The Quest for QuestBridge

IMG_1540The first time I heard about QuestBridge was through my Latin teacher. I was a nervous sophomore, already concerned about applying to college. My teacher told me about the QuestBridge program and I decided to look into it. After looking through the website and seeing what the program had to offer, I was convinced that this was the scholarship I was going to apply for. During my junior year, the counselors held a few informational meetings about QuestBridge, and during my senior year they even had a QuestBridge ambassador speak to us. However, I find that this program still isn’t that well known around my school.

All of you seniors out there will know what I mean when I say, the November and December months in school are just about the most nerve wracking time of the year. Many seniors receive college admissions decisions as early applicants. Here in Atlanta, a ton of my friends applied to the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!!!). UGA is a major state school here, and many of the students that graduate from my high school continue their education there. On November 14th, admission decisions were released. As you can imagine, emotions in my first block class and throughout the day were running high. Students kept checking their admissions page and application status as well as the UGA Twitter page to somehow speed up the process of receiving admission letters. Well throughout the school day, no decisions were released. However, around 4 p.m., as I scrolled through my Instagram feed, I saw a post from a good friend with a picture of his UGA acceptance letter. His was the first of many posted that night.

People started asking me: “Jasmin, did you get into UGA?” The question was reoccurring and at first I would say no, I didn’t apply, and try to leave my answer at that, but of course, inquisitive friends wanted to know why I hadn’t applied. Each time they asked I would explain my process through QuestBridge and the terms of the scholarship and that my admission decision would not be released until December 2nd. Just the confusion amongst my friends says enough about how well, or not so well, this program is known around here. It was like two ends of the spectrum; there were people who knew exactly what I was talking about, but then there were those who had no idea what QuestBridge was. But on the other end, as a Finalist, just by explaining my college choices, I was able to spread more knowledge about the program. In my graduating class of 743 students, I do not know any other Finalist. And I hope that my involvement in QuestBridge can further encourage the underclassmen that I know to apply.

On a personal note, the state admission decisions made me nervous. Can you imagine being around a whole group of students who knew where they were going after graduation, or who at least had a backup school ready for them? I have even spoken to students who were applying for housing already. All the college talk and excitement made me even more anxious for the December 2nd decision. It’s already mid-November and I know you readers are probably thinking: “December 2nd? That’s not so far away!” But each day seems longer than the last as I wait for a decision that could change my life, or at least the next four years of it.

So far, this experience has been an emotional ride, kind of hidden from the spotlight. But I think now that my high school has a representativem for lack of a better term, who is going through the process, it will become a program that more students here are acquainted with. With that, if you are reading this and still considering whether you will apply for QuestBridge next year, I leave you with a penny for your thoughts, a quote that recently gave me something to think about: “I am enough of a realist to understand that I can’t reach everyone, but I am more of an optimist to get up every morning and try.” Though that quote is probably meant in a larger context, change starts in small ways. QuestBridge gives the opportunity for you to try to reach, if not everyone, just a few people. That can begin with your high school or community and lead to places you never imagined—it’s all about optimism. Learning about this program could change someone’s life. It did for me.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

Application Do’s and Don’ts

Jasmin_4Though I am by far no expert on college applications, I have had my fair share of bumps along the road. The stress that some of these bumps put on me is indescribable. I wish someone had warned me about these bumps, before I had to learn the hard way.  So to all future students who will endure this grueling process, I give you my top three comments/ pieces of advice about applications as well as some of the mistakes I made along the way.

