Finding Your College Fit: Q&A with QuestBridge Scholar Daniel Espino

Daniel Espino, QuestBridge Scholar, Vassar ’18
Daniel Espino, QuestBridge Scholar, Vassar ’18

Ranking up to 12 colleges is what makes the National College Match unique from other college application processes. But with 39 college partners to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start your research and how to narrow down your list.

Daniel Espino (Vassar ’18) ranked colleges for the National College Match, and learned a valuable lesson that he’s passing along to this year’s applicants:

How did you choose schools to rank? Based on your experience, do you have any advice for students on deciding which schools to rank?

In the 17 years prior to having to apply to college, 99.999% of my life had been spent in the Southwest. My first time ever being on the East Coast was actually during the fall semester of my senior year, when I applied to a fly-in program and was flown to D.C. for a night (that was also my first time ever flying). Because of this, I didn’t know if I wanted to leave the comfort of familiarity that I had on the West Coast. This prompted me to make the decision to only rank the four schools that didn’t require me to make the commitment of attending if I was matched.

Looking back, I realize that this cut my chances of getting a guaranteed scholarship by half, and knowing that now you can apply to up to 12 schools, I would recommend to take advantage of this opportunity you have been given and apply to as many schools as you can. Of course, keep in mind that if you do get matched to a school that is binding, you must attend, so don’t apply to a school if you think you won’t be happy there. Each of the college partners has a lot to offer, and none of them are bad schools, so really take the time to research what majors, clubs, and opportunities are available at each school and which ones appeal the most to you. After you research those, you might find a lot of overlap between the schools, so also research the other things, such as campus culture, student body size, and even the climate to narrow down your list to schools that you’d feel comfortable attending. Try to do this as early as you can in the school year so that once you have that list, you can maximize the time you have to find and fulfill all of the application requirements for each school that you want to apply to.

How did you end up deciding to apply to Vassar?

To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of Vassar when I was choosing what schools to apply to for QuestBridge Regular Decision. Nevertheless, when I was researching schools, I did do a quick overview of every single college partner school to get a general feel of each one.  When I came across Vassar, it was very visually appealing, so I decided to take a closer look at it. I realized how great of a school it was and it was very different from the rest of the schools that I was applying to, so I decided to go for it and applied.

What do you enjoy most about a liberal arts education?

As a person who was interested in engineering and more STEM-type majors, I never really thought I’d be going to a liberal arts college. Now that I do, I realize that it’s a great option for anyone. Liberal arts colleges really stress the importance of being educationally, intellectually, and socially well-rounded, so they make it easy to be flexible with your education. This means that as a Computer Science and possibly Math major, I have been able (and sometimes required) to take various classes that are outside of my field of concentration. For example, I’ve been able to take sociology, education, Earth science, and French classes. There are minimal core requirements which really allow you to explore various subjects, which is great for people who are coming in to college undecided on what they want to study. Classes also tend to be small, so you get a lot of personal attention from the professors, which is really helpful.