Having been a National College Match Scholarship Recipient and a QuestBridge intern, Whitney Beamer (UChicago ’20) knows the ins and outs of applying to QuestBridge. Now a Computer Science major at the University of Chicago, Whitney is sharing her advice with this year’s applicants in hopes that it will put them on the same path to success.
Why did you decide to apply to college through the National College Match?
Leaving Florida and getting to live in and explore a new city was always my dream, but I never really thought that it could be a reality. Coming from a high school where most students ended up at our state universities, I thought that I was destined for that path of normalcy as well. But applying to the National College Match allowed me to dream bigger than that and create a new normal, one where I had the chance of attending a top college for little to no cost and one where I could live out my once “unattainable” dream.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in applying for the National College Match?
When I first logged onto my application I remember being overcome with fear; I didn’t think that I could possibly fill in all the information, and writing an essay about my experiences seemed daunting. So I closed out of it immediately and began to question if this process was really right for me. Doubtful, I consulted my school guidance counselor who confirmed my fears and told me the process “probably wasn’t worth it.” Thinking back to this time, I’m very grateful that I had the support of peers (now QuestBridge Scholars) also going through the process. It was their kind words that convinced me to log back onto that application, complete it, and think of the process as worth it.
What advice would you give to students who are starting to write their biographical essay?
Don’t be scared to talk about yourself and your experiences! When I first read the prompt, highlighting negative aspects of my life was definitely the last thing on my mind. I didn’t want admissions officers to think that I was stuck in the past or complaining, but I soon realized that my background as a low-income student could provide a unique perspective and context to the rest of my application. It has shaped my identity and allowed me to become the person I am today, so why hide that? Don’t be afraid to show who you really are and how your experiences have led you to be the person you are today, applying to the National College Match.
Think back to 2015 … What three words would you use to describe your experience applying to QuestBridge?
Scary. Exciting. Rewarding. Scary because I didn’t think that I was qualified to attend a school out of state, let alone one of the QuestBridge college partners. Exciting because I never thought that I could possibly become a Finalist or match to a top school, one that was both out-of-state and in a city that I never thought I’d see in real life. Rewarding because hitting that submit button on the application quite literally changed my life.
Present day… What three words would you use to describe your experience as a QuestBridge Scholar at UChicago?
Challenging. Enlightening. Optimistic. Challenging because as a low-income student I wasn’t really sure if I would find my place on campus and was scared that I wouldn’t have as many opportunities because of my background. I soon realized this was not the case, as the university has a thriving QB community and so much support available for finding funding and opportunities. Enlightening because I’ve met so many interesting people from a variety of backgrounds that I would’ve never been exposed to in my rural Florida town. Even though it’s only been one year I feel as though I’ve learned so much about the world, and I can’t wait to see what the next three years bring. Optimistic because I have already had so many opportunities to explore new academic subjects and experience new things, and I am optimistic that things can only get better.
Do you have any tips for students who are just starting to research colleges?
Remember to keep an open mind! Don’t automatically rule out schools you don’t know much about, because you never know what schools could be a good fit. Believe me, I didn’t know much about UChicago before applying to the College Match, but I took the time to think about what I wanted out of my college experience and spoke with current students to see if it could be the right place for me. I wasn’t able to visit the campus before ranking, but envisioning how my personality and experiences could fit in and contribute to the community was what ultimately convinced me to rank UChicago.
Anything else you would like to add?
Don’t second guess yourself! If you think you’d fit in well at a school with a low acceptance rate, don’t stop yourself from applying just because you think that you’re not academically qualified or that filling out the application won’t be worth it. Just apply! Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. You’ve worked so hard to get where you are and deserve to attend a school that makes you happy!