Take the Stress Out of Asking for Help

Mental health. These are two words that are not mentioned often in the lives of low-income students. Oftentimes, money is the first word that is mentioned in low-income families. But stress and anxiety, among other emotions, can manifest themselves when money becomes the main stressor. Although money may be an inevitable stressor for low-income students, taking care of yourself should be a priority above all. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to accomplish as much as you’d like.

So, as a college student, what should you do if you think stress if affecting you in a negative way? Continue reading

You’re Being Too Hard On Yourself

For some reason, our generation seems to glorify studying hard. All-nighters, caffeine, and cramming for that quiz right before class. Sound familiar? Well, if it does and you find yourself dozing off to the lecture about Maxwell-Boltzmann distributions, let me tell you something: you’re being too hard on yourself. Not only are you exhausting your brain and your own physical health, but you are also doing no help to your academic performance by overworking yourself.
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Do I Really Have To Do This Every Semester?

Let’s face it. Many of us won’t get the “dream” class schedule. You know… the one with early classes (nothing before 11 a.m.), that all end early (nothing past 3 p.m.), and here’s the kicker: no class on Fridays. I’ve only heard rumors of those types of schedules, but that does not mean you cannot make the most out of every semester at your university.

If you’re anything like me, picking courses each semester is much like deleting old e-mails: you have to do it eventually, but letting the task marinate seems like a better idea most days.
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Beating the Winter Blues as a Sunny State Student

Source: http://community.blogs.wesleyan.edu/tag/snow/
Source: http://community.blogs.wesleyan.edu/tag/snow/

If you’ve already been accepted into college, you’re probably thinking, “What now?” Well, you have to complete the FAFSA, continue your schoolwork, and daydream about what your college experiences will be like while doing so. However, one facet of college life that students often overlook is the climate of the state they’ll be moving to in just a few months. I was one of those students and I wish I could’ve prepared a lot more for Connecticut’s climate during summer in Florida. Below is a list of ways you can beat the winter blues when coming from a sunny state, whether it be Florida, California, or Texas, and how to plan ahead – and what to expect – for the climate in a timely manner.
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Paying for College: The Search for Outside Funds

January is a good time to plan ahead for education-related expenses in the coming months. Quest Scholar Alum Victoria Turner shares her first-hand experience finding the best outside funding options available for students. Make sure you check with your financial aid office to see how outside funds can be applied to your financial aid package. 

paying for collegeThe aid package you receive from the financial aid office can determine whether you attend a school. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than receiving an acceptance to a college you love when the accompanying aid letter doesn’t match what you need. Luckily, financial aid officers and organizations like QuestBridge work hard to fund you. If you’ve sent out your very best applications, just sit back and cross your fingers, toes, and any other crossable appendages while you wait for letters.
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Turning a New Leaf Over

Autumn on college campuses is a picturesque time of year. However, the changing colors can also signal a change in seasons of life for Quest Scholars, making it more important than ever to seek support from your Quest Family. Today we’re featuring a post from 2013 by a Quest Scholar at Grinnell who reflected on her first autumn in a new place.

Stop and take in nature once in a while.A huge, orchid-like tree stands reaching into the heavens. With colors of purple, orange, red, yellow, pink, and green, it stands magnificently. It is untouchable and beautiful. That was how I always pictured fall. The colors of the trees changing and nature changing itself into something even prettier than it was before. Fall is my favorite season and has been for a while now. But moving away to college, it hit me why I really love fall. The changing of the tree colors means time has passed by since I moved to Iowa from Missouri. It means that I am starting to notice things around me that I haven’t noticed before. It means that I am also starting to miss family and friends. Going off to college, it is easy to miss family, friends and places. For me, the idea of missing home was never really a problem until fall started. I guess you never really notice something until there is a physical reminder.

