An End and a New Beginning

The First Summer After High-School

yaleI’m feeling a bubbly mixture of excitement, nervousness, and fear as the start of my time at Yale approaches; it really is a dream come true, and it still feels like a fantasy sometimes. I am a little bit distraught about how to pick what extracurriculars to pursue at Yale when I have so many to choose from.

This is the first summer since elementary school where I haven’t been busy with extracurriculars or extra coursework, so I’ve been trying to focus on myself this summer — something which I haven’t had a chance to do in the past. I’ve been taking yoga classes to get in shape physically and mentally, and I am loving it!

I have also been trying to get through as much of my Los Angeles bucket list as possible — over the past few weeks I learned how to bike and skateboard for the first time, which had somehow evaded me up until now, and am looking forward to my first surfing lesson.  I am learning new things and preparing for my first year as a Quest Scholar.

As High-School came to an end, it truly felt as though I had ended a chapter in the book of my life. Turning 18 and becoming an “adult” accentuated the feeling that I was losing control while also gaining all the freedom in the world. No longer am I a child, with a set of classes and expectations to fulfill, but an adult with the opportunities of a lifetime waiting ahead.

The teacher at my Yoga studio is a life coach and in reading the biography on her blog and hearing her life story, it hit me that though I am now no longer a child but I am by no means a real “adult”. I still have an entire life to live, and so much to experience. This is an end, but also a great new beginning.

Good luck to all Class of 2019 Quest Scholars!

Brian Matusovsky, Yale Class of 2019

Are You Ready To Be A Carl?

On the first day of my visit to Carleton College on Accepted Students Weekend, I felt like I was on a reality show. I was one of dozens of accepted students, sitting in a large auditorium, waiting for my name to be called by one of the hosts. Whoever would call my name would give me their personal tour of Carleton, clear out a space in their dorm for me to sleep, and shape my perception of the school. Finally my name was called by Sasha, a freshman Quest Scholar at the time.

Sasha immediately made me feel comfortable; the pressure of the “Are You Ready To Be A Carl?” faded and I felt at ease. Having applied through QuestBridge to Carleton, I had dozens of questions: Should I consider non-QuestBridge schools? How will I know that this QuestBridge school is THE school? How do I weigh the importance of financial aid in my final decision? Sasha discussed her experience with the application process and answered even my most trivial questions. Besides mitigating the stress of the decision process, Sasha enabled me to fall in love with Carleton.Carleton College

In the evening, Sasha invited me to follow her to an Ebony practice, one of Carleton’s dance performance groups, open to dancers with two left feet, two right feet, or one of each. I sat in the front of the dance room with other accepted students and watched all of the Carls dance to Lady Gaga. Some Carls were on beat, confident in every move they made; others were lost two measures behind, hysterically laughing, making enthusiastic faces to compensate for their dancing. Carleton’s personality shone through ten times more than it had on the classic tours, the information sessions, and the student panels of other schools. And I adored its personality.

Before coming to Carleton, I didn’t quite understand what it meant to be a Quest Scholar once on a campus. Sasha showed me that it means you are finally allowed to dance; the stress of college applications and financial aid forms were over. As a Quest Scholar, you finally are given four years, at an amazing school, to spend dancing.

By: Margot Radding

Carleton College, Class of 2018

A Sweet and Savory Welcome

If you’re freaking out about choosing which university you’re going to attend, you’re not crazy, you just really care about where you’ll spend the next four years of your life. And that’s perfectly normal.  I’m sure you’ve got this really elaborate list comparing each school. This school is located in New York while the other is in Cali, this one has 3 dining halls while the other only has 2, this one is ranked #5 in physics, while the other is ranked only #6. Lots of us, including me, have struggled with this decision and, honestly, it’s a nice problem to have.

College admissions staff are quite aware that it can be tough deciding which school you want to attend solely based off of information you found online or heard from someone else. They know that the best way to get a first-hand experience of what a college is like is to visit that college. That’s why many schools, like Yale, have admit weekends, like Bulldog Days, where all of the admitted students stay on campus and get to be college students, without the burdens of being college students.