  1. Save, Save, Save. To say the least, the QuestBridge application was very thorough. After completing the application, I had a plethora of short answer and essays that I found could be easily modified and reused. My application deadline for all QuestBridge schools was November 1st. However, on October 30th, my flash drive, containing ALL of my essays, crashed. The pieces I had worked so hard to complete, were gone. I recommend that you not only save essays you wrote for other applications, but more importantly, save them to several places in order to avoid a catastrophe like mine.
  1. Maintain Relationships. This one is not so much a mistake of mine, but something I am glad I did. Keeping good relationships with your peers, teachers, community, and local officials is generally a good habit to develop. However, the benefit of this really showed during this time. I had a tremendous amount of friends, teachers, and a counselor who were willing to help me with whatever I needed. Whether it was proofreading essays, writing recommendations, or even allowing me to use a fax machine, they were there for me. I recommend maintaining good relationships in school and in your community.
  1. Plan early. I started taking the SAT and the ACT in the spring of my junior year and was able to take both standardized tests twice. By the beginning of my fall semester as a senior, I was content with my test scores. However, once I seriously considered QuestBridge and the schools I’d list for the match, I realized that I did not fully meet the testing requirements. I had yet to take a SAT subject test, which many schools either recommend or require.  Therefore, I hastily studied for them and luckily completed the tests before the deadline. I recommend that you plan ahead for which tests you need to take, whether or not you will be satisfied with the scores you received, and each schools’ cutoff date for testing. Had I paid more attention to those factors, I may have been able to improve my scores because I would have had the opportunity to retake the test.

I’d definitely say this process taught me a lot and had it not been for those speed bumps along the road, I may not have learned these lessons. I hope that my experience concerning the application can help others avoid these speed bumps on this road to college.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

Big Fat Plagiarist

ninja_deskMy November 1 experience (QB Finalists know what I’m talking about here) involves me lying across a row of comfy chairs in the George Bush Airport in Houston, waiting for a connecting flight to Colorado Springs. I’d love to tell you more about that, and I will, next week.

Things are too good to be true, and free is never free, so it follows that the QuestBridge application isn’t enough for many of the partner colleges. A few of my friends got lucky, picking only one or two schools that required supplements beyond the QB App. as you can imagine, I wasn’t so lucky.

I’ve been using the word lucky like doing extra supplements was just another “hoop” to jump through, but, as it turns out, I’m glad that I wasn’t lucky. In fact, the supplements that I had to complete, in my opinion, allowed me to offer new developments in my life and new sides of my personality to the colleges to which I applied. I can’t stress enough how important this is—showing off as many sides of yourself as possible on your application. You and I both know, though, that there are only so many words on the Common Application and the QB application, and while in the moment 800 words seem impossible to find, soon after submitting your application you’ll wish that you had just 100 more.

These extra words, however, make the supplements worth your time. For example, I was able to write several supplements on what I’m doing right now—blogging! I didn’t know that I’d be doing this before I submitted my QB app, and I unfortunately couldn’t amend anything, but I’m not worried, because the Common Application gave me the opportunity to highlight these things.

Okay, so you might be thinking that you don’t have anything to add or any new developments to gush about. I would argue that you are so much more than 800 words. The way that you think, act, and respond to your education and to your community cannot be summed up in 800 words. I’m especially partial to the following supplement topic: “take a risk.” You take risks every day in your daily life, so it’s not like you can’t write on this topic. What is interesting, though, to the colleges is how, exactly, you take risks. Many supplements are cool, and many supplements are extremely boring, but you don’t have to be boring.

Consider that your application is one of thousands for a moment. Also, consider how many different ways you can, say, write about why you want to go to a specific school, which is a common supplement. There are only so many aspects of school X that an applicant can talk about, so don’t for a second think that simply describing school X’s excellent art program is going to be original. Sure, you can put your “spin” on it, but it’s not going to stand out in a reader’s head.

It’s time to be smart about your supplements. For example, I would write the why school X supplement with a focus on a specific trait or accomplishment of mine and then how that trait or accomplishment would be useful to or otherwise enhance school X’s program or community. If you’re really funny, then demonstrate that you can, while still being a serious student, be hitting the punch line every time. School X might be looking for a brilliant student who will lighten the mood there.

I guess this brings me to my real point (maybe this is why my essays don’t score well in school…) that it’s not easy to show all of your colors on the application, even when there is space to do so. Jasmin, the other lovely QB College Match 2014 applicant blogger, and I had a conversation a week ago that went something along the lines of this:

Me: I feel like I’m plagiarizing all of my college applications.

Jasmin: What? Why?!?

Me: I keep saying the same thing for every college ;(

Jasmin: Ugh, me too.

