Dear QB: How can I find a summer job to help pay for college?

DearQBIf you have already received your financial aid package, you may have seen the term “Summer Work Contribution,” which is a common component of financial aid. This is the amount of money you are expected to save this upcoming summer to bring with you to college.

Why is this so important? Well, this money is your responsibility to earn. Be sure to arrive on campus with this money on hand or else you will be short during the year. Here are a few tips to make sure you stay on track to earn your summer work contribution: Continue reading

Summer Service Grant | A Community-Based Approach to Breast Cancer Prevention

In summer 2016, Nathaniel Tran (Tufts ’17) explored his interest in public health by researching the barriers preventing women from receiving a basic screening mammogram, particularly in the Boston area. Through Nathaniel’s hard work and many collaborations, the project was able to bring mobile technology to patients, create a sense of community in healthcare, and empower women through health education.

I had just finished speaking with an appointment coordinator at one of the nearby medical centers. She was calling to let me know that a patient had missed her mammography screening appointment, making that the 4th patient to miss so far this week … and it was only Wednesday. What was causing so many women to “no-show” for their mammograms? I work in Boston, Massachusetts, which is home to three academic medical centers, and there is no shortage of medical providers.

Attending and presenting at a health fair at a new potential partner site.

This summer, I made it my goal to better understand the nature of these missed appointments by conducting interviews with community health center patients. Through demographic data, I found that the center serves primarily low-income, underinsured women of color. From the interviews, common themes in our conversations suggested that a combination of a language barrier, poor public transportation, fear of cancer, and loss of potential income prevented these women from following through with their mammography screening appointments. Continue reading

Universe of Possibilities: A Visit to NASA

In August 2016, 11 QuestBridge Scholars had the unique opportunity to meet face-to-face with officials at NASA and the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy in Washington, D.C. Vi Nguyen, a QuestBridge Scholar and Yale University alumna, reflected on the visit to NASA:

Six people.

“At this moment, there are only six people in space? In total?” I re-asked my question, mostly out of sheer wonder. Our guide nodded with a smile, “Yes. Six.”

The 11 QuestBridge Scholars—eight current undergraduates and three alumni—sat around the table in NASA’s Space Operations Center, taking in the experience, unsure whether six human beings were too few or many more than we expected to be living beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

QuestBridge Scholars at NASA

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Dear QB: How do I talk about QuestBridge in interviews?

DearQBWhether you’re a freshman in college or wrapping up your senior year, you’re likely applying for internships or jobs this time of year. When it comes time to interview, you don’t have to be afraid of highlighting QuestBridge. In fact, you can use it to your advantage to highlight your strengths and set yourself apart from other interviewees. Here are a few ways you can leverage your QuestBridge story:
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A Brief Guide to Internship Applications

DInternships Blog Photoecember begins soon, and in addition to cinnamon and nutmeg, the sweet scent of internships is in the air. The path to an internship can be long and winding for those of us who don’t finish our first semester of college with a clean set of A’s, or who realize they have an interest in an area late in their undergraduate years. Those who cannot break into the field will find it harder and harder to secure their first internship when competing for spots with those who have more experience. The gap only widens each year.
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Building Your Resume

Jessica_LiBy now you’ve probably figured out that many colleges (especially public state universities and liberal arts colleges) ask for an ‘optional resume’ in addition to the Common Application. For those of you who’ve applied for summer internships, jobs, or selective academic enrichment programs, the task at hand is all too familiar – present your classroom and extracurricular experiences in a concise, systematic way to highlight your forte. Resume-writing can be both tedious and rewarding, after all, and condensing four years into a single page is a brain-racking exercise. But don’t fret! Quest Scholars can give you a lift!

Here are some tips:

Formatting is king. We always say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ yet writers often spend a considerable portion of their budget hiring graphic artists for a flashy, catchy design to momentarily detain a few potential buyers. Similarly, boosting the aesthetic value of your resume will leave a favorable impression on distant admission officers. A Google search would yield hundreds of visually-pleasing templates, but designing your own is a good way to showcase your personality. All resumes should be compartmentalized into basic information (including contact information), education, extracurricular activities, jobs, and honors/recognitions. Remember to triple check bullet point alignments, color scheme complementarity, and font changes. Lastly, it’s a good idea to convert your final sample to a PDF document in case the receiver uses a different version of Microsoft Word causes distortions.