There’s only one problem. From personal experience, I can tell you that admit weekends like Bulldog Days can be very overwhelming. Basically, someone is trying to cram the college experience into the span of three days. Thousands of people descend upon campus and you’ll meet lots of people, see cool student groups perform, and go to a Master’s Class. Now there’s nothing wrong with all of that, but sometimes you just need to sit down, relax, and talk to current students about their college experience. That’s exactly the experience that our Quest chapter at Yale strives to provide for prospective students.

During Bulldog Days we host two events: one is a breakfast with our Admissions Department and the other is a late night hangout with current Quest students.

We’ve been honored to have Amin Gonzalez, an Admissions Officer and a supporter of QuestBridge, host a breakfast where many “prefrosh” can come meet with an Admissions officer with any questions they may have regarding Yale. This provides students with the opportunity to ask questions specific to their situation as Quest Scholars. High-achieving, low-income students have many questions that their wealthier counterparts don’t even consider. These can include questions related to work-study on campus, how to shop for textbooks, and how to navigate financial aid. Knowing the answers to these questions provides clarity and helps students have more credible information to justify their college decisions.

382080_334061940030758_44351947_n59592_334061776697441_1797619755_nBy day, we provide the administrative perspective of Yale. By night, we give you the student’s version of life at Yale. Our signature event involves a late night gathering in a student kitchen at one of our residential dining halls, Silliman. As prefrosh pour in, current Quest Scholars welcome them to Yale and, together, make the best grilled cheese sandwiches with the best bread, cheeses, and meats! Recently, we’ve added a chocolate fondue fountain to the mix and who doesn’t love five pounds of flowing chocolate? For me and many other Questies at Yale, this event has been one of the highlights of Bulldog Days. Although you get to meet many future classmates during other events, now you get to meet future classmates with whom you can really relate. I’ve met some of my closest friends through Quest and Bulldog Days helped bring us together.

Another benefit of bringing together prefrosh and current Questies is that prefrosh really get to learn what life at Yale is really like. They get to learn what it’s like being a low-income student on a generally wealthy campus. Current Questies get to pass down advice that they’ve found to be very helpful while they’ve been at Yale. Although every student’s college experience is different, their experiences can really paint an accurate image of what college life is like, especially for a Quest Scholar.

For all the current and future Quest Scholars who are currently deciding what school will be their home for the next four years, take that opportunity to visit each school and see if you can imagine yourself living there. To those who will be visiting Yale during Bulldog Days, welcome to the family and we hope to see you at our events!

Boola Boola!

By David Elias

Yale University, Class of 2016

 

How to Survive the Long Wait

Bird on ConeIt is not unfamiliar to hear that the worst part of the college application process is the dreadful, agonizing wait stretching from the darkest evening of the year to the sun-kissed days of spring. We’ve all been through it, hungrily looking into our mailbox every afternoon, clicking the email ‘refresh’ button once per fifteen minutes, fretting over tidbits of information (authentic and fabricated) fished out from Facebook exchanges about likely letters, alumni interview experiences, and alleged conversations with admission officers. Nausea, paranoia, and hysteria—your uninvited companions for the next three months will attempt to pluck you from your studies. The wait is painful, no doubt, but here’s what I’d strongly recommend:

1. Funnel your energy to scholarship applications. It’s easy to squander time by running different admission result scenarios in your head. Instead of being consumed by unproductivity, look around for scholarship opportunities! Many established programs have deadlines between late January and early March. These competitive programs typically require multiple well-constructed essays, and thus it is imperative that you start right away to win big. Remember, though many universities offer generous need-based aid, being financially prepared ahead of time will bring you much comfort and confidence.

2. Pursue your passion. The three-and-half year audition may seem over, but your encore should be equally impressive. As your coursework in school lightens, you can dig deeper into the extracurricular fields that fascinate you. Whether it’s writing poetry or picking up ballet, second semester senior year is the perfect time to free your hidden ambitions. Perhaps you’ll even find surprising success with these newly fostered interests, which may make an exceptionally strong February college update (discussed later) or even give you some direction for major/career choices.

3. Draft your college update. It is good to let colleges know that you didn’t drop the ball after you submitted your application package. Your counselors will send in your first semester senior year grades (a.k.a mid-year report) around February, and thus, it is a good idea for you to throw in your story as well. Inform your dream school of your continued involvement in debate, athletics, or drama. If you hear back from any merit-based, selective scholarship programs, that can add some colors to your portfolio.