I could also tell you about similar conversations that I’ve had with my friends, but I’m getting tired, and they all are about the same as the one I had with Jasmin. As we go through high school, we sort of get trained to avoid repeating things. This helps us to avoid plagiarism, but it also is a natural response to something that is hard. For you to redo the entire set of math problems that you did tonight would be silly, but even if it would help you master the concept, you wouldn’t do it anyway because you remember that the first round was bad enough.

College applications are the same way. The biggest mental roadblock in this whole transferring from QB to the Common Application is realizing that once you tell a college who you really are via the supplement, you’re going to have to repeat yourself on every other supplement you complete, depending on the question, because it’s the truth. You’re not a big plagiarist; in fact, you’re being as original as you possibly can.

I’d like to leave you with one final word of advice: Take my advice. That’s not a joke! I’m not a funny person… What I have to say isn’t applicable to only the college application. You should practice repeating yourself on interviews, too. I’ve had two college interviews, and I said practically the same thing at both of them. Initially, I felt like I was reciting some rehearsed kind of spiel, but honestly, in how many days can you tell someone how you spend your free time or what excites you about the future? So go ahead, reuse your content. You owe it to yourself.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant

An Obsession with Food Gone Wrong?

collin_post3So, I am a Horse Leader at a ranch in my town that provides equine therapy to children with autism, and while I’d love to tell you more about that, I’d like to fill y’all in on something that my fellow Horse Leader told me yesterday. She said, “Collin, you are such a happy guy; it’s oppressive!” Star stricken by her unmitigated gall, I sputtered. I’ve been thinking about what she said tonight, and I began to question whether the person I externally project myself to be is really who I am. I’m not saying that I go around all day sulking in my dark cloud of gloom and doom, but I didn’t for a minute think that I would be elected for the Happiest Guy of the Year award.

What I’m telling you is important. Are you really who you think you are? To other people, I mean. Do you know what has really happened to you? Can you look at your character, your personality, in the mirror?

I genuinely thought that I could until yesterday. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to describe to you the five-month walkabout I took after discovering this terrible news that I wasn’t who I thought I was because November 1st is right around the corner. First, congratulations on becoming a Finalist if you are a Finalist. I say this sarcastically because if you are a Finalist, you’ve heard this cheery phrase about a hundred times.

They don’t understand, do they? I don’t mean to tell you that the people who tell you “congrats” with the biggest smiles on their faces are necessarily facetious. But if you are up to speed on the QuestBridge train, you’ll know that this is the hardest you’ve had to work in a very long time to accomplish something so immensely important.

I started my week by forking over more of my money to the ACT Corporation to send my scores to the seven schools that I ranked through QuestBridge. I’d like to say that this was the last time I’ll log in to that web portal, but I seriously doubt so. Next, I plopped down in my cushy office chair with my parents’ tax forms from 2013, which I file (shhh! Don’t tell the IRS!). The CSS PROFILE, as the College Board so affectionately calls it, is not necessarily a nightmare, but the emotional build up surrounding it simply gives me anxiety. In reality this fine specimen of Web 2.0 graphics is easily tackled with about one hour of time and several TASTYKAKES, which are these heavenly Reese’s Peanut Butter cup cake bars.

Hopefully, you applied for some QuestBridge CSS PROFILE fee waivers. I’m glad I clicked the button because they saved me $74! After I submitted this financial aid application, I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought I was done, but I got an email from Princeton a few minutes later, of course, congratulating me for applying and directing me to their own version of the CSS PROFILE. This is one of the benefits of being an emotional eater, you see. By this time, my blood glucose was peaking, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

Happily, I opened up the Common Application to complete the supplements for the five of the schools I applied to that weren’t completely satisfied with just my QuestBridge application.

This brings me back to my self-representation problems. When it came time to down a cup of coffee, which I hate to do, and write about myself, the conversation I had above became easily more one-sided. When Tufts asked me to celebrate my nerdy side, I countered with a saucy checkmate. I wrote an essay about my shower, and I love it. I love it because I was writing about me. Writing about who you are really is quite liberating. No, in case you’re wondering, I’m not a shower. Maybe you’ll get to read my essay one day, but I don’t want to distract you from you.