Don’t be cryptic. Whether it’s coding in different computer languages or perfecting techniques in ballet, more times than not your field of expertise is not familiar territory to your readers. For example, consider the description “investigation into effects of (insert mysterious protein name here) on signal transduction pathway of MAPK” versus “study of cell cycle changes due to a foreign protein.” Obviously, the first is not only a tongue-twister, but a brain-baffler. And unfortunately, the human mind will not register details that it doesn’t comprehend. While it is important to be professional, enigmatic clauses are not conducive.

Specificity rules! With the growing competitiveness of college admissions, ‘buffing up’ resumes may seem like a common practice. I strongly discourage you from stretching the truth—not only does that engender ethical concerns but also discredits your application. However, a clever strategy to resume building is increasing specificity—the number of students you tutored, the amount of funds you raised, or the total service hours you dedicated to a club. Be succinct and vivid when describing your past engagements.

What is your resume trying to show? You should always ask yourself this before finalizing it. Granted, you will not have space to detail every bit of your works, so you must select with discretion. I suggest revisiting your application essays and reflecting on your passions. Centering your resume on one academic discipline or showcasing multiple facets of your intellect are both solid approaches, but you must design the image you want to create.

Not all colleges ask for resumes but it is helpful to bring a copy to your interviews. One last incentive: resume-writing is a useful life-long skill, and the admissions cycle definitely prepares you in this respect!

Jessica Li, Quest Scholar, Princeton ’18

Making Your On-Campus Job Work for You

Jessica_Jordan_post2Finding an on-campus job can be tricky, especially if you are a freshman. I remember that one of my first thoughts after unpacking my dorm room was, “I have got to get a job.” For most Quest students, it’s a fiscal reality that they will have to work during their time at college in order to pay their scholarship’s student contribution or afford basic necessities. It can be easy to panic and accept the first job that comes along, but if you take a deep breath and commit yourself to finding a job that’s a great fit for you, your work can be so much more than just a way to make money—it can help you make friends, teach you invaluable skills, and be a truly meaningful part of your college experience.

What you can do:

1. Check out your school’s work study job board.

Most schools have an online job board where students can browse available work-study positions. At Wesleyan, many of the positions were listed the summer before my freshman year started, so even though I had no real idea of what campus looked like (having visited only briefly once before), I could start trying to picture what part of my routine might look like. This is a really great jumping off point—for some of you it might be both the beginning and the end of your search—but remember that many jobs will not be posted until the school year has officially started, so check the board often for the most up-to-date listings.

2. Don’t get discouraged, and keep your eyes open.

After perusing Wesleyan’s job board for weeks before I moved into my dorm room, I had found a job that sounded perfect for me: assistant in the rare books room at the library. I was so desperate to get that job. I counted down the days until I would be able to turn in my application to the archives office. I could see myself in that job. I was perfect for that job! I dreamed about that job. And then I didn’t get it. I didn’t even come close to getting it. And then panic set in—I hadn’t applied to any other jobs, and many of the on-campus positions were filling up fast. I applied to several other jobs that were less exciting, but didn’t get any of them either. One rejection was even after what seemed to be a very successful interview, which was particularly crushing. By my second week on campus, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to survive there. What would I do if I couldn’t find a job?

I finally found my first job when I was walking through the library. A flyer was on the door of an office labeled “Interlibrary Loan” advertising for student workers willing to work mornings. I dropped off my application, the office manager asked me a couple of questions, and then she hired me on the spot. Not all of the jobs available on campus will be listed on the job board, so be sure to keep a look out for postings on notice boards or word-of-mouth opportunities. I worked at Interlibrary Loan for four years, and it was a great job, even if it wasn’t the one I dreamed about in the beginning.

3. If you’re not happy, don’t stop looking.

My job at Interlibrary Loan was okay—I pulled books from the shelves to send to other schools, processed book requests on the computer, prepared packages for mailing, etc.—but it wasn’t as exciting as I knew some other on-campus jobs could be. In my first semester at Wesleyan I took a theater class called Basic Production Techniques, where the coursework was comprised of assisting the department in different aspects of theater tech. We helped hang lights, we made props out of Papier-mâché, and did all other kinds of menial tasks. My favorite part of the class was when I got to help out in the Costume Shop, even though I knew next to nothing about sewing.

