The first acceptance letter I received was from the Georgia Institute of Technology. The other schools I was admitted to were the University of Miami, Boston University, University of South Florida and Carnegie Mellon University, my current school.

I was a QuestBridge applicant. I applied to QuestBridge’s College Prep Scholars in my Junior year of high school (learn more about College Prep Scholars here.) In my senior year I applied to QuestBridge’s very competitive National College Match. (learn more about National College Match here.) Please, please tell your friends in their Junior and Senior years to apply to these programs! Of course, be sure to read their eligibility requirements. I met other applicants through the QuestBridge Class of 2016 Facebook group.

From science fair national finalists, to forensics champions, to soccer state champions, every student boasted an impressive set of experiences.

By applying to QuestBridge’s programs, I received emails of college fly-ins from QuestBridge partner schools. The full list of partner schools can be found here. Being a busy high school student, I applied to as many fly-ins as I had time for. In retrospect, I should have applied to more fly-ins because I enjoyed the three I did participate in. Being able to spend a weekend in a college is nothing short of incredible. I was invited to three fly-ins  which were in Pomona College, Dartmouth College and Carnegie Mellon University.

I was able to meet fellow QuestBridge applicants in my fly-ins; to hear of their success stories and how they overcame adversity inspired me. Over breakfast, lunch and dinner, I had amazing conversations with other First-Generation college students who spoke about their experiences. I couldn’t believe to be in the same cohort as the high school seniors seated around me at the dinner table. From science fair national finalists, to forensics champions, to soccer state champions, every student boasted an impressive set of experiences. If I were a company recruiter, I would have hired everyone I spoke to in an instant.

When I arrived at CMU, I was joyous.

I wasn’t sure which college to commit to until my fly-in at Carnegie Mellon University, in the April of my Senior year. When I arrived at CMU, I was joyous. Compared to other schools I visited, CMU was small. Not a bad small, but a convenient small. CMU has a centralized campus, so all the academic buildings and dorms are near each other around a main quad. All the campus dorms are within a six minute walk from the Cohon University Center. All the campus eateries are nearby. I could imagine going to the campus convenience store for a late night (read after 2 AM) study snack.

My favorite part of my fly-in weekend was the student panel on Saturday. I attended a panel with current students, who each expressed the importance of making the most of your time at college. Each of the five panelists were double majors and emphasized that with another major, they could explore another passion. Hearing their enthusiasm for taking on another major ignited a flare of rapture in me. The panelists reflected a view that was repeated throughout the weekend—CMU students love to learn and take pride in their learning.

When I returned home from my fly-in at CMU, I couldn’t wait to come back. I almost couldn’t focus in my classes the week after my visit. This was actually good news; being so excited about CMU was a sure sign that I should decide to attend CMU.

Comparing my college options with my college eadviser Andrew, he made it clear that CMU would be a great as well as affordable option for me. The last conversation before finalizing my college choice was with my parents. Telling my parents I wanted to commit to CMU, they said that they would be happy where I would be happy. With those words, I submitted my enrollment deposit to CMU. So that day, April 29, 2016, I enrolled to Carnegie Mellon University.