Looking at my week, and thinking about yours, can you blame me for writing this blog post at approximately 2 AM? This might be a useless cliché, but humor me, and all of my platitudes, for a moment. Right before my regional meet for Cross Country, the last meet of the season, my coach told us that our bodies have been training for this moment for months. She underscored the fact that we were physically capable of exceeding our goals. She told us that the only thing holding us back was our minds.

I’m here to tell you that you are physically capable of meeting the November 1st deadline. You owe it to yourself, all of the training that you’ve been doing for the past two years. The only thing that will hold you back over the next few days is your mind. Know your enemy and work around it. You’ve got at least one person rooting for you.

And to all of my beautiful readers who weren’t Finalists, and I know you guys are out there because my close friend wasn’t one, do me a favor, close this tab right now and head to Wal-Mart to procure yourself a delicious box of TASTYKAKES. But in all seriousness, I respect you guys. I know it sucks, and I also know that there is nothing I can tell you right now that will make it all be “okay.” I’ll tell you this, though: as I was on the phone with my friend who didn’t make it, and she was saying that she was glad I made it yadda yadda, I told her to stop. I told her that I knew that when you don’t get what you want, you are supposed to congratulate the other person and hold your head up high, but why hide behind these social conventions? Sure, it’s nice emotionally for the so-called “winner,” but what about you?

You’ve put in a lot to this equation, and you came out with the wrong answer. But you might just yet have a reason to hold your head up high—you live in the United States. You have the opportunity, no, scratch that, multiple opportunities popping up all throughout your life to seize. Sure, QuestBridge was not one of them, but now is when you move on to Plan X, Y, and Z. You can still get to where you want to go. Might the road to get there be a bit more winding? That’s possible, but you’ll get to where you need to be—this is the key.

I’m watching you. I don’t want to see that negativity behind the computer screen. You owe it to yourself to put forth *again* the best version of yourself possible. Giving up now would be ridiculous. Please, please, please open up that Common Application and apply to your dream school, and, most importantly, a range of schools from your local state school to the schools you’d be happy at, to the schools you’d momentarily have a heart attack at as soon as you got there. You have to know this—it’s not over. You don’t get to lie down here, so wake up and get started.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant

Jumping the Hurdle

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It was 5:06 PM as I was scrolling through my browser, when I received an unexpected email from the QuestBridge team. My confusion was totally overtaken by nerves, as I immediately opened the message. As I scanned the clear text frantically, my elation dwindled down when I realized there was no actual information about my application status. And likewise (in my impatient teenage mentality), I rolled my eyes at the monitor, acknowledging that I’d have to log on to my QuestBridge account in order to read the decision. My heart beat at this anticipation. With sweaty palms and nerves wracking my body, I logged into my account and was greeted by the most relieving and gratifying words I had experienced thus far: Congratulations QuestBridge Finalist. I reveled in the joy of surpassing one more hurdle, journeying onwards to grasp my college dreams. The joy buzzed in my heart and soul, but soon enough, reality kicked in as I thought of the next step in the process. I was that much closer to making it to college! I then watched the lovely video the QuestBridge team put together to congratulate Finalists and decided to get started right away.

Eight colleges and various supplement questions was no easy task. I had yet another challenge ahead of me. Being a finalist was just one goal on a list of many aspirations that I could check off. In one month, I will go through this same experience. I’ll have sweaty palms and my heart will beat fast as I open another status update. It is not guaranteed that I’ll be matched, but that doubt won’t stop me. This is no time to give up, but instead a time for self-assurance. It’s a time to work harder than ever before until that anticipated December date. Everything that seemed like a weakness is now a strength; every obstacle that seemed larger than me (standing at 4 feet 11 inches) can be overcome. With this faith, I leave all future applicants and current Finalists with a sense of encouragement. I do not know what the match decision will bring, but whatever it is, I’ll never regret starting the process, because though the sense of fulfillment I received will be unique for every applicant, I assure you it’s worth it. I hope that no other potential candidate will pass up the opportunity to be one step closer to your college dreams.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

QuestBridge: A Glimmer of Hope

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Check out the QuestBridge Daily Inspiration album on their Facebook page for more photos like this!