Experiencing fall in the small town of Grinnell, Iowa, was not something I envisioned at the start of the year. I guess you can say that I am one of those people who doesn’t think about what’s to come but who lives in the moment. I pictured myself freezing in the cold winter of Iowa, but I never pictured the fall and all the beautiful colors I might see. I always thought that fall was experienced the same way no matter where you were. But that is not the case. During the early days of fall when the leaves were starting to change and my friend and I were walking to the store, he looked over at me and said, “Wow the colors are so beautiful. Now I know why artists paint trees in the fall.” And with that remark, I wanted to laugh and ask if he had been living underneath a rock. But as he continued to talk, I soon realized that every place in the U.S experiences fall differently. He is from Miami, Florida, and the trees don’t change colors into the dark reds and purples he was seeing right then and there.

Stop and take in nature once in a while.

It made me realize that that fact was also true for Missouri. Where I lived in Missouri, the colors varied and were more vivid than the ones in Grinnell. Thinking about those trees made me miss my home, my school, the huge orchid-like tree, and my friends. The seasons change. It is a fact of life. No matter where you are, you are sure to notice the difference. Moving to a new state, however, makes you notice these changes even more. Fall signals the change into winter when everything appears bleak and dead. However, fall is also a reminder of time and the beauty of nature that we all tend to take for granted. Nature is something that has always intrigued me, so whenever fall rolls around, I am reminded of all the things around me that I don’t notice during the other three seasons. It is not simply because of the colors (well, it has a lot to do with the colors), but it’s also all the things you can do during fall like celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. So with each year, I impatiently await for the arrival of the fall season. And each year, I am not disappointed no matter where I am.

— by Charlotte Gbomina, Quest Scholar, Grinnell College

This was originally posted on 11/07/2013 on the Quest Scholars Network Blog.

A guide for freshmen, from Kosovo – by “a country girl”


It’s Throwback Thursday on the Bridge Blog today! We’re featuring a post from 2013 by a Quest Scholars Network Blogger who attended Notre Dame and spent time abroad to further her studies in Kosovo. It may be a throwback, but the advice is timeless! 

After seven weeks alone in Kosovo, I’ve developed this talent for acting like I know what I’m doing, when in actuality I have no idea. Whether it’s navigating the impossible maze of city buses in Pristina or haggling with a grocery store clerk in broken Albanian, there are at least five instances every day that involve me feeling completely lost on the inside while having to maintain some semblance of poise on the outside.

And this feeling has reminded me of being a freshman.

So I thought I would share these five tips for incoming Notre Dame freshmen, inspired by a summer in Kosovo. Here it goes:

  1. Create a coffee budget. I promise, it’s worth it. At Notre Dame, you’ll arrive feeling like a big shot, rolling in flex points upon flex points of spending money. Skip forward two months and you’ll have spent it all on late night Starbucks lattes. Factoring in a budget for those lattes will make life so much more bearable when it’s finals week and you still have spending money for caffeine fixes. Here in Kosovo it’s the same situation; every day I realize how much money is lost in macchiatos … yet for some reason, my grant program wouldn’t fund me for this expenditure.
  2. Meeting new people is always positive. You will spend much of next year struggling to remember names, faces, and dorms as you wade through the sea of Irish business majors on your way to class. You’ll meet hundreds of wonderful people, people who will inspire and amaze you with their kindness. You’ll also meet people who will make you want to run screaming in the opposite direction. It’s important to remember that both kinds of encounters are equally positive. Both can teach you something about yourself, and both have the potential to help you grow. So even though it may get tiring after the first few weeks of constant introductions, remember that meeting new people will only ever be positive. It’s the same in Kosovo; I’ve been equally honored to meet the Prime Minister and a homeless woman named Zamira. Both have impacted me.
  3. Check the weather forecast. The weather in South Bend, Indiana, is sadly just as unpredictable as the weather here in Eastern Europe. Several times in both locations, I’ve been caught in the middle of a rainstorm wearing a white shirt and open-toed sandals or shivering in the morning only to boil in the afternoon – the temperature constantly shifts throughout the day. This all will be averted if you’re a little sensible about checking the weather forecast in the morning. It’s all a click away online … and for your daily random act of kindness, read it aloud to your future roommate!
  4. Call home, sometimes. For some of you, college will be the farthest away from home you’ve ever been. For many of you, it will be the longest away from home you’ve ever been. It’s important to know that all of you will get homesick at some point. Whether it’s your memory foam bed mattress, your high school football games or your wonderful labrador retriever, there will be some parts of life that you can’t bring along to college, and that’s painful. Every day in Kosovo I wish I could have brought my little sister along … and also my air conditioning unit. Just remember that while it’s healthy to call home once in a while, there is an entire world of new experiences and aforementioned incredible new people waiting to meet you. Try not to let your phone calls/Skype dates/FaceTime sessions come between you and those moments too often.
  5. Humans make mistakes. If researching in Kosovo has taught me anything, it’s that humans make mistakes. And sometimes at a school like ND you’ll forget that – because everyone is so wonderful. Our admissions office loves telling us, “You were picked for a reason, you’re the best of the best,” but being the best of the best doesn’t mean being perfect. It doesn’t mean setting the curve for every exam and winning the election in every club, all while smiling and laughing and self-actualizing. Freshman year is going to be difficult, and the difficult bits are what make it so beautiful. I hope you’ll be able to look back on your freshman mistakes and think, “Those were only one small part of who I became this year.” In the long run, you’re going to be more than okay; you’re going to be someone amazing.