4. Catch up with those who’ve helped you become who you are. The bittersweet moment of graduation looms on the horizon. Believe it or not, after leaving for college, communication with your decade-long friends may grow infrequent. If you’re like me—nostalgic, clingy, and unwilling to part the past—then proportioning sometime to catch up with your favorite middle school teacher or best childhood friend will bring you the greatest joy. Personally, re-connecting with my companions during second semester have become some of my fondest memories.

As one of my best friends used to advise me, take it one step at a time. You deserve a big congratulations at that point. Keep calm, and get ready for the jolly moment around the corner!

Jessica Li, Quest Scholar, Princeton ’18

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

Dear QB: What are the benefits of being a Quest Scholar, and are they the same if you’re admitted through the Match or Regular Decision?

DearQBIt’s almost easier to answer this question in reverse order.

Who is a Quest Scholar? Anyone who was selected as a Finalist and was then accepted to and decided to attend any one of the QuestBridge partner schools. The three primary paths to becoming a Quest Scholar are:

1. You are matched through the National College Match.

2. You are admitted to a partner school through Early Action or Early Decision and decide to enroll.

3. You are admitted to a partner school through Regular Decision and decide to enroll.

But here’s the thing – there’s no hierarchy between Matched and non-Matched students! That’s because there are many considerations that go into selecting students for the College Match package.At the end of the day, Quest Scholars are Quest Scholars whether they matched or not, and that bond supersedes exactly how one was accepted to college.

It’s important to remember that if you weren’t matched with any schools you ranked that you were not rejected from them. That bears repeating: schools that did not match with you did not reject you. You can (and should!) apply to them again for Regular Decision.

In fact, the majority of Quest Scholars have been admitted through Regular Decision. Last year, 440 Finalists were matched to one of our partner schools, but over 1,000 Finalists decided to attend our partner schools via Regular Decision.

So now that you know who a Quest Scholar is and the many paths to becoming one, let’s talk about just a few of the benefits of being a Quest Scholar.

  1. You are automatically a member of the Quest Scholars Network. There are many opportunities this gives you access to, but the most important is the most simple: a supportive community that understands where you’re coming from. Each of our partner schools has a Quest Scholars Chapter filled with wonderful individuals who are there for each other.
  2. You have access to fantastic financial aid. Obviously, the College Match Scholarship is a great deal, but don’t forget about financial aid that these colleges offer to all admitted students! While it varies per specific situation, Quest Scholars often find that their financial aid is comparable to a Match package, or at the very least makes it affordable for them to attend a college they never thought they’d be able to pay for.
  3. You are connected with leadership, career, and service opportunities. Your journey doesn’t stop after your admission to college, and the Quest Scholars Network is there to support you during college and beyond. Be a Liaison, Group Leader, Ambassador, Quest Mentor, summer intern – the opportunities are endless and growing!

Match, RD – it doesn’t really matter how you become a Quest Scholar. What matters is what you do once you are one!

DearQB is an advice column for QuestBridge applicants and Quest Scholars. It is answered by QuestBridge staff and Quest Scholars. To submit to DearQB, email bridgeblog@questbridge.org

A Dream Come True

Monday, December 1, 2014, my life changed. Let me start with the day before. I knew the QuestBridge decision would be released the following day. I had even gone as far as calculating the time I should expect the decision (Pacific versus Eastern Time). I spoke to my fellow Bridge Blogger, Collin, who asked me how I would be passing the time on Sunday. Well that wasn’t hard, because I’d be at work all day. However, Monday morning, I felt the pressure. Not only was it the first day back to school after Thanksgiving break, and therefore bound to be a long day, but I would be waiting all day for this decision. Only a couple of my friends knew I was waiting for this decision, so it wasn’t like everybody was asking me about it (thankfully). I went through all of my classes as usual and pretended like all was okay and that I wasn’t at all anxious. But the fact of the matter is, even though I knew we were three hours ahead of California and that I would not be getting an email until the evening, I kept checking in every class. And when school was finally out, I went home and checked again. At some point I gave up and decided that I needed a way to pass my time, and what better way to do that than to sleep.