Ever since I was young, I knew that I wanted better for myself. I wanted to be able to provide for my family and live a life better than I was currently in. QuestBridge made that goal attainable. With that in mind, I knew I had to give it a shot. For me, the QuestBridge application meant an opportunity, and I think anyone in a situation similar to mine should do the same thing. However, it was not a shortcut to getting into college, but it was an alternative route. The application allows students, like myself, to use what they may look at as a disadvantage, to their advantage. QuestBridge gives full four-year scholarships to high-achieving low-income students, and by no means was the application a shortcut. It took time, and above all, honesty. Some of the questions I had never even thought about, and the responses pulled ideas out of me that I had never shared. More than that, I also learned about time management. The application was long, and in order to write meaningful essays, I had to think about my answers, and write, then re-write, and then re-write my essays again.

Any student who believes that they are living a life that completely closes out the option of going to college, I encourage you to reevaluate your options. QuestBridge can be that open door you were waiting for. I appreciate the hope the application provided for me and the hope it can provide for students just like me.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

On Making Tough Decisions

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There are a hundred ways that I could have started this blog on college-related fears, and probably ninety-nine of them are appropriate, but would you expect anything like that from me? I’d just like to say that my lunchroom at school is freezing. It’s like twenty below, freezing. Of course, the running joke at my school, which is rural and, you guessed it, not very affluent, is that the budget goes to chilling that icebox of a cafeteria. Can I say that my life is terrible because I’ve had to spend thirty minutes a day in there for four years? No, while I tend to be dramatic, it’s simply a minor inconvenience.

Go ahead and think about a minor inconvenience in your life. You’ll be able to easily identify it because we complain about the minor inconveniences pretty much 24/7. I’m only seventeen years old, and I’ve only been seventeen for about three days, so I’m pretty inexperienced in life, but I’ve experienced a number of minor inconveniences, little roadblocks. The nice thing about little roadblocks is that I can live with them. I never starved through high school because I couldn’t bear the lunchroom; I shut up and ate my PBJ like a good little high student because food is important.

To say that college is also important is an understatement. I can’t deny that I think in terms of potentialities. What does that mean? Well, the “what if?” of a certain event is always on my mind. I can think of a number of fears regarding college next year. For example, what happens if I end up rooming with a people I really like but who do not like me back? What happens if I find out that college-level mathematics isn’t for me or that I’m not as determined as I thought I was?

Sure, these are extremely big questions, and I’m sure you have many other fears surrounding the “C word,” and I could write a really nice list of my top ten fears, and you could comment on that. I’m totally capable of doing that! Perhaps I could go as far as providing thoroughly researched coping tips for moving in to a dorm room with other people. These are all ideas that I actually considered when I was thinking about how to write this, but they wouldn’t help you, and they wouldn’t help me. I cannot possibly anticipate the millions of different comfortable and uncomfortable situations in to which I will be thrown in college. So when all else fails, I think back to my ice-cold cafeteria.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned how to cope with small inconveniences or uncomfortable situations by reminding myself that they are just that — small and temporary. Looking at the big picture, I can’t argue that room temperature seriously affected me in trying to accomplish my goals throughout high school. So by extension I have no reason to believe that the fears I have about going to college will be anything different. Do they exist? Certainly! Will they matter? No.

Now that you’ve read this far, you might be either skeptical of my philosophy or totally convinced, but from my experience with my friends, you’ve probably bought in to what I have to say, at least a little bit. However, for some reason my words don’t register when it comes to being at college away from home or any shape or form of flying. Aah! I’ve struck a nerve in some of you! I’ve mentioned the “F word.” You can tell me all you want that “if humans were meant to fly, they would have been born with wings,” but you, sir, are not living in Ancient Greece, which is where that saying originates.

Unlike Icarus’s wings, the wings of a plane have never melted. And if you really hate flying, then why can you not call it a completely safe minor inconvenience and move on? I suspect that most of the people I meet in high school who want to “stay local” aren’t really afraid of flying. “Stay local” to me most nearly means “stay with my family,” and this is completely valid. However, I’ve had many people tell me that college is half about academics and half about being thrown out of your comfort zone. I don’t think I need to write more about this because I bet you’re pretty good at making connections, but I’ll indulge myself anyway. Staying close to your family is staying in your comfort zone.

