On the first of December, many high-achieving, low-income students around the nation were notified that they had received the QuestBridge National College Match–a free college and scholarship application process that helps outstanding low-income high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to the nation’s most selective colleges. This year, there were 501 students matched to 35 different partner schools, with a total of 13 students matched to Pomona College!
Every year, on December 1, I feel the need to stop whatever I am doing and reflect on how my life has changed and forever will be changed by both QuestBridge and Pomona College.
I will always remember this date as if it was yesterday. December 1, 2011 came around and I was very tired from exams, college applications, cross country, marching band and everything that I did as a high school senior. The University of California (UC) applications were due on November 30th, so by this date I had applied to the community college in my town, the California State University of Fullerton, four UCs and four colleges and universities with the QuestBridge application. Even though I was exhausted, I could not sleep the night before December 1.
I still remember being very excited. I checked my email whenever I could–I would ask my teachers if I could use their computers to check my email so that I wouldn’t get in trouble if I used my cellphone. I spent my entire lunch break in the computer lab.
Still, there was no notification.
I went to my second-to-last class. Once that class ended, I decided to check before I went to cross country practice. My friend checked his email first. He had not received the match scholarship. I started to doubt my chances. If he didn’t get it, then how could I? Expecting the worst, I opened up the email from QuestBridge.
“CONGRATULATIONS” it read as the headline. I did not finish reading the email. My eyes started to tear up. Did I actually do it? Did I make it?
I became a Quest Scholar and a Match Recipient on December 1, 2011 to Pomona College!
I cried on the shoulders of my sister for about 15 minutes. She cried with me. What this meant, and became so significant for me, is that my mom, who works as a seamstress, earns minimum wage and is a single parent, would not have to contribute a single cent to my higher education, and that’s what I needed. My mom has given me life and as a low-income student, I could not afford to have her pay for my education–she had mouths to feed, bills to pay, and rent to contribute in order to provide us with the necessities to live.
On December 1, 2011, my entire life went for a spin. I could not believe that I was going to attend one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the nation. My life has never been the same ever since. I am allowed to take classes and study with some of the most brilliant students in the nation. I can speak to my professors and develop relationships on a one-to-one basis. I can attend subsidized events, like Wicked, musicals that low-income students can’t afford to see on a daily basis.
I am living the dream that a lot of my friends back home can only dare to dream (many of them are hindered by the system, the lack of information for higher education and financial literacy). Today, I am sitting down in a flat with people who study at the University of Freiburg here in Germany while I study abroad with the IES European Union Program. Just this past week, I visited Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Nice, and Monaco. Not many low-income student around the nation have the privilege to do this and I urge everyone, if they have the financial means or financial aid and citizenship capability, to study abroad. Not only is it life-changing, it has been vital to my self-development and growth as a low-income Sagehen! Chirp, chirp!
I always thought that it was luck that has gotten me this far, but that would be undermining A LOT of the hard work that I put in to get here. Hard work paved the way, but I needed an opportunity. I ran away with this opportunity when QuestBridge came around.
I am still running.