken the time to really reevaluate why I applied to become a QuestBridge Scholar to begin with. After all, I’d just proven myself and all my insecurities wrong—and at that moment, I realized that I really, really needed to get out of the headspace I’d created for myself. There was a reason why I didn’t just quit the application the moment I saw a Subject test score of 800, and the answer lay in the fact that generally, I’m relentlessly optimistic. I do crazy things for the 0.00001% chance that things will go my way; I’ve fallen in love, applied for programs I was probably seriously underqualified for, and run for positions I honestly didn’t think I’d get. And for the most part, I’ve been successful. I took the chances I had, however miniscule they were, and ran with it—and sometimes, I even made it! And as I looked back at the super early days of the college process, when I was still a junior who’d eagerly gotten his acceptance to the College Prep Scholarship, I remembered that optimism; it was why I’d gotten involved with QuestBridge to begin with. I’d found a program that I had faith would somehow get me to where I needed to be, and come hell or high water, I was going to make it.

Right now, I’m slowly coming back to terms with the idea that I might just make it; I’m in a mindset where I’m trying to reunite the way I see myself with the things I’ve managed to accomplish thus far.

We’ll see what happens.

I’m terrified, but (cautiously) optimistic once again.

by David Guirgis, 2015 National College Match Finalist