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

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

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

On Making Tough Decisions

Colin_post_2

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

My Best Foot Forward

collin_match_form

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