Whatever you want to brand “it” as, staying in your comfort zone is extremely dangerous. Sure, you can live the life you always wanted within your comfort zone, but you’ll be far less adaptable when unexpected situations come up in your life, as they often do, and you might limit yourself of some amazing opportunities, such as QuestBridge.

QuestBridge is giving us the opportunity, and you’ll remember how I feel about that word if you’ve read my other blog posts, to get a world-class education for free or at an extremely low cost. The only catch is that we might have to step outside of our comfort zones, endure the possible freezing lunchrooms, and seize that education, even if it means temporarily leaving our families behind.

To end on a nice note, I’ll simply tell you what I said to my friend who was ranking her colleges a few weeks ago. I said, “When you’re at that school, be it Maryville College (which is ten miles from my high school) or be it Stanford (which is thousands of miles away from my high school), you’ll still be just as close to your parents because anyone in this lovely year, 2014, is a phone call, text, or Skype away. I considered this when I made a list of colleges, and I hope you will, too. How far away are you really? You’ll never be that disconnected from the people you love.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant

College Bound

jasmin_post_1Ranking colleges for the College Match process was one of the most exciting yet scary parts of the Match application. The excitement came from the sheer joy of being able to make that decision, however, the decision itself was scary because it made going to college seem like more of a reality. With the reality of this situation, I had to put serious thought into which colleges I would be choosing. The first thing that I did was decide what factors about college were most important to me. For me, location was a huge factor, but these factors are not limited to proximity to home, they can also be quality of academics, size, type, and available majors. In my circumstance, I knew that considering an Ivy League and possibly being accepted to one was a long time goal of mine. Likewise, I encourage all other applicants to consider their previous goals when ranking colleges; QuestBridge can make those goals more achievable.

Once I decided on location and type of school, my choices were narrowed considerably. At this point I used the tons of mail I received from colleges (credits to QuestBridge for allowing that your name to be sent to partner schools). I used a program available through the College Board that my high school counselor introduced me to. The program was through Big Future and allows students to compare three colleges side by side including location, type, and campus life. Additionally, the catalogues and pamphlets I received from universities like Dartmouth, Princeton, Columbia, and Yale, were helpful in letting me see what each school had to offer. I was provided insight to the various programs as well as student social life on campus, not to mention the type of food each dining hall had, far better than that served in high school. However, while looking at these pamphlets, it was important to remember that they were advertising the colleges, and just like any good advertisement, it leaves you wanting more.

I think an important part about deciding which colleges to rank was keeping a balance between an open mind to consider places you hadn’t before, but to also keep sight of factors that were most important to you. And with that advice, though the ranking process won’t be easy, I hope it makes this decision a little less scary.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

My Best Foot Forward

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Writing things on the Internet is generally not hard for me. I mean, geez, I’m growing up in the most “techy” period in all of history, so I should be used to just typing away, right? I guess the difference is that instead of talking about my day or that really awesome sandwich I had for lunch, I’m now talking about something really important.

So go ahead. Think back to this morning when you had to decide to roll out of your bed, and, oh yeah, remember those three minutes you spent haphazardly putting together an outfit that was presentable, and try to justify why you woke up, why you chose to wear that particular outfit. It’s easy, isn’t it? Maybe you liked the color combinations and maybe you woke up because you had some errands to run. Of course, this is just one scenario out of millions, but each circumstance is the same—easy to justify. It’s simply logical to you—why you did what you did.

But what about the things that aren’t so easy to justify—the decisions you have to make with limited information? Are you so decisive then? Are your intentions exactly clear? Before I start to sound like an end slate of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or that yellowed book you have to read in English class, I’ll jump in to my story, but please keep in mind that it’s really quite hard to be decisive, to justify something, when you don’t have the whole picture.

