Light Beyond Darkness: From College Prep Scholar to Group Leader

It took me a while to realize how fortunate I am. I don’t say this because I never appreciated my parents’ hard work or because I complained about materialistic things I never obtained during my childhood; I have always been happy about my life, but I never understood the context.
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How Telementoring Helped Karli Get Into College

Karli Cecil YaleOne of the unique awards offered through the College Prep Scholars Program is telementoring with Amherst College students. But what is it exactly? And how can it help you get into college?

To give you a better idea of what telementoring looks like, we spoke with Karli Cecil, a 2015 College Prep Scholar and telementoring award recipient:
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The Three Things You Want Your Recommender to Know

RecommenderAsking a teacher for a recommendation is an important step on your path to college, and (as always!) we’re here to help. But before we go any further, register your recommender in your College Prep Scholars Program application, if you haven’t already. We strongly recommend that you ask a teacher who has taught you in a core subject area (e.g., math, science, history/social studies, English, foreign language). The earlier you ask for a recommendation, the better. You don’t want your teacher to feel rushed!
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Finally Finding My Niche at a National College Admissions Conference

20160109_125602If someone ever took a look at my notebooks from school, it was easy to tell that I wanted to go to college. Stickers ranging from “I love UC Berkeley” to “Future Harvard Student” were plastered on the covers and my extensive college list was on at least one page of each of my notebooks. However, the closer I got to the end of my junior year, the smaller the list would get, until the point where I did not find anywhere I wanted to go. Sure, some of these schools looked great on paper, but I could not find a place I could call “home.” Was I being too pessimistic? Why didn’t I like schools everyone wanted to go to? With only a summer left to finalize my college list, I pondered on millions of these questions, wondering if I would ever find “the one.” It wasn’t until I attended the National College Admissions Conference at Stanford that I discovered the place I would fit in.
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Explore, Challenge, Strengthen: Summer Programs in a Nutshell

Close your eyes and picture yourself on the college campus of your dreams. What do you see? Ivy covered buildings? Late night study sessions in the library? Hang outs with a roommate in your dorm? Laboratories filled with cutting edge equipment?

What if you could see it for yourself the summer before your senior year of high school? The College Prep Scholars Program offers full scholarships to college summer programs so you can experience life beyond high school and to gain first-hand experience attending a selective college. As you get into the rhythms of college life, a summer program also gives you the opportunity to:
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Dear QB: Why should I apply to be a College Prep Scholar?

It’s your junior year of high school, and the reality of applying to college has started to hit. Standardized tests. Teacher recommendations. Essays. Transcripts. The list goes on! But instead of feeling overwhelmed by those things, what if you had a head start? The College Prep Scholars Program can give you just that.

We could go on about the program’s many awards and opportunities (all-expense-paid campus visits, anyone?), but we thought you should hear straight from College Prep Scholars themselves. We chatted with Marilyn, Arriana, and Romeo to find out how the College Prep Scholars Program helped them get to where they are today:
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Interview with a College Prep Scholar & College Match Scholarship Recipient – Ricky Canton

CantonRichardWalesSummerInstitueRicky Canton
College Prep Scholar
College Match Scholarship Recipient
Current Quest Scholar at Pomona College
Home state: New Jersey

What advice would you give to students who are starting to write their personal statement?
The best advice I heard was “Really be honest with yourself.” It helped me because I hadn’t ever really thought about being a low-income student of color. It wasn’t even something I wanted to discuss, to be honest, because it was still something I was trying to figure out.
I would suggest working collaboratively, especially in brainstorming ideas. One of the best ways to figure out what you want to do is to see what everyone else is doing. One of my friends was writing about how one of her favorite things was doing laundry. And I started thinking, “what do I like to do?” I realized I really like languages, how they work, and their structure. I wanted to explore what that meant in the context of my identity and my prospects for the future.
Also, be critical about yourself. Obviously you shouldn’t defame yourself, but ask if your topic and experiences are really worth talking about. Is it an experience that has really shaped who you are today?
Finally, find your own space to work on your essay. I vividly remember working in this corner of a Starbucks with my notebook. Find your quiet space to think about who you are and, cliché as it sounds, who you want to be. It helped me not only in the college admissions process, but also as I personally figured out who I was.


On a different note, what advice do you have for students who are just starting to research colleges?

One of the things that helped me was getting input from the people who I hold dear to. It wasn’t really an option to get advice from my mom, but my sister and my friends knew what my interests were and had some knowledge about what schools might be best. If those aren’t possibilities, my best advice would be to use Quest Scholars. Everyone’s super friendly and wants to help you figure out what you want and where you want to go. I remember a student from Pomona answered a ton of questions for me and was a huge resource. The Facebook groups are great resources where you can get insight from students who come from similar backgrounds.
How early should students start looking at colleges?
Start as early as possible because once you figure out where you want to go, there’s still the rest of the process to do. I really don’t think you can start too early. Even if that just means going on the college’s website and exploring, using virtual tours, and the FAQ sections. Use those as starting points to see if you’re interested. Also, make sure you look at all of your options: Quest schools, state schools, etc. You want to have all these options open to you.

So you applied for the College Prep Scholarship the day it was due. Based on that experience, do you have any advice for students heading into the National College Match?
I definitely recommend doing all your applications early. Start an application the day it’s released. Always get recommendations as early as possible.

What advice do you have for students who are uncomfortable telling potential recommenders that QuestBridge works with low-income students?
Talk about your aspirations first and how you’ve found this organization that links high achieving students with top-tier colleges. Then say that you’re hoping to get a recommendation for this program. I actually asked my teachers to have individual meetings with me, during their prep period. We went through the QuestBridge website together so they could understand the program. They didn’t even realize organizations like this existed so by letting them know, it was a way to pay it forward.

What would you tell College Prep Scholars who are starting the National College Match application process?
The only thing that can hold you back is yourself. You know, speaking to other College Prep Scholars, I realized that we were all so different but that we shared these commonalities. It helped reassure me that my story and my experiences were valid and that I was a competitive student. So my advice would be to just go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose!

What should I do with my summer?

Dear QB: What should I be doing the summer before my senior year?

summer_jobsThe summer before your senior year of high school is the last opportunity you will have to significantly change your college application. Use this time to take advantage of an opportunity that is related to your academic interests. Admissions officers are looking for students who show passion and engagement beyond their words – students who can back their stated interests with action.

There are many ways you make your summer count, including:

  • Interning with a company of your choice
  • Assisting in a research lab
  • Working part- or full-time
  • Volunteering in your community
  • Working as a camp counselor
  • Building your own project or organization
  • Learning a new skillset, online or in person

Important note: if you’re a low-income student who will be working to contribute to family funds or taking care of other family responsibilities over the summer, don’t worry! This is will not negatively impact your college application. In fact, you should be sure to note or talk more about this in your application. Make sure the reader is able to understand the scope of your family responsibilities and how those might have prevented you from exploring other options.

If you are unable to devote your summer to pursuing your academic interests, you might still be able to find small ways to weave them in. This will be all the more impressive in light of your other responsibilities or duties. For example, a student working full time at a fast food restaurant and also taking online coding lessons stands out for their drive and impressive time management. Similarly, a student who is responsible for their siblings during the week, but spends weekends volunteering at a community center will stand out.

There is certainly something to be said for taking some personal time during the summer to recoup and prepare for the coming year, and we do encourage you to take some time for yourself! However, from our experience, students who use this summer wisely and show continued motivation and drive are students who will stand out in the fall.