Before Hana Van opened the notification for her app portal, she started to cry.
“I was very nervous because I didn’t know what the outcome would be,” she recalls.
Van, a final year student at Hastings High School, has applied to QuestBridge, a national scholarship program that covers the cost of an entire college education for low-income students.
These kids usually come from a typical family of four who earn less than $65,000. And under QuestBridge, everything is paid for – from tuition to room and board to travel reimbursement.
“Essentially, anything they need to succeed, [QuestBridge] “You’re going to make sure you don’t skip that financial part,” said Kathy Longstreet, Hastings High School counselor and head of K-12 Counseling.
But the program is very selective. In 2021, 16,500 students applied to the QuestBridge National College Match Program and only 6,312 students became finalists.
From there, the finalists rank the top 12 schools out of more than 40 QuestBridge partner colleges, some of the most selective in the country. Only 1,674 students matched a school – just 10 percent of the original number of applicants.
On December 1, Vann opened up about her match decision to learn they were a match. She had received an all-expenses-paid scholarship to Oberlin College.
“Then I started crying more,” she said.
Vann was one of three students from Hastings High School accepted into the QuestBridge National College Match program this year, including Matt Pattock, who will attend University of Pennsylvania, and Patrick Mallory, who will attend Colby College.
This is the largest number of students selected from Hastings.
“Really, I don’t feel like it’s an exaggeration to say this is really life-altering,” Longstreet said.
For Van, specifically, the total cost of an education at Oberlin College can be as high as $80,000 per year, she said. And although she has always done well in her classes, she “never imagined that I would be able to go to a school like this, just because it is so expensive.
“It really allows kids who are from my economic background, but who are academically able, it opens a lot of doors for them to actually go to out-of-state schools, go to Ivy Leagues and go to better schools that cater to their needs more than maybe an in-state or community college school,” she said. .
Longstreet begins identifying eligible students during the middle of their junior year. By the beginning of their final year, students worked countless hours drafting their applications, writing essays, and gathering recommendations. They stayed after school and spent whole days huddled in the administrative office to process their orders.
That didn’t bother the three students, Longstreet said.
“In general, they love it all, they love learning and they are very passionate,” she explained. “I think that was the primary driving force – they are very interested in what might be possible in their future and where they can do that.”
Here is a glimpse of the three accepted students, their interests, and what they hope to achieve with a QuestBridge scholarship.
A few weeks ago, Matt Patok learned that it is possible to determine a person’s birthday with nine guesses or less. So, naturally, he decided to create a computer program that could guess someone’s birthday.
“I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really want to do this math on my own,'” Batok said.
This is just an ordinary day in the life of Matt Patok. Sometimes he plays video games like Minecraft or a fan-made game based on a TV show called Attack on Titan. At Hastings High School, he participated in the fall play, the Science Olympiad, Youth in Government, the Math Club, and the Test Bowl.
But he said that almost every day he makes a new computer science program. They are not great programs. They are just small projects that drive his thinking.
He often recreates already existing computer programs – to see how they work from the inside out. The day before he was designing the birthday guesser, he created a program from scratch that could find the square root of any number. The day before that, he made a copy to copy the files.
“It’s kind of what I do when I’m bored. I’m like, ‘Okay, what can I do? What’s the little challenge?'” he said.
His research has translated into a classroom challenge, too. Patok is taking the writing proof at Michigan State this semester, and it’s the college’s third dual-entry college math course. While in Hastings, he completed the most advanced placement class Cathy Longstreet, a high school counselor, had ever seen, anything from computer science to microeconomics.
Lots of kids will [take AP classes] Because they want to do it, so things look good on paper when they apply to college,” Longstreet said. “But that’s not why he’s doing it. He goes because he enjoys the challenge.”
Patok will study computer science at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in the fall. But he said he is very much looking forward to the college experience.
“I can say I am learning computer science because I really enjoy it,” he said. “But honestly, I mean, as you probably understood, I could learn it on my own if I needed to.”
He already has a spreadsheet full of clubs on his computer. They range from Science Olympiads to the Computer Science Association to Engineers Without Borders to theater clubs.
“The main thing I care about is the things that I won’t be able to figure out on my own and I can’t do on my own,” he said. “So most of that is not my information.”
He is interested in being somewhere new, meeting new people and trying new clubs.
Coming from Hastings, he described moving to the country’s fifth largest city, about 700 miles from home, as “a bit scary.”
But that’s fine with him. This is what he wants.
“I’m in a small town. Not many people and most people are pretty much the same,” he said.
“But in Philadelphia, there are all kinds of different crazy people with ideas I’ve never heard of and experiences I don’t know at all.”
