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 Andre Shomorony 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 Andre:

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Name: Andre Shomorony
College: Yale University, Class of 2013
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Graduate Program: MD, joint Harvard-MIT program in Health Science and Technology
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Aventura, FL

Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and moved to Miami, FL, with my parents and brothers in 2005. My family is of Jewish European ancestry.

Why did you apply to college through QuestBridge?
A good friend of mine had been a recipient of the College Match when I was a junior, and he guided me through the process. My family had moved to the U.S. in search of more financial stability, and college costs seemed extremely daunting; a program that could potentially fund my college education, therefore, was a can’t-miss opportunity.

How did attending your college open doors for you, and how did you become interested in your current academic pursuits?
At Yale, I was able to get involved with science and medicine in and out of the classroom. Not only did I pursue biomedical research, but I became involved with the Yale Relay for Life and volunteered as a medical interpreter at Haven Free Clinic, where I learned what it was like to interact with patients, and fully developed my passion for clinical medicine.

Describe any research or work experiences that were particularly influential.
As mentioned above, my work as a medical interpreter at the Haven Free Clinic, in Connecticut, drew me close to medicine. In parallel, my research in the field of microtissue engineering motivated me to pursue a career in biomedical research. Today, my career goal is to combine clinical medicine with biomedical research.

Were you involved with the Quest Scholars chapter on your college campus? If so, how did your involvement affect or shape you?
Not only did I remain involved with the Quest Scholars chapter at Yale —participating in various on-campus events— but I also represented the Yale chapter as a [Quest] Ambassador in Florida. I felt that it was important to give back to the community by spreading the word about a program that made my dream of attending college come true.

PDS LogoHow will you use your PD Soros fellowship? What are your future academic or professional goals?
I will use the PD Soros fellowship to fund part of my MD degree, which I’m pursuing in the joint Harvard-MIT program in Health Sciences and Technology.  Though I still hope to explore different areas of medicine and biomedical research, at the moment I plan to work at the intersection between engineering and surgery, developing new tools and techniques to improve the field of reconstructive surgery.

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?
Be good at what you are passionate about. PD Soros is more than a merit-based award; it is a fellowship that takes into account a person’s whole story: their successes, struggles, and sources of inspiration.

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

Congratulations, Andre!

A Sweet and Savory Welcome

If you’re freaking out about choosing which university you’re going to attend, you’re not crazy, you just really care about where you’ll spend the next four years of your life. And that’s perfectly normal.  I’m sure you’ve got this really elaborate list comparing each school. This school is located in New York while the other is in Cali, this one has 3 dining halls while the other only has 2, this one is ranked #5 in physics, while the other is ranked only #6. Lots of us, including me, have struggled with this decision and, honestly, it’s a nice problem to have.

College admissions staff are quite aware that it can be tough deciding which school you want to attend solely based off of information you found online or heard from someone else. They know that the best way to get a first-hand experience of what a college is like is to visit that college. That’s why many schools, like Yale, have admit weekends, like Bulldog Days, where all of the admitted students stay on campus and get to be college students, without the burdens of being college students.

There’s only one problem. From personal experience, I can tell you that admit weekends like Bulldog Days can be very overwhelming. Basically, someone is trying to cram the college experience into the span of three days. Thousands of people descend upon campus and you’ll meet lots of people, see cool student groups perform, and go to a Master’s Class. Now there’s nothing wrong with all of that, but sometimes you just need to sit down, relax, and talk to current students about their college experience. That’s exactly the experience that our Quest chapter at Yale strives to provide for prospective students.

During Bulldog Days we host two events: one is a breakfast with our Admissions Department and the other is a late night hangout with current Quest students.

We’ve been honored to have Amin Gonzalez, an Admissions Officer and a supporter of QuestBridge, host a breakfast where many “prefrosh” can come meet with an Admissions officer with any questions they may have regarding Yale. This provides students with the opportunity to ask questions specific to their situation as Quest Scholars. High-achieving, low-income students have many questions that their wealthier counterparts don’t even consider. These can include questions related to work-study on campus, how to shop for textbooks, and how to navigate financial aid. Knowing the answers to these questions provides clarity and helps students have more credible information to justify their college decisions.