I found out that I was a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar a few months ago after a long (and sweaty) Cross Country practice. I’ll talk more about this later, but for now, let’s just say that I had no idea how difficult a decision I would have to be making in the near future. Now, before you begin to roll your eyes at “difficult decisions,” I’d like to point out that I’m talking about the word difficult in a relative sense. Sure, difficult as in a “First World problem,” but trust me, your brain will register the same emotional response to any stressful or unknown situation.

You might have guessed that I’m talking about the National College Match process, the tangle of rankings and agreements and bindings that you’re not too sure you completely understand yet. It’s really not that complicated of a thing, but it seems so important to me that I guess I made it difficult for myself. I was responsible for picking eight “things” out of a total of thirty-five “things.” Well, that should be relatively easy, I thought to myself. I make far more than eight decisions a day. I can do this.

Surprisingly, YouTube made picking eight colleges to “rank” incredibly difficult. See, I went to YouTube to procrastinate, as all good high school students do, but I left the website with a problem much bigger than a bout of procrastination—I finally was beginning to realize how serious of a commitment “binding” to a school is. I stumbled across Yale’s Class Day 2012 video, which I’ll link here. Seeing that display of creativity for whatever reason allowed me to see myself at Yale. This worried me because, I’ll just go ahead and say it, MIT is my dream school. For the past two years, I’ve obsessed over the student blogs on MIT’s website, and it almost felt to me like going there, living there, studying there, could be real.

Here I thought that I knew what I wanted, and now I’m suddenly the “star-crossed lover” beaming for Yale? Ugh! How can I make eight sensible decisions when I don’t even seem to know my own self? Here’s the truth: I didn’t. I ranked seven partner colleges, and I’m not necessarily sure that I know why I ranked all of the seven. The good people of QuestBridge will tell you to base your decision on the academic programs, the location, and the potential internships. Hey, I even have a friend who ranked her colleges partly based on The Weather Channel forecasts. And all of these (mostly) sensible aspects are important to consider; however, the schools I put down on my list and the order in which I did so, was based in part on YouTube videos. Yeah, I sat down on my couch with some ice cream and a laptop and watched hours of videos, and believe it or not, it became pretty apparent to me which schools I’d fit in at and contribute to. Could you be one of those students, filming his or her dorm room at UChicago, teasing your suitemate?

So now that I’ve scared you away from ranking colleges because it’s apparently difficult and scary and based on Magic 8 balls, let me convince you otherwise. I decided to rank because I wanted “out.” No, I don’t mean that in a stereotypical, rebellious teenage way. I got fed up with the standardized tests, the essays, the interviews, the “why Yale or Stanford university and not any other university?” questions. Like your school cafeteria’s food, the allure of the college application process fades quickly. That’s not to say that I am not thankful that it exists (we could be placed in college or the factory line based on a test score, which happens in places overseas), but the opportunity to “pass GO, collect $200,” and stop the stress of the application process was worth it to me.

This is what submitting a list of match schools does for you—it gives you the opportunity to end the college hunt early, to find some peace in the last few months of high school as your friends worriedly scramble around. I have to stress the word opportunity. Having the opportunity to be matched isn’t like having the “opportunity” to take the SAT; it’s more like having the opportunity to get an “A+” on that paper you wrote at 3:00 AM for the teacher who doesn’t like you. It’s probably not going to happen. But you do it anyway, right? You do it because there’s the slight chance that you might get that “A+.”

In my situation and in my head, attempting to match simply makes sense. It’s a long shot, but it’s best to put my best foot forward. Let’s be cliché here and say that the early bird might just get the worm. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I have to believe that having your application viewed by these prestigious schools under the assumption that you have overcome some sort of economic adversity could give me an upper hand. In Regular Decision, need-blind means that the people reading your application can’t consider you who has nothing any needier than the guy who is fortunate enough to have vacation homes around the world. The QuestBridge College Match is, at point-blank, an advantage. Why would I not take the risk?

Sure, it’s obviously risky to be potentially making “irrevocable decisions” on what college you’ll be attending, where you’ll be spending the next four years of your life, but let’s face it, opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. So be glad that you were born in the era in which QuestBridge exists, and choose those universities at which you can see yourself both attending and contributing.

I’ll talk to you guys next time! Take care, and I hope you’ll follow me and consider what I have to say over the next several months.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant