Kim - DePaul University - Class of 2017

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Knowing that I am the first person in my family to go to college motivated me to push through the late nights and meet the deadlines.

I lacked knowledge about college admissions and financial aid, and I had little support from my family. I was worried about how I would pay for college and spent many long nights learning about the FAFSA and scholarships.

Hometown: Vernon Hills IL

High School: Public

GPA: 3.70 / 3.90 (weighted)

ACT: 29

Major: Health science

Goal: To grow academically and as a person



DePaul UniversityAttending
Brown University Denied
Emory University Denied
Grinnell CollegeWaitlisted
Marquette UniversityAccepted
Northwestern UniversityDenied
University of Chicago (EA)Waitlisted
University of Illinois, Urbana-ChampaignAccepted
University of Notre DameDenied
University of Wisconsin-MadisonAccepted
Vanderbilt UniversityDenied
Wake Forest UniversityWaitlisted
Washington and Lee UniversityDenied
Freshman Year Update

I have a full schedule of chemistry, biology, and health science courses. Although labs take up a lot of my time—and it's weird having your grade depend on only a few tests and a final exam—I enjoy what I am learning. It's so easy to make friends! I share a dorm room with three girls who have become my good friends. My RAs also do a great job fostering community and hold fun activities like watching the Olympics and decorating the halls for Halloween and Christmas.

The most surprising thing is meeting people from across the country and the world. I've met people from Indonesia to Nebraska—all with different political, economic, and cultural experiences. I've also met older students living off campus, who already have degrees and are pursuing different careers. They've shown me that there's no expiration date on learning and redefining yourself.

The QuestBridge quest

Luckily, I found out about the QuestBridge National College Match during my junior year. It connects high-achieving, low-income students with four-year scholarships to selective colleges. The QuestBridge application process was intense. I had to submit a profile, three teacher recommendations, and other paperwork by mid-September.

In November, I was named one of 4,500 QuestBridge finalists (out of 12,500 applicants)! This meant I could apply for a scholarship at QuestBridge member colleges.

I applied to ten QuestBridge schools (all with mid-December deadlines) and to several schools not in the QuestBridge program that emphasized medical science. Knowing that I am the first person in my family to go to college motivated me to push through the late nights and meet the deadlines.

A pathway to DePaul

Unfortunately, I was rejected or waitlisted at all of my top choices, including all QuestBridge schools. It came down to two very different choices: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and DePaul University. UIUC is a traditional state university with a strong community and great school spirit. DePaul is a small, private school in the middle of Chicago with many students who commute; I thought I would miss the spirit I felt at UIUC. But DePaul offered me a substantial scholarship and admission to its Honors Program, so I went for a visit.

My tour of DePaul was excellent! I learned that classes in the Honors Program had 20 students or less. But I was most excited by the Pathways Program, where students studying health science get to work with different professors at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. I would be able to participate in research projects that interest me and start graduate work in my junior year!

I made my final decision the day before decisions were due after visiting both campuses again. Although I thought I wanted the "big name, big college" experience at UIUC, I realized that with a big school, I wouldn't get the individual attention I needed, nor would I have the unique health sciences program. Plus, after visiting DePaul's campus in Chicago, the town of Urbana-Champaign seemed much less exciting. So I chose DePaul—and I am very happy about my decision.

My ups and downs

My best moments were being named a QuestBridge finalist and getting my financial aid package from DePaul. I am so thankful that I can attend and afford college! A low point was when one of my best friends was accepted to Notre Dame—one of my dream schools. I dragged her there on a visit, and she fell in love with it. At first, I was really happy for her; but soon I felt jealous. I wondered why she was chosen over me, and if my admissions decision would have been different if she hadn't applied. Luckily, time heals everything.

What I learned

I know now that my college does not define who I am or what I am capable of, and my financial background does not dictate my future. My success is based on my abilities, my hopes, and my drive, not where I go to school. I've learned to appreciate my struggles because they made me who I am.

The money factor

Because of federal grants and a generous merit scholarship, I am paying very little for college. I will work over the summer and during the school year to pay for other expenses.

My advice

Consider visiting colleges later in your admissions journey. As a senior, you will know the questions you need answered. Also, don't compare yourself with others. Many of my friends and I applied to the same schools and we would compare our GPAs and ACT scores. This activity brings out jealousy and regret when an admissions decision does not play in your favor, and it's a waste of valuable time.

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