382080_334061940030758_44351947_n59592_334061776697441_1797619755_nBy day, we provide the administrative perspective of Yale. By night, we give you the student’s version of life at Yale. Our signature event involves a late night gathering in a student kitchen at one of our residential dining halls, Silliman. As prefrosh pour in, current Quest Scholars welcome them to Yale and, together, make the best grilled cheese sandwiches with the best bread, cheeses, and meats! Recently, we’ve added a chocolate fondue fountain to the mix and who doesn’t love five pounds of flowing chocolate? For me and many other Questies at Yale, this event has been one of the highlights of Bulldog Days. Although you get to meet many future classmates during other events, now you get to meet future classmates with whom you can really relate. I’ve met some of my closest friends through Quest and Bulldog Days helped bring us together.

Another benefit of bringing together prefrosh and current Questies is that prefrosh really get to learn what life at Yale is really like. They get to learn what it’s like being a low-income student on a generally wealthy campus. Current Questies get to pass down advice that they’ve found to be very helpful while they’ve been at Yale. Although every student’s college experience is different, their experiences can really paint an accurate image of what college life is like, especially for a Quest Scholar.

For all the current and future Quest Scholars who are currently deciding what school will be their home for the next four years, take that opportunity to visit each school and see if you can imagine yourself living there. To those who will be visiting Yale during Bulldog Days, welcome to the family and we hope to see you at our events!

Boola Boola!

By David Elias

Yale University, Class of 2016

 

Four reasons why being (or applying to be) a College Prep Scholar is Awesome

For three hours now, we’ve heard nothing but blues country music, seen nothing but farm land, and ate nothing but Cheetos and a bag of cuties tangerines. But Mom and I saw beyond the road that seemed to lead nowhere, we were going to the QB College Prep Conference where, for the next 24 hours, I was not just a daughter of a single mother, or a student on the free lunch program—I was nothing but a potential college prep scholar.

The deadline for the college prep scholarship is looming before us. There is less than one week left to contact your favorite teacher for a recommendation and to whip up a personal statement. Seems like a lot of work for something that isn’t a college application? If these are your thoughts, let my try to persuade you otherwise. And if you are already set on applying or have already applied, let me tell you how you have made a great decision.

so here it goes…

Meet yourself again

Going through the college application process, people tend to ask themselves questions they usually never really thought about before, or if they did, never really wrote about. What do I like to do? What sets me apart from the kid down the block? What do I want to do in the next 5 years? And even the same existential questions: Who I am? Who do I want to be? This doesn’t mean that writing a college application essay will answer these questions, but for me, I learned a lot more about myself in a matter of weeks from just sitting and writing things about my life. In beginning to tackle these problems through the College Prep Scholarship application, one is able to open the flood gates to a flow of new thoughts and questions about oneself, a process that I think is vital for preparing for the college application process. And, as a practical benefit, one has a couple of short essay responses prepared for those future essay questions. Some call it laziness, I call it efficiency.

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Who am I? I don’t know but I think my nametag does…

Get your questions Answered

I won’t sugar coat it. The college application is not a time period filled with daisies and roses. For me and many others, it was a complicated maze that didn’t seem to have an end. But what if you could have almost all your questions about QuestBridge and your dream colleges answered by the very people who might be reading your application a year later? Hmmm but where could I find that? Hope I’m not too subtle here my friends.

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Questions and more questions. Curiouser and curiouser!

Road Trip

Not all College Prep Scholars are chosen to go to a conference, but if you are and you are quite a ways from your conference location, make a journey out of it! As referenced in the beginning of my article, mom and I took a road trip up to Stanford from LA about 2 years ago, leaving right after my last class finished on Friday and coming back Saturday evening. And while I was completely exhausted, I got to eat junk food, sing Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs, eat fresh fruit from the farms we visited when we got lost, take a quick peep at the golden gate bridge, and most importantly, see Stanford! I talked to admissions officers about their schools, collected name cards and pamphlets like they were Pokémon cards, and took selfies with the Hoover tower. Basically I was killing two birds with one stone—learning about college and having a mini vacation with mom.