The Costume Shop, besides being a place where work I was interested in was happening, was also a happy place to be. The manager was friendly and the atmosphere was fun. We listened to the Harry Potter audio books while we worked and joked with each other. When I came back to Wesleyan after Christmas Break, I learned that a friend who was employed in the Costume Shop would not be returning to Wesleyan. In what is perhaps one of the boldest things I’ve ever done, I emailed the manager of the Shop and asked if I could have her job. He said yes, and that is one of the best things that happened to me during my time at Wesleyan.

I kept my job at Interlibrary Loan, but I greatly reduced my hours and started working more and more in the Costume Shop. Not only did I learn how to sew, by my senior year I had been promoted to student manager of the costume collection, which taught me countless useful skills that have served me well in my search for jobs after college. Most importantly, the Costume Shop is where I made one of my best friends from college—the manager who hired me! I can’t express how much my life at Wesleyan was enriched by working at the Costume Shop and by the friendship I found there. Working during college was a necessity for me, but luckily it turned into a wonderful experience rather than a burden.

It’s easy to feel bad about having to work while in school. After all, you are expected to perform on an equal level with your non-working peers even though you may have as much as 20+ extra hours of responsibilities a week. But if you don’t give up and are willing to work to find the right job for you, working doesn’t have to be a bad thing. While it’s true that most of you won’t become best friends with your boss from your work study job, you may very well meet others there who will either become good friends (vital to making it through college sane) or be good resources for when you want to get an internship or a post-graduation job. Don’t give up if you don’t find the perfect job the first week of school, and don’t be afraid to switch jobs if you find that your position is detracting from your experience rather than adding to it. There are lots of great on-campus jobs just waiting for you!

Jessica Jordan, Quest Scholar Alum, Wesleyan ’13

What Do I Want to Do When I Grow Up?

to_doNow you are in college and you, most likely, are (or over) 18 years of age. In many countries, you are already considered an adult and seem entitled to do whatever adults can do. And… here comes the big question: what do you want to do?

This is a good and complicated question, and most likely, you will answer this question yourself in an indefinite amount of time, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start the thinking process. Actually, now is a perfect time to start thinking, and maybe do some initial planning as well.

If you entered college with a clear life-time goal, that’s great. You can probably start to accumulate and use all the means and resources to achieve the goal and have a head start. Of course, you can also start college as a confused young student, which is great as well—you are flexible. Flexibility is an advantage, because it leads to a wide open future. You are open to a large selection of opportunities, and one of them might lead to your dream career. (This can be true for people with clearly defined goals: keep your minds open, and you might discover something fantastic.)

College time is a great chance for this self-discovery process. The hints are everywhere:

  1. The classes (and majors). As you are introduced to a wide range of topics, your critical thinking skills as well as your beliefs are challenged. What classes are you taking? What do you like/hate about them? Is there a part that excites you? What topics do you wish to explore further? Take a minute and ponder through simple questions such as these. You will probably be surprised by how much you have learned about yourself, and the world. (So the other hint is: take a bunch of different classes to broaden your horizon.)
  2. Professors and alumni. Need support? They are there for you. Chances are, they have gone through the same exact dilemmas as you. They can offer you good advice. You can learn a lot by just talking to them. Plus, they can give you insights about certain occupations, fields and even introduce you to their networks, which may be very helpful.
  3. If you are curious about a field, the most straight forward way to explore is to work in the field. Various companies offer different levels of internships for students. Through the internships, you will find out whether you want to go further in this particular field, or perhaps move in a different direction completely. Your co-workers are great resources, too. They might show you far more about this field than you could ever imagine. The experience you gain gain through an internship will provide strong insight into the specifics of a particular profession..

The above points are some suggestions among hundreds of ways to answer the big question. Combine these thoughts with your interests, habits, and dreams, and see if you can form a preliminary impression about what you want to do. Why not prepare now, so when the opportunity arises, you are ready to take advantage.

Lastly, I’d like to quote the great Japanese cartoon artist Hideaki Sorachi:

Dreams are like trees: they are more fun to climb than to just gaze at. There are things that you’ll learn only when you actually climb after them.

Good luck. The future awaits.

Shu Zhang, Quest Scholar Alum, Wesleyan ’13