Arielle spent her childhood in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. She attended a historic school in St. Petersburg where there was an established college-going culture. Historically, “a certain portion of the class would go to [top 20 schools], and the rest would go to state schools.” While participating in the International Baccalaureate program, she felt that the separation of IB students from “traditional curriculum” students encouraged elitism on campus.
Many of Arielle’s family members attended college but faced difficulties completing their degrees due to the financial burden. Despite financial hardship and family responsibility, her mother was able to go back to school and obtain a master’s degree. “I was very thankful that my family didn’t really push that on to me.”
It wasn’t until her senior year that Arielle discovered QuestBridge. Her Spanish teacher, Dr. Torres asked her if she had applied. Prior to that, she had never heard of the National College Match, but her teacher had several former students attend college through the program and felt Arielle would be a strong candidate.
You want to put things that you can talk about if you get an interview…you want to be able to say something meaningful and not just empty words.
After that initial conversation, Arielle met with her guidance counselor, who helped her put her application together and made sure her materials were submitted on time. She feels that applying for QuestBridge made her feel much more informed about the college application process. Her guidance counselor was very meticulous with QuestBridge applications and would host almost weekly meetings to go over essays, extracurricular lists, potential scholarships and awards.
Arielle strongly recommends that QuestBridge applicants not procrastinate. “I did and it was awful.” Make sure that all of the supplemental essays and questions are done for each of the schools you rank. On the other hand, she says you don’t need to list everything you’ve ever done on the application. “You want to put things that you can talk about if you get an interview…you want to be able to say something meaningful and not just empty words.”
Cost was a major concern when Arielle was applying to college and the main reason she applied through QuestBridge. She currently lives off campus and still has to think about finances, but not paying tuition and other school-related expenses makes a big difference.
When deciding what schools to rank, Arielle was looking for strong biosciences and biochemistry programs and a nice city. Having always attended a PWI (Predominantly White Institution), diversity was also an important factor. “Rice’s black population isn’t large, but it’s still more diverse than other schools.” She initially discovered Rice through a friend who really wanted to attend Rice because of its strong engineering and STEM reputation. She ended up ranking 5 schools and was excited when she found out that she had matched. Despite being in the middle of exams, her friends all started jumping around in class, and her mom “kept bragging on Facebook.”
On campus, Arielle is a member of Will Rice College and majors in biosciences and philosophy. Initially, the dual degree program was stressful, but she discovered that the double major option required fewer credit hours and offered more flexibility. She has found it easy to schedule her required major courses with minimal conflict.
At Will Rice, Arielle serves on the Executive Council as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Representative. She has worked to create more DEI programming for the college, which includes Bake-offs, cultural events for faculty and staff associates, and FLI (First Generation/Low Income) Fridays at the Magisters’ house every month. She has also worked to establish affinity groups for LGBTQ Black and Asian students. While Will Rice has a strong family culture, it has been nice to help better connect communities within the college. “It feels nice to know that you have a safe space to go to for your specific identity.”
Outside of her college, Arielle participates in the Black Student Association and the Rice African Student Association as a way to connect with the broader Black community on campus. She also enjoys events sponsored by QuestBridge to connect with other students with shared identities.
In the future, Arielle is interested in running for President of Will Rice. She feels that her unique perspective as a low-income student can help continue fostering empathy and understanding between students of different backgrounds. In the end, she believes that “Rice is really a family…You can go to the R.A. or strike up a conversation with someone in the commons and feel included.”
After graduating, Arielle would like to research and explore a career as an author. She also hopes to travel more, “so that I can get a feel for what the world is like, because it is so big,” while also staying close enough to family to provide support. She believes that Rice has provided her with problem solving and community building skills that will allow her to coordinate with people who have different views, perspectives and backgrounds.