Confidence Feeder

Many of you might have been told “You’re not going to college” or “You can’t do that.” “This school is out of your reach.” “Have you tried looking at _______ Community College?” In a sea of “No’s” it is really nice to just have one little “Yes.” Even if it’s small and lonely, one Yes can do wonders for this little thing called Hope and his friend Confidence. It’s hard to find these two from where we come from. Nonetheless, I strongly believe that by taking this small opportunity, this single College Prep Scholarship application can propel you into a world of Yeses. (No that is not the wrong spelling of the plural form of yes, I checked Oxford Dictionary.) I’m not saying it will be easy, nor that this will be guaranteed. But, I know that your road might seem long and endless. It might not be very fruitful in the beginning, but if you have faith, it might lead to something awesome.

 

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Our reactions if you don’t apply…

How to Fight the Senioritis Epidemic

Do you often find yourself spending more time downloading productivity apps than actually being productive? Do you scroll through Netflix options more often than you scroll through notes? Do you follow the motto: Due today, Do today?

Well, Dr. Chen here is sorry to break it to you, but I must diagnose you with a serious case of Senioritis.

DUN DUN DUUUNNN…

But have no fear, I am here to save you with our novel new antidote: MotivationTM. Recent testing trials have proved MotivationTM to reduce the symptoms of Senioritis in 100% of our clients. Daily doses of MotivationTM can help deter the urge to procrastinate, increase hours of sleep, and erase those innate impulses to watch cooking Youtube videos. When combined with Self-ControlTM, our product increases effectiveness by 10 fold! Buy MotivationTM at your local pharmacy today!

Ha…Ha…Ha.

If only life were so simple.

Senioritis is typically the term to describe the glaringly obvious change in a second semester senior’s incentive to work hard, in school, in life, in anything. But what I found was that the drive to work is something that is hard to find, not just with seniors infected with senioritis. I mean, motivation is a rare commodity. Usually, I find my self too hungry/sleep deprived to do anything.

Senioritis is typically the term to describe the glaringly obvious change in a second semester senior’s incentive to work hard, in school, in life, in anything. But what I found was that the drive to work is something that is hard to find, not just with seniors infected with senioritis. I mean, motivation is a rare commodity. Usually, I find my self too hungry/sleep deprived to do anything.

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And sometimes it is because our desire for our end goals are not enough to deter us from choosing hours of Netflix over hours of studying. It is fine to treat yourself to a break, but when you begin treating yourself everyday, you might have a problem at hand.

Nonetheless, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem. Repeat after me, children: I am a procrastinator. I need help. So if we can’t buy an remedy for this issue, what can we do? Here are some tips I found helpful while battling senioritis or simply just trying to find the motivation to do something. Since ya’ll are probably mostly struggling with writer’s block and trying to finish up those supplements, I will try to focus on essay writing.

Catch some Zzzzzzs. Though it sounds like a waste of time, taking a 15 minute nap is a much smarter use of your time then taking a 15 minute Facebook stalking break. The images of “Hottie Lamottie with the swimmer’s body” can wait. Be aware, different nap times can have different effects on your body. A short 10-20 minute nap can help increase alertness without making you too groggy after waking up. A 60-minute nap is great for improving memory and recall but might leave you struggling to wake up. I would say that my favorite length would be the 90-minute nap. With a full cycle of REM sleep, you’ll be ready to take on that essay.

Meet w/ teachers/counselors/friends. If you promise that you will have a rough draft of your essay finished for your counselor/ teacher to read before the essay is actually due, under moral obligation as well as common etiquette, you MUST have that rough draft finished for that person to review. Making a commitment to someone else makes it that much more imperative that you finish your work because someone else is counting on you! Not only will you be finished with most of your essay, you also receive much needed feedback.

Organized room, organized mind. For me, it was always hard to “get my head in the game” without knowing that my workspace was clean. I just feel as if my room is the physical embodiment of my mind. If I was messy, it meant I did not have time to clean, which ultimately meant that I was a hot mess and couldn’t manage my time well. If I can’t do that, how am I supposed to get work done? (Okay, this might just be me being a neat freak.)