At 4:08 P.M, I heard the ping of an email, and immediately woke up. There it was, a single message that would change my life. I opened it, logged on to my QuestBridge account, quickly said a prayer, and opened the notification page. I saw the words “congratulations!” and skimmed to the part that said which school I was matched to: Stanford. I ran out of the room, yelling for my mom, who thought that something was wrong. And when I calmed down enough to tell her, I started crying. It was such a surreal moment. I’m ecstatic. I’m shocked. It’s absolutely amazing. It’s been a tough road thus far, and words can’t explain how nervous I was waiting for this decision. Now, in a weird way, I don’t know what to do. I’ve worked for this moment, and now it is finally here. The news spread like wildfire at school. I am the first in my senior class to be accepted to such a school and am no longer known as “Jasmin”, but as “Stanford”. As thankful as I am for this opportunity, I am more thankful for all the people who supported me along the way and the number of people that congratulated me and told me how proud they were. I am where I am because of them and I cannot thank them enough.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

A Time to Give Thanks

IMG_1574It’s that time of year again! The time of the year when television is filled with Pillsbury biscuit commercials, depicting families eating a holiday dinner or the countless number of Walmart layaway commercials or Black Friday sales. No, we’re not quite to the ABC Family “25 Days of Christmas” special yet, but it’s Thanksgiving! All jokes aside, as cliché as it sounds, Thanksgiving is a great time to express how thankful you are for what you have. As a senior, looking back at my high school career, I can definitively say I’ve had some highs and some lows. I’ve experienced several accomplishments, but I’ve also had several disappointments.

In all, I’m thankful for both the accomplishments and the disappointments, because it has shaped the type of student I am today. Now if I sit here and try to list off the things I am thankful for, you, my readers, would probably get bored, and quite honestly I’d come off as some “holier than thou” type. So I’d like to take this time to discuss one class and one teacher in particular that I am thankful for.

My sophomore year I decided to take a combo history course: Advanced Placement World and European history.  The teacher that had originally taught the class had left the previous year and we were stuck with a new teacher. This teacher had never even taught an AP class before, so needless to say, we were all skeptical about what this class would be like. However, once this class started we realized that we had definitely underestimated our teacher. His name was Mr. Nelson Dean. He turned out to be one of the most fascinating teachers I knew. He could list out facts for just about anything. Mr. Dean stood in front of the room and lectured for ninety minutes a day. But his teaching methods did not stop there. As part of the AP curriculum, we had to learn to write different types of essays including: document based questions, compare and contrast, identifying continuities and changes over time, and free response questions. Throughout the course of that class, Mr. Dean had us write, at the very least, 20 to 25 different essays. I can’t remember a time in that class when my hand was not cramping from writing so much under a time limit. And the struggle did not end there, as his grading style was not easy either. I was so frustrated in that class, after spending hours studying to write an essay and either not finishing or not receive a great grade.

This frustration led to me seeking help from Mr. Dean. I would come into class early and ask as many questions as I could. I would write as many extra essays as I could, and have Mr. Dean read them and give me feedback. I would take notes religiously as he lectured for ninety minutes, and I even stayed after school to ask more questions. I stored everything he gave, every essay I wrote, or page of notes I took, in this giant binder (oddly labeled by my classmates as the course bible). The amount of time I spent in that room exhausted me. I had never worked so hard for anything before. And Mr. Dean was there to help me every step of the way. It was because of this class that every other AP history course seemed fairly easy compared to his. It was because of this class that I know how to write well (and can proudly say, I can finish a DBQ on time!).

But you see, it wasn’t just the work I put into that class that made it so memorable (not to mention enjoyable), it was the atmosphere in all. I had a great class and made friends that I may not have otherwise; friends, who have been there through my ups and downs. We all thought Mr. Dean was a great teacher, not just because he proved to be some astonishing genius as he lectured, but because he genuinely seemed to enjoy teaching us. And, I don’t think Mr. Dean knows how much of an impact his class had on me or the rest of my classmates. Other students may just see it as an ordinary class, but his class was the first time I experienced struggling with a subject and my grade. And all the time he was willing to spend helping me and my other classmates, as well as the way that class ended up pushing me harder than I’d ever been pushed before. He may not know this either, but it encouraged me more than anything that I could get through hard times, even if it was just some class, because I saw it in a bigger context to my personal experiences.