If you’re an incoming freshman reading this, welcome to the Notre Dame family!

— by Brenna Gautam, Quest Scholar, Notre Dame ’14

This was originally posted on 7/11/2013 on the Quest Scholars Network Blog.

My Experience as a Group Leader at Stanford: A QSN opportunity

Group Leader - JoiThere were many “firsts” for me as a Group Leader at the 2015 QuestBridge National College Admission Conference at Stanford.

For the first time, I met fellow Quest Scholars (and Group Leaders) from Amherst, Wesleyan, Emory, UChicago, Haverford, Swarthmore, Northwestern, Vassar, Penn, and Dartmouth. It was intriguing to hear their stories about their respected schools and experiences, which helped me paint a better picture of each partner college. Despite belonging to different QSN Chapters, I saw many similar qualities in all of us: we were leaders, we loved our schools, and we were driven.  The night before the conference, we enjoyed an Italian dinner served to us family style. We truly felt like a huge family.

One of my fellow Group Leaders was my Quest Mentor during my freshman year at Columbia. It was the first time that we spent an entire weekend together, where we were free from our piles of homework and stressing over final exams. I enjoyed catching up with her and sharing similar experiences about our journey through Columbia. It gave me sense of ease and reminded me that I am not alone on this excursion.

Like many of the 2015 College Prep Scholars, I walked through Stanford’s sunny, spacious campus for the first time in my life with big eyes and big dreams. For the day, I traded my familiar green roofed, bustling New York City campus on 116th Street and Broadway for a red roofed, palm tree shaded campus at the end of Palm Drive. I was in awe.

I have a strong passion for mentoring and giving advice, especially to those who were raised in a low income household.  As a first time Group Leader, I was thrilled by the opportunity to offer some valuable advice to College Prep Scholars. It was honor that to have the opportunity to be a guiding light for the (potentially) next class of Quest Scholars, and ultimately, the next world leaders.

I volunteered to serve as the admissions representative for Columbia at the college fair. For the first time, I was on the other side of the table. I watched the crowds of College Prep Scholars go table to table with eyes full of joy and anxiety. Whenever a student stopped at my table, I gave them an honest answer and left them with a sense of hope.

“Describe Columbia,” one student requested. I went on talking about the plethora of resources and opportunities, our unique urban location, and my experiences as a rising junior at Columbia. I put behind all of the long, hard nights of studying and challenges I have faced while at college and for the first time realized how much I loved my school and why I belonged there. They gave me hope.

I am thankful for this rewarding experience as it offered me the opportunity to give back to QuestBridge and help future student leaders, and helped me remember why I decided to attend Columbia University. That joy I saw in the students’ eyes that stood across my table reminded me of how far I have come and how blessed I am to wear Columbia blue and call myself a Quest Scholar. I enjoyed the moments of laughter with the families that followed behind me throughout the day. This experience allowed me to start paving the path for the future scholars to follow and continue a legacy of high achieving, underserved scholars.

This experience had many “firsts,” but hopefully there will be many “seconds,” “thirds,” and so on.

By: Joi Anderson (Columbia University, SEAS ’17)

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

Quest Scholar Ismael Fernandez awarded Selective National Fellowship for Graduate Education

We are proud of Andre Shomorony and Ismael Fernandez, two outstanding Quest Scholars who recently were awarded The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. This fellowship supports the graduate education of 30 immigrants or children of immigrants in the U.S., selected from a pool of 1,200 applicants. Each fellow receives up to $90,000 in financial support over two years. Learn more about Ismael:

Ismael Loera Fernandez

Name: Ismael Loera Fernandez
College: Emory University, Class of 2013
Majors: Chemistry and Economics
Hometown: Houston, TX

Tell us about your background.
I was born in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico and lived there for about half my life. My parents moved from Mexico when I was 11 and brought my two younger siblings and I to live in Houston. I lived in Houston until I got the chance to go to Emory in 2009 and came back last summer to start my PhD program at Rice.

Why did you apply to college through QuestBridge?
I remember hearing about QuestBridge through a brochure for the College Prep Scholarship. To be honest I was a little skeptical at first but decided to apply anyways. I ended up getting the opportunity to fly to Stanford, which encouraged me to apply to the National College Match Scholarship. The more I learned about it, the more attending a top institution seemed like a real possibility. Before applying to QuestBridge, even the idea of attending any college seemed unattainable because of my undocumented status. I was lucky enough to be matched with Emory, as that decision put me where I am today.

How did attending your college open doors for you, and how did you become interested in your current academic pursuits?
Attending Emory put me where I am today. It made my dream of graduating with a college degree a reality and now I’m using what I learned to pursue a career in academia. I knew ever since I took AP Chemistry, but it wasn’t until I took organic chemistry during my first year of college that I decided to major in it.

Describe any research or work experiences that were particularly influential.
One of the most interesting jobs I had was being a Residence Hall Director after graduating from Emory. In this position, I managed a freshman building and was able to see the undergraduate experience through another lens. It was an eye opening experience seeing all the issues outside of academics that undergraduates struggle with and it helped me better understand what students go through on a daily basis. As I want to go into academia, I feel that being aware of what goes on in students’ lives will help me be a better professor and mentor in the future.

Were you involved with the Quest Scholars chapter on your college campus? If so, how did your involvement affect or shape you?
Yes, I was actually the chapter president during my junior year and I’m still connected with the chapter through the current president. I loved being part of the chapter because it connected me with a community of students that came from a similar background.

At Emory, I was part of the second class of Quest Scholars and the chapter was just getting started. What inspired me to build a strong chapter was the fact that there were a few Quest Scholars who were discouraged to be part of the chapter because they saw it as being labeled as someone who came from a low-income background. However, I worked alongside an executive board to make sure that the organization emphasized everyone’s achievements, and that we overcame so much to get where we are now. We also made sure that the chapter created a strong community and became a place where we as Quest Scholars could interact with other students who come from a similar background.

PDS LogoHow will you use your PD Soros fellowship? What are your future academic or professional goals?
I will use the PD Soros fellowship in my graduate work. I’m currently a graduate student at Rice University’s Chemistry Department and work on synthesizing bismuth carboxylate compounds.

Do you have any tips or advice for Quest Scholars who might be interested in obtaining an award like the PD Soros fellowship, as they are navigating their academic careers in college?
I think they should definitely go for their dream fellowship, program, graduate school, etc… We have already accomplished a lot by being selected to be Quest Scholars and there’s no reason to think you don’t have a chance at your dreams. I almost didn’t apply for the fellowship, but I’m happy I was encouraged to do so.

Read Ismael’s profile on the Paul and Daisy Soros website

Congratulations, Ismael!