Highlighting essays. I got this idea from my good friend Kevin. When writing a long essay or assignment, highlight the portions you finished in green, the portions you are working on in yellow, and the stuff you have not yet started on in red. This will hopefully motivate you to make everything in the page green.

List of your posse. If you read my last two posts, you will notice that I really like lists. Lists are my life. #lists4lyfe. But for this specific method, I’m not talking about making lists of things you need to do. I am talking about other lists. Like a list of people who are supporting you, who are routing for you. Put this list in front of your desk so you know that you’re not fighting this battle alone. We’re all in this together.

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Goals. Though it might be self explanatory, explicitly writing down your goals for the day will help make sure that you are going the right direction, instead of finding yourself doing meaningless, unnecessary tasks when you think you have nothing else to do (tasks that might include spending hours looking at prom dresses when prom is months away, Googling college acceptance rates and scrolling through college confidential, or even looking for goat milk for Prince Bapalapashamalamadingdong). Don’t be a ding dong. Get your work done.

List of accomplishments. Instead of listing out what you need to do, write down what you have accomplished in the last hour. Do this for every hour so you know that you have been making progress instead of just constantly telling yourself that you have actually done something. Quantify it. Prove your work. Make it your goal to fill up an entire chart of accomplishments.

Does you listen to music?

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I do!

Listening to music can be extremely helpful when you need a pick-me-up. I suggest that while studying to choose songs that don’t have lyrics so you won’t be inclined to belt along to your favorite song and forget what you were going to write.

Hopefully this helps a lot of you when MotivationTM runs out at your local pharmacy.

Remember, senioritis is a serious disease, but with your help, we can create a better world.

Thanks for sitting through all of my old, cheesy Disney Channel References. Ahhh nostalgia, you visit me frequently. Also, click on my name below for more posts. I want to make sure I’m not speaking to the empty cyberspace. 🙂 Good luck 🙂

Christina Chen, Quest Scholar, Yale ’18

Homecoming

One of my favorite sports is swimming. It’s not only because no one can see my flushed red tomato face under water, nor is it only because I can pretend I am a water bender, (though both are major factors), but rather it’s the peaceful solidarity of the sport that draws me to it. One of the things I loved to do when I was little was swim from one end of the pool to another, without taking a single breath. I love the feeling of propelling myself off the wall like a jet, and yet even when I am speeding across the pool, it still feels like I am slowly and peacefully making my way towards my final destination. But obviously, as much as I love the water, once I got to the end of the pool, I wanted nothing else but to be out of it. The pool eventually becomes all too much, too much pressure, not enough air. That’s how it felt going back home after my first semester of college, like a breath of fresh air after a long underwater journey.

It’s not to say I did not enjoy my first semester, but for the first time since spelling was still a subject in elementary school, I began to struggle academically. Usually I sped through tests, quizzes, and essays like they were nothing but water molecules to be pushed aside. Another exam was simply another lap across the swimming pool. But at Yale, I found myself out of breath a lot farther from the finish line than before. Comparing my current abilities to my previous ones, I pushed myself to commit to more late night study sessions, fewer insomnia cookie runs with friends. But now looking back at this, I realize that perhaps dunking my head back into the water and swimming at the same speed I did before was not the right solution. Perhaps it is simply that this swimming pool was a lot longer than the one at home.

Right now I am in Taipei with mom and sister, sitting in perhaps the world’s greatest invention ever: 7-Eleven. I’m not talking about the sad 7-Elevens in America, no no no. This beauty sells hot porridge, hard-boiled eggs, those cute triangle shaped rice balls, full course meals. You can even pay your bills, buy phone cards, ship packages, and buy clothes all in this little heaven on Earth. But anyways, after spending months away from my family on the other side of the country, making our small household already smaller than it needs to be, being reunited with my mom and sister, I am reminded of why I went to college in the first place. It is so we can continue to be together, to ride bicycles and crash into each other, to be obnoxious on subway rides by telling weird jokes, run in the park and play on the see-saws, hike up mountains and climb up trees to catch sunsets, to basically live in 7-Eleven and eat all day. It doesn’t matter where we are, what we are doing; as long as we are together, it is home. In a way, spending time with my loved ones is kind of like taking a breath in a middle of a long swim. Since I am so far away from home now that I am in college, I might need more of them. This way, when I go back into the water, I can swim as fast as I did before, maybe even faster.