In the fall of 2022, Patrick Mallory will arrive at Colby College with the majority of his math classes completed.
Calculus 3, Differential Equations, Proof of Writing – Mallory took all of them. Most of the students in these classes are college juniors.
Mallory is a final year student at Hastings High School.
But that’s nothing new for Mallory, who has taken math courses at Western Michigan University and Michigan State University. Throughout his life, he took classes and exams above his grade level.
As a freshman in high school, for example, Mallory took the Advanced Calculus exam. The test is usually for high school seniors who have spent a year doing calculus. But wanting to do something new outside of school, Mallory, who was enrolled in both Algebra 2 and Geometry at the time, taught himself calculus through YouTube videos and Kahn Academy.
“I just started studying calculus for fun because I was like ‘Oh, that sounds fun,’ because I was kind of bored,” he said.
When Mallory mentioned his extracurricular activities to his high school math teacher, Dan Hayward, he recommended Mallory take an AP exam in calculus.
Mallory got a 5, the highest score possible.
“Looking back when I took the lime tablet, I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” Mallory said. “But now imagine some of the new students I know, if I were one of my big calculus friends, and I found out that some of the new students were taking the math board, I would probably lose my mind. Like, there’s no way.”
Although Mallory met a number of mathematics requirements in his college, he still wanted to major in mathematics when he arrived in Waterville, Maine, to attend Colby College. Malloy said he only took a “small dip into what actual math is.”
Mallory intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Mathematics, with the intention of becoming a college professor.
But he has other interests as well. He plays the clarinet in symphonic orchestra, ensemble and orchestra pit. He plans to continue playing the clarinet in college. He also works with alto saxophone in a jazz band.
In recent years, he has also become fascinated with linguistics and hopes to double major in a foreign language. At the moment, he is thinking of German.
“For years, Patrick has been a math, math, math, math major,” said Kathy Longstreet, a high school guidance counselor.
Then, as a result of a series of interests in his personal life, he started loving linguistics about a year ago, said Longstreet.
This is part of the reason why he chose Colby, a liberal arts school, as the college reduces the number of courses required and offers students the opportunity to study a wide range of subjects.
“You are not restricted to specific courses,” Mallory said. “Like, you don’t have to take all these different numbers of courses. It’s more open.”
Although Mallory was accepted into college, he did not stop practicing mathematics.
Take last week, for example. Mallory, like every high school student, had a winter break. He’s spent the week teaching linear algebra to himself—though he’ll be learning more about the topic in his class at Michigan State this semester.
As a child, Hana Phan grew up watching the movies “Criminal Minds”, “Grimm” and “Law and Order”.
These TV shows made Van want to become a lawyer. “I love those crime shows,” she said.
I first thought about becoming a criminal attorney. But as the years progressed, its purpose changed.
“In the beginning of high school, I decided that wasn’t what I really wanted to do because I felt, I don’t know, I’d feel guilty if I left an innocent man away or let someone go free when she said ‘I knew they were guilty’.
Now, you will attend Oberlin College where you will study an environment-related major with the goal of becoming an environmental lawyer.
“She’s really passionate about the activity and what I can do to help change things for the better in the future,” said high school counselor Kathy Longstreet.
Phan turned her interest in criminal law to environmental law during her early years at Hastings High School. They began learning about environmental science, watching a number of documentaries that Van can still remember, such as “Before the Flood” with Leonardo DiCaprio.
“I’ve noticed, wow, that our planet is kind of starting to fall apart,” she recalled. “I want to be able to help prevent this imminent destruction and I want to be able to impact this world in a positive way. Why not save the future in such a small way that it might be looked at?”
When filling out the QuestBridge application, Vann made it a priority to apply to smaller liberal arts schools rather than the large research universities. Oberlin, for example, has only 2,785 students.
“I feel like a liberal arts college would give me some customization because I feel that research institutions tend to be bigger schools and more focused on math, science, technology, engineering, and math in general,” she said.
Not many people in Hastings know the city of Oberlin. But I remembered reading about college in a history class in the United States. Oberlin, she remembers, was one of the first schools to allow women and blacks.
“I just thought the history behind it and the path that Oberlin is taking is a school that I want to be a part of,” she said.
Vann was accepted into QuestBridge. Participation in a number of extracurricular activities, including the National Honor Society, Cross Country, Science Olympiad, Musical, Choir, Youth in Government, and Glee Club, did not hamper her academic performance. Furthermore, she works as server and host at Seasonal Grille.
In the fall of 2022, Van will move to Oberlin, Ohio, where she will be four hours from her home in a place she’s never been.
She said, “Some people feel homesick or afraid to go far from home. But honestly, I’m excited to be more independent and live my life a little bit more.”