So, if you’re reading this Mr. Dean, I thank you for that.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

Thanksgiving

blog6pictureI know, I know, this is a post about what I’m thankful for. So why should you have to read it? Please hear me out for a hot minute, though, because I just might have something to say that will be important to you.

Now that I hopefully have your attention, I’ll attempt to turn you away as fast as possible by being slightly controversial. Well, actually my government textbook is the one being controversial, so I don’t feel so bad.

“The broadly shared political culture of Americans influences the policies adopted by the US government. Americans define their relations with one another and with political authority in terms of rights,” Tocqueville writes. “Americans are far more ardently and tenaciously attached to equality than to freedom. Though democratic communities have a taste for freedom, this freedom is hard to preserve because its excesses are immediate and obvious and its advantages are remote and uncertain. The advantages of equality, though, are readily apparent, and its costs are obscure and deferred.”

While this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for equality, I’m equally thankful for freedom, even if it is remote and uncertain. It’s hard for me to understand that I have these “things” simply because I won a veritable genetic lottery that is birth in a first world democratic nation. But I have to take it and run with it.

I guess there I go again with the long introductions leading up to a wholly anticlimactic main idea in my post. I’m thankful this Thanksgiving, and of course all of the time, that I have the freedom to buy books on Amazon and read them.

This statement seems elementary; however, it’s a testament to knowledge, technological progress, and equity. In this twenty first century world, I, as a seventeen year old, read on demand the thoughts of anyone I please nearly instantly.

I literally stumble upon almost all of the books I read, so here’s the story for how I found my latest read, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. My AP Literature teacher has made a few references to a book titled Things Fall Apart, so I decided to see what all the hype was about. With a quick Google search, I found the wrong novel, proceeded to read it, and loved it. It turns out that I didn’t read the book of literary merit, but I coincidentally read a book of spiritual merit.

When Things Fall Apart focuses on the idea that “when things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test of each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize.” The novel is packed with stories that, while admittedly infused with innocent Buddhist undertones, offer some real insight to life.

The author writes, “I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: ‘Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.’ Nevertheless, when the bottom falls out and we can’t find anything to grasp, it hurts a lot. It’s like the motto: ‘Love of the truth puts you on the spot.’ We might have some romantic view of what that means, but when we are nailed with the truth, we suffer. We look in the bathroom mirror, and there we are with our pimples, our aging face, our lack of kindness, our aggress and timidity—all of that stuff.”

Through the course of just over one hundred pages, she outlines the process of “getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, during these times.” This book has been a thrilling read because it has offered me ways to understand what is happening in my life. I just stumbled upon this book, and I can read it in the comfort of my own home like it is no problem, and for this I am sincerely thankful.

I hope you give this book a spin because “sometimes you just have to let everything fall apart.”

I hope that I’ve given you something interesting to think about over the Thanksgiving holiday, but before I go, I have another “something interesting” to let you ponder. Thanksgiving is the holiday of the turkey. I mean, I have one in my refrigerator as we speak, but did you know about the curse of the turkey?

The curse of the turkey is exactly as it sounds. Each year, sacrificed turkeys exact their icy revenge on the feet and pets of “many” Americans. (I say many because I’m too lazy to look up an exact number.) Let’s do a quick calculation.

The force that a frozen turkey of about 22 pounds, or about 10 kg, hits the ground, or an unfortunate foot or beloved animal, from a four-foot high countertop is 3920N or almost 882 pounds of force. I don’t think I need to say anything more, kids. Watch your turkeys, be safe, and know that I’m looking forward to the next time we can talk about stuff!

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant

QuestBridge Limbo

blog5pictureWho wants to play a round of QuestBridge limbo? Any takers? No? You, and your slightly raised eyebrow of skepticism, are probably waiting to find out what QuestBridge limbo is before agreeing to play my game. You’re a smart cookie, and you’ve got me for once because this limbo isn’t the fun game you might remember from your childhood.

I know three other QuestBridge Finalists, and I met several more a few weeks ago, so believe me when I tell you that each finalist has a unique way of handling “limbo.” I couldn’t hardly do their strategies justice, so I’ll stick to telling you mine, but realize that you aren’t crazy if you’ve spent your time differently.

I’d have to say that the highlight of my time during this tricky month-long period is not what I thought it would be. While I wish I could rant about why College Prep Scholars should attend the QuestBridge National College Admissions conferences if they are so lucky to be invited, today is not the day. However, what I will tell you is that the conference connected me to many opportunities.

