A Dream Come True

Monday, December 1, 2014, my life changed. Let me start with the day before. I knew the QuestBridge decision would be released the following day. I had even gone as far as calculating the time I should expect the decision (Pacific versus Eastern Time). I spoke to my fellow Bridge Blogger, Collin, who asked me how I would be passing the time on Sunday. Well that wasn’t hard, because I’d be at work all day. However, Monday morning, I felt the pressure. Not only was it the first day back to school after Thanksgiving break, and therefore bound to be a long day, but I would be waiting all day for this decision. Only a couple of my friends knew I was waiting for this decision, so it wasn’t like everybody was asking me about it (thankfully). I went through all of my classes as usual and pretended like all was okay and that I wasn’t at all anxious. But the fact of the matter is, even though I knew we were three hours ahead of California and that I would not be getting an email until the evening, I kept checking in every class. And when school was finally out, I went home and checked again. At some point I gave up and decided that I needed a way to pass my time, and what better way to do that than to sleep.

At 4:08 P.M, I heard the ping of an email, and immediately woke up. There it was, a single message that would change my life. I opened it, logged on to my QuestBridge account, quickly said a prayer, and opened the notification page. I saw the words “congratulations!” and skimmed to the part that said which school I was matched to: Stanford. I ran out of the room, yelling for my mom, who thought that something was wrong. And when I calmed down enough to tell her, I started crying. It was such a surreal moment. I’m ecstatic. I’m shocked. It’s absolutely amazing. It’s been a tough road thus far, and words can’t explain how nervous I was waiting for this decision. Now, in a weird way, I don’t know what to do. I’ve worked for this moment, and now it is finally here. The news spread like wildfire at school. I am the first in my senior class to be accepted to such a school and am no longer known as “Jasmin”, but as “Stanford”. As thankful as I am for this opportunity, I am more thankful for all the people who supported me along the way and the number of people that congratulated me and told me how proud they were. I am where I am because of them and I cannot thank them enough.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

A Time to Give Thanks

IMG_1574It’s that time of year again! The time of the year when television is filled with Pillsbury biscuit commercials, depicting families eating a holiday dinner or the countless number of Walmart layaway commercials or Black Friday sales. No, we’re not quite to the ABC Family “25 Days of Christmas” special yet, but it’s Thanksgiving! All jokes aside, as cliché as it sounds, Thanksgiving is a great time to express how thankful you are for what you have. As a senior, looking back at my high school career, I can definitively say I’ve had some highs and some lows. I’ve experienced several accomplishments, but I’ve also had several disappointments.

In all, I’m thankful for both the accomplishments and the disappointments, because it has shaped the type of student I am today. Now if I sit here and try to list off the things I am thankful for, you, my readers, would probably get bored, and quite honestly I’d come off as some “holier than thou” type. So I’d like to take this time to discuss one class and one teacher in particular that I am thankful for.

My sophomore year I decided to take a combo history course: Advanced Placement World and European history.  The teacher that had originally taught the class had left the previous year and we were stuck with a new teacher. This teacher had never even taught an AP class before, so needless to say, we were all skeptical about what this class would be like. However, once this class started we realized that we had definitely underestimated our teacher. His name was Mr. Nelson Dean. He turned out to be one of the most fascinating teachers I knew. He could list out facts for just about anything. Mr. Dean stood in front of the room and lectured for ninety minutes a day. But his teaching methods did not stop there. As part of the AP curriculum, we had to learn to write different types of essays including: document based questions, compare and contrast, identifying continuities and changes over time, and free response questions. Throughout the course of that class, Mr. Dean had us write, at the very least, 20 to 25 different essays. I can’t remember a time in that class when my hand was not cramping from writing so much under a time limit. And the struggle did not end there, as his grading style was not easy either. I was so frustrated in that class, after spending hours studying to write an essay and either not finishing or not receive a great grade.

This frustration led to me seeking help from Mr. Dean. I would come into class early and ask as many questions as I could. I would write as many extra essays as I could, and have Mr. Dean read them and give me feedback. I would take notes religiously as he lectured for ninety minutes, and I even stayed after school to ask more questions. I stored everything he gave, every essay I wrote, or page of notes I took, in this giant binder (oddly labeled by my classmates as the course bible). The amount of time I spent in that room exhausted me. I had never worked so hard for anything before. And Mr. Dean was there to help me every step of the way. It was because of this class that every other AP history course seemed fairly easy compared to his. It was because of this class that I know how to write well (and can proudly say, I can finish a DBQ on time!).

But you see, it wasn’t just the work I put into that class that made it so memorable (not to mention enjoyable), it was the atmosphere in all. I had a great class and made friends that I may not have otherwise; friends, who have been there through my ups and downs. We all thought Mr. Dean was a great teacher, not just because he proved to be some astonishing genius as he lectured, but because he genuinely seemed to enjoy teaching us. And, I don’t think Mr. Dean knows how much of an impact his class had on me or the rest of my classmates. Other students may just see it as an ordinary class, but his class was the first time I experienced struggling with a subject and my grade. And all the time he was willing to spend helping me and my other classmates, as well as the way that class ended up pushing me harder than I’d ever been pushed before. He may not know this either, but it encouraged me more than anything that I could get through hard times, even if it was just some class, because I saw it in a bigger context to my personal experiences.

So, if you’re reading this Mr. Dean, I thank you for that.

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

The Quest for QuestBridge

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

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

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

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

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

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

Application Do’s and Don’ts

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

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

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

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

Jumping the Hurdle

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

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

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

QuestBridge: A Glimmer of Hope

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

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

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

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant

College Bound

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

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

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

Jasmin Kamruddin, 2014 College Match applicant