Home is…

christina1…childhood nostalgia…

christina2…a tree climbing adventure…

christina3…a laugh fest…

christina4…a breath of fresh air.

— Christina Chen, Quest Scholar, Yale ’18

E-Harmony of Your Education: What to Do as a QB Finalist

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Holy mother of a Smithsonian Museum…

YOU’RE A QUESTBRIDGE FINALIST!!

Yay!!

But what exactly does this mean?

As a Quest Bridge Finalist, you are now eligible to send your application (along with some additional required materials, supplements and perhaps the Common Application for some schools) to participate in the QuestBridge College Match process, all for FREE dollars — my favorite price.

The hard part however (other than refining your essays and making them AWESOME) is deciding which schools to rank and which to apply to for Regular Decision, since:

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(Unless one is okay with spending all of winter break, including Christmas and 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, in front of a computer typing faster than Santa eating cookies and leaving presents (apparently for you he will be leaving coal since you’re a procrastinator!!!).)

Ahem – anyways…

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My suitemate Darby (a fellow Questie) and I consider the College Match Process (and the college application process as a whole, in some aspects) much like Friendsy. Friendsy is a college dating site, similar to eHarmony, where you can express your interest to other students and only learn who they are when they express a similar interest to you. In a nutshell, I have basically described the QB College Match Process. After ranking your 8 colleges, the respective colleges will also begin choosing students. Let’s say your #2 choice and your #3 choice are interested in accepting you with a guaranteed College Match scholarship. You will only be notified of #2’s interest in you and will have no idea what response #3 through #8 have given you. With this said, your rankings are very important, since most QB schools are binding (with the exception of MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale). So how do you begin to narrow down the list of potential bachelors?

  1. Mingle / Browse. As a finalist, you have many options and alternatives so don’t be afraid to look at schools you first thought would not fit you at all. Do your research online (QuestBridge and the College Board have great websites), and make a diagram or a pros and cons list. Widen your perspective and consider all aspects of a school without letting your initial prejudices of the school blur your perception. For example, I was initially wary of Yale’s small engineering department but later found that this was great for having individualized attention as well as more opportunities (less competition) for grants and research opportunities.
  1. First Date. If possible, try to take a visit to the school, preferably not during a break, so you can get a feel for the environment and people, just a like a first date. If the first impression is wrong, you might not want to consider a second date. This place will be your home for the next four years. You want it to feel right because you’re looking for a long-term relationship. Take notes, not just of the information, but how you feel on campus. Go walk around and explore by yourself and take pictures to remember. These might be helpful when writing those “Why (insert college name)” essays. But also, don’t judge a book by its cover. I initially hated Yale only because we visited at the dead of winter, when the school was closed off and not a soul roamed the campus except for ignorant Californians (aka me). I went back home with not one brochure or any information but instead what I thought was first-degree frostbite.
  1. Similar Interests? Make sure the school that you are going to offers the major that you are interested in and/or has a strong program for your interests. Also, if you are not sure what major you are interested in, choose a school that has a variety. What made me lean towards larger research institutions rather than small liberal arts schools was that they have many more course offerings and majors to choose from (perfect for indecisive students like me). Then again, many smaller schools provide much more attention for students who are confused with their educational path. Again, Pros and Cons lists can be very helpful when comparing different schools.
  1. Meet the Wing Men. If possible, talk to the students from different colleges (the QuestBridge Facebook page would be great for this). Ask them why you should consider their school, how the classes are, what is the environment like for minorities, and if the is food edible. All important questions.
  2. Nobody’s Perfect. Nonetheless, my favorite question would have to be: What’s your least favorite part of your school? Even though every single QB school is amazing, there is no perfect school that will leave your dream check-list completely checked off — but that’s okay. Just as colleges should not expect applicants to be perfect, you should not expect a college to be your perfect dream school. Just as in relationships, flaws are part of the package you should be expecting.

Overall, finding that one right college takes a lot. It takes time, effort, commitment, blood, sweat, tears, an arm, a leg, and a half brother… okay maybe not THAT much. Nonetheless, by doing your research, you can find that almost perfect match.

But before you do that, celebrate! Take a break or a cookie, you deserve it. 🙂

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Cheesy Jokes? Arguments? Free Cookies? Email me at christina.chen@yale.edu and send me your cookies… or at least pictures of your cookies.

Christina Chen, Quest Scholar, Yale ’18

How to Survive your QuestBridge Apocalypse: Tips for Writing and Staying Motivated

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So, you just found out you were not chosen as a QuestBridge Finalist.

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Everyone says it’s fine. The world isn’t over and there is still hope, blah blah blah. You know all of this, but even if the world isn’t over, it still feels as if YOUR world is over. You still want to curl up into a corner, look out into the gloomy October sky, let one tear out, and blast the cheesy sob music until your tears turn into cheddar and you die of gas because you’re lactose intolerant.

Now before we become TOO overly dramatic and get carried away, let’s talk about how you can survive this apocalypse and why not being a QuestBridge Finalist can actually help you.

1. It’s a free review of your application!

Nerd Fact: The word Apocalypse translated literally from Greek actually means “a disclosure of knowledge, lifting of a veil or revelation.”

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After re-reading your work with fresh eyes, you might catch something you never would have caught before.

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2. More Time to Battle with Writer’s block!

Unlike your peers who are scrambling to get early application essays finished, you already have a bank of essays you have worked on. Sometimes, when we are trying to think of topics to write about, quantity may trump quality—you can’t edit an essay if you have nothing written down.

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Use this extra time to have others look at your essays, even if it’s just your neighbor from down the street. Ask them if this essay accurately represents who you are and whether or not they can paint a picture of you just by reading this one essay.

Take a break. Go for a walk, watch a movie, experiment with cooking, check out that new Legend of Korra episode, visit a local museum. A healthy dose of relaxation can not only provide inspiration but also help to cure the symptoms of writer’s block, because we all know that staring at the scary glow of the empty word document on your screen is NOT helping.

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3. Extra Motivation!

Even though you haven’t won this battle, you still have a chance to win the war! Use this experience as an opportunity to prove to yourself that you can do it. While everyone else is celebrating, use this time to work. Success rarely comes to someone on the first try and failures are just successes waiting to be discovered.

Sure it is easier said than done. Emotions are finicky things, hard to control. However, surrounding yourself with a support system (your friends, family, a bags of double stuffed Oreos and a cupcake) can be just enough to pull you up and get you back on the road, running once again.

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I hope this blog post helps! If you have anymore questions feel free to email me at christina.chen@yale.edu.

Christina Chen, Quest Scholar, Yale ’18

My Internship with Bangladeshi International Health Research Institute

 

aneesa_SSGThis summer I interned with the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) in the capital of the country – Dhaka. Icddr,b is a non-profit, international health research institute. During its thirty-five years of existence, it has contributed much to improving health in Bangladesh and in other developing countries via its research, treatment, training and policy activities.

Several factors influenced my decision to intern at icddr,b. First, I was impressed with the institute’s strong track record and reputation for producing results. In addition, since this was my first professional venture into the field of global health, I sought a structured internship that could give me the knowledge, skills, connection and support network that would allow me to design and conduct an independent global health research project in the near future. Icddr,b fit this description perfectly since it has over one hundred student interns annually. Lastly, I have a particular interest in health in South Asia because its people have some of the worst health outcomes as anywhere else in the world, and also because I myself am from the region.

I interned under Dr. Ruchira Tabassum Naved, a social scientist and a specialist in Gender and Reproductive Health and my principal investigator. When I expressed my particular interest in mental health to Dr. Naved, she assigned me to do a literature review on stress and its detrimental effects on birth outcomes in women. This report would have assisted with compiling a report for the ongoing cohort study titled Maternal and Infant Nutrition Interventions in Matlab (Matlab, Bangladesh is the site of several icddr,b projects). Unfortunately, I did not find doing a literature review (which comprised of reading a variety of publications on the issue and consolidating the information) very engaging. After doing that for almost a month, I asked to be assigned another task. This time, I was tasked with doing preliminary data analysis for assessing the empowerment of a group of women from rural Bangladesh chosen for the study. I analyzed variables such as the woman’s membership with a microfinance organization, their ability to influence decisions about small and large household purchases, their ability to influence decisions over individual health care and contraceptive use and their ability to visit her natal home. Using the statistical analysis skills I had gained through a course last spring, I used SPSS software to analyze how much of a difference there had been in the women’s empowerment between when the initial study was conducted in 2002 to when the follow-up was done in 2012.

Next, I analyzed the effect other variables related to socio-economic background had on women’s empowerment. Some variables analyzed include whether or not the women held a paid job outside the household, whether or not their household has a stable source of income, and whether or not they use a burqa (a full-length veil worn by some Muslim women). I am happy to say that I enjoyed this quantitative task much more so than the literature review.

A significant challenge I faced included not receiving enough mentorship and guidance from my principal investigator. Due to Dr. Ruchira’s busy schedule I often struggled to receive enough face-time with her. I navigated this issue by networking with other members of her research team who could provide assistance.

Although my internship tasks were computer-based, I twice had the opportunity to visit a slum where interviews were taking place for another project. These visits were particularly meaningful because they allowed me to have an up-close look at what life is like in a slum. Prior to these visits I had only seen images of a slum and had only been able to imagine what life must be like. Even though I could not communicate in Bangla, the national language of Bangladesh, many of the children and women I saw were eager to communicate with me and extend their hospitality. Although trite, I must admit that witnessing and interacting with the people whose lives icddr,b is trying to positively change motivated me to further to pursue global public health work. The images of these women and children will always stay with me. In the future, I hope to return to Bangladesh to pursue my own independent research project revolving around the population’s mental health needs.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to QuestBridge for making this experience possible. Without the financial support, this experience would have been out of the question. This experience has put me one step closer to figuring out the career path I would like to pursue in the long run, and for that I am grateful beyond words.

— by Aneesa Noorani, Quest Scholar, Yale ’16

Not Matched? Me Neither

yale

It’s finally that time of year again -– holiday music and hot apple cider, snow flurries and fuzzy socks, family, friends, and gifts galore -– but for hundreds of high school seniors, this holiday season has brought with it the epitome of all miracles. After months of slaving away at college applications and spending countless hours perfecting every letter of every word of every essay, a new batch of QuestBridge National College Match Finalists discovered on December 2 that they had been matched with a full financial aid package to one of QuestBridge’s thirty-five partner colleges, which rank among the most prestigious in the nation and in the world.

These students will just now be beginning to breathe easy for the first time in months, because they have made it. They have conquered. They have singled themselves out as some of the nation’s best and brightest. They, despite every obstacle, have been accepted.

I remember that day. I remember the evening decisions were released. I remember waiting with bated breath and a pounding heart for that one momentous e-mail to ping into my inbox. And I remember the rejection. I remember that exact moment when all my hopes and dreams seemed to deflate like a popped balloon. I remember the aching disappointment and the helpless frustration. I was not matched with any of the eight schools I ranked, and I remember that rejection and the many more I faced after as six of the ten colleges I applied to turned me down one after the other.

But what do I remember more than all the rest? More than all the rejection? More than all the disappointment? I remember the moment I was accepted to the college of my dreams through Regular Decision, accepted to the college I had ranked as my number one choice in the Match. My happy ending may not have come when I would have liked, but it was as fairy tale perfect as one could hope for.

To all of those finalists who were not matched last week, you may not yet be able to breathe easy, but know that your dreams are as real and possible as ever. Do not lose hope. Take every rejection as a challenge to succeed, and tackle those Regular Decision applications with all you’ve got. Just one year ago, I was in your shoes, but in the end, I received an acceptance and a phenomenal financial aid package from Yale University — my number one choice. While it’s not yet time to breathe easy, it’s also not yet time to hyperventilate, to have a panic attack, or to go flat out comatose. Take a deep breath. Count to ten.

And get to work.

— by Juliette Grantham, Quest Scholar, Yale ’17

This post was originally published on 10/14/13 on the Quest Scholars Network blog.