Almost a year ago, I applied to Colorado College’s Multicultural Open House Fly-In program. Honestly, I’d never been to Colorado, and I thought that the CC (“see-see” is the school’s clever way of branding itself) admissions officer was pretty compelling at the conference, so why not apply to the program? As just a side note, please, please, please never count yourself out of an opportunity because you think you aren’t likely to be “qualified” or “competitive.” You’ll surely regret this; I know I have in many instances.

Anyway, you might not be surprised to learn that when the email came announcing that CC was going to pay for my mom and me to fly to the Open House, I was completely caught off guard. In fact, I nearly regarded the message as spam (you know how it is). But a week later I was on a plane headed to Colorado Springs.

It’s funny to me how things like this happen. We’re so used to surprises being negative ones that we forget that positive surprises exist.

Picking up from the introduction to my last blog (if you haven’t read it, that’s okay), here I was, sitting in the Colorado Springs airport, finishing the last of my supplements for my QuestBridge schools. I clicked submit with a funny thought in my head: “What if I regret this?” Specifically, I’m talking about my fear that I might end up really enjoying CC and therefore end up regretting my decision not to rank CC.

I rode down one of two escalators in the whole airport to find a lovely CC student ambassador, waiting for me and a handful of other “prospies,” or prospective students. This was the beginning to an amazing weekend, if you haven’t already guessed. However, explaining what exactly was so awesome about the weekend is kind of like explaining the plot of Avatar or Inception to a friend—it’s so vivid, yet for some reason, you cannot articulate it. I will say that CC made no attempts to pretend that the school was something that it wasn’t.

The lovely Monica, Jonathan, and Cari, the faces of the team responsible for the Open House weekend, did their best to let the bubbly personality of the CC student body shine through during the weekend. One example of this effort shines through in the college tours. Think back to every college tour you’ve ever been on. Can you remember the breath of your mom or dad or mentor on your neck? Even if your parents are totally relaxed in an anti-tiger parent sort of way, do you not remember thinking about how they perceived the school? See, CC does not allow parents on the campus tour; parents have their own tour guide. I think that this example is a testament to CC’s ideology surrounding the prospective student.

I’ve been on quite a few tours, including Colorado College’s, and I’ll be the first to tell you that they aren’t the best way to picture yourself at a school. I think that their purpose is dubious at best. Talking to real, live students is the best way to see how you’ll fit in at a particular school.

Spending the night with a CC student and his roommate was probably the highlight of my weekend not because of the whole “sleeping” part but because of the conversations that I and several other prospies had with him and his friends. They were brutally honest, and I’d say that I got the most accurate picture of myself at CC after participating in this conversation.

When it came down to it, the bubbly, adventurous attitudes of the typical CC students, the foreknowledge of CC’s pitfalls, the Block Plan (all students at CC have only one four week class at a time, and all of the professors consequently have only one class to focus on), and the school’s partnership with the Columbia University have sold me. And can you just look at this picture?

CC

I seriously owe much of my current sanity regarding my future to the people at Colorado College, so thank you guys! I sincerely mean this.

I deliberately chose my experiences in Colorado Springs because they illustrate the point that low income does not equate to low opportunity. My family can’t afford to just buy some plane tickets to Colorado and spend a few days there, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get to do this. One quick story before I go. While I was at the Open House, I met twins who mentioned that they had been to several fly in programs before the one at CC. With a little bit of prying, I found out that this was their TENTH fly in program and they had flown from Carleton to CC. Don’t ask me how their school is okay with all of this time off, but this only further illustrates my point: look for these opportunities and submit an application or shoot off an email to someone who seems important.

Limbo doesn’t have to be a terrifying game, but you can see that I’ve chosen to accelerate my game of limbo; it’s how I have chosen to cope. I’ve immersed myself in my studies and my life. Visiting Colorado College gave me hope that there is something waiting for me after December 1. I cannot say that this “something” will be the same for everyone; in fact, I know that it won’t be. I would, however, urge you to find that something. More on this in my next post, but until then, check out all of the opportunities that schools like CC are willing to offer, and take a risk; it might just surprise you in your inbox a few months from now.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant