Applying to colleges through the QuestBridge National College Match has been a journey to say the least.
From watching those college decision videos on YouTube to having late-night conversations with my parents about my future, I have always known that I wanted to pursue a higher education. However, it always seemed like a distant reality, one that was mine but never truly mine. Even as a senior in high school going through the college application process, it still feels surreal to get a chance to not only fulfill my dreams but those of my parents as well. One of the main reasons my parents made an 8,828 mile-long arduous journey from Somalia to the United States was for my siblings and me to get an education and have the freedom to let our curiosity guide us. They wanted us to be in a position where our options are not limited, thus allowing us to live the lives we choose to live. However, I quickly realized how limited my college options were because of money. College is expensive; as a result, I began searching for scholarships in my sophomore year and discovered the QuestBridge National College Match (NCM): a chance for low-income high achieving students to be admitted into a top university with a full four-year scholarship.
After discovering the QuestBridge NCM, I applied to the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program (CPS) during my junior year. In the program, juniors not only have a head start on the QuestBridge NCM application, as their information from the CPS program application automatically carries over, but they will also have access to resources that will prepare them for the college application process to come. This includes access to the QuestBridge National College Admissions Conference and support from peers in an online community. There is also a chance for juniors to win a full scholarship to a college summer program hosted by their college partners, a Quest for Excellence Award(s), and other opportunities from their college partners. However, this program is not only meant for juniors that plan on applying to colleges through the QuestBridge NCM but also for students that are applying to college through QuestBridge for the regular decision round.
The QuestBridge NCM process is lengthy, to say the least. After submitting the QuestBridge application, I had the opportunity to rank up to twelve colleges that I would want to attend out of the 45 QuestBridge college partners. I did a lot of research and ended up choosing to rank only six schools, which include Yale University, Brown University, Swarthmore College, Barnard College, University of Chicago, and Princeton University. When researching these schools, I considered diversity, location, academics, research opportunities, and quality of life among other things. After being named a finalist, I worked on submitting all of the materials that each school required by their November 1st deadline. From there it became a waiting game until results came out on December 1st, revealing if I matched. The term matched means that the applicant gains admissions to one of the colleges they’ve listed and a full four-year scholarship. If multiple colleges on an applicant’s list are willing to admit them, then the highest on that list is the school they are matched with.
When I first began this process, I had thought about everything including every moment and every second. Except for the 720 hours, 43,200 minutes, and 2,592,000 seconds that I would have to spend in agony waiting for my results. After submitting the match requirements to all six schools, I had run through every scenario possible and made backup plans to my backup plans. By the time the results came out, I firmly believed that I would not get this opportunity. However, little did I know that I was matched to the University of Chicago!
I am going to the University of Chicago with a full four-year scholarship! I’ve been repeatedly looking at the decision letter to make sure that I haven’t dreamt it all, and each time I see the confetti, I freak out all over again. I have no words to describe what I am feeling. However, I do have a word for the students out there who are worried about the cost of attending college or are worried about their chances of being accepted to a highly selective institution among a multitude of other things, like I was. This word was the reason I stayed sane during the waiting period: stop. Stop thinking about the “what if’s”, stop doubting yourself, and stop comparing yourself to others because you are exactly where you need to be in your journey. This may sound cliche, but no matter what you are interested in, as long as you apply yourself and seize every opportunity, it is more than possible to achieve your dreams and understand that being matched or accepted is not rejection, but rather redirection.
With that being said, I would like to thank my parents, my friends, my teachers, Ms. Thompson, Ms. Webster, my college advisor, and the staff at Thomas Jefferson High School for providing me with unconditional support and love on this journey. Here I come, Chicago!