2015-2016 Mentors


Meet the Amherst College Telementors! Listed below are the photos and bios of the dynamic Amherst students who provide advice, guidance and assistance to the high school participants in the Telementoring program. Scroll down to learn more about each of them and to read about their experiences as Amherst students and their own paths to college.

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Name: Araceli Alvarez '18
Chicago, Illinois
High School:
Whitney M. Young Magnet High School
Major (or potential major):
Activities on campus:
La Causa, Arco Iris, Reader to Reader, Best Buddies
Volunteering, reading, catching up on Netflix shows

Although my parents had always stressed the importance of education, they have not been able to provide me with guidance. Chicago Scholars and Questbridge were the two programs that provided me with the resources and mentors necessary to navigate the complicated college application process. Interviews, essays, and the Common Application were not the only roadblocks preventing me from going to college – I went into the college process with my family’s financial burden in mind. I was going to go to whichever school offered me the best financial aid package and that meant that I couldn’t become emotionally invested in any one particular school.  I would like to say that I fell in love with Amherst College and that it was my dream school, but that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t until I was accepted and saw their generous financial aid package that I allowed myself to truly become excited about having the opportunity to attend such a prestigious and diverse college.

With a year under my belt, I can honestly say that I cannot picture myself anywhere else. The connections I have made with not only my freshmen class, but also with graduating seniors have allowed me to have an amazing support system that is always there for me. Professors are also part of that network that pushes me to thrive in my new environment: they are not just concerned with my academic work, but also my emotional well-being. Aside from having a tight-knit community, Amherst College challenges us and provides many opportunities for fun. The Powerhouse and various campus activities like the Fall Festival and Spring Carnival allow for the campus to come together in a stress-free way. I am beyond excited for the next three years.

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Name: Servet Bayimli '16
Brooklyn, NY
High School: Brooklyn Technical High School
Major (or potential major): Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought; Psychology
Activities on campus: Student Government (AAS), Diversity Intern, Mock Trial, Model United Nations, Girls Inc. of Holyoke, Community Engagement Orientation (CEOT) Trip Leader
Hobbies: Cooking, traveling, writing, playing volleyball, doing magic tricks

Although I often exaggerate things, I think it’s fair to say that the college process was one of the most stressful periods of my life. I attended New York City’s largest public high school, and with that, I received little individual attention throughout the college process. I began my search in May of my junior year by asking teachers where they would see me as a good fit, and why. During that time I also filled out surveys that asked me questions about school size, interests, and test grades, which gave me suggestions of colleges. That summer, after tons of research, I narrowed down to a solid select list. Because not that many adults were there for me during this process, I had to follow the crowd, mimicking what my friends were doing. For example, I started my supplements after I heard my friends had started theirs. My former U.S. History teacher suggested I look at liberal arts colleges because of my activities in school – it was something I had never considered, especially because my high school never afforded me any kind of flexibility in pursuing my own academic interests. After I finalized my list, it was time for the all too often underestimated portion of the application – the essay. I didn’t realize how important it was until I sat down with a teacher for an edit and learned that it could actually make or break an application. I must have gone through over 15 drafts simply trying to figure out what to write about. After I decided on a topic, putting my ideas on paper in a clear and concise manner took hours. Several drafts later, I was ready with a piece I was proud of. Before I knew it, January rolled around and the applications were in.

I thought that was it with the process; that I would just wait a couple of weeks and I would get responses and that would be that. I was mistaken. The financial aid portion of the college process started. Although it wasn’t as stressful as writing essays or taking exams, it was a very meticulous process. It made me feel like I was never going to get any financial aid and that I would be drowning in debt even after two years. I was (gladly) proven wrong and college seemed like a financially attainable goal after all. When decisions began coming in, it was a good time – regardless of the outcomes. It meant that the process was over and that I could finally breathe. I then had the tough choice of choosing schools that chose me – and here I am at Amherst College.

After all of this, all I can say is that things always have a way of working themselves out with the college process.

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Name: Lauren Benjamin '17
Brooklyn, NY
High school: Miss Porter's School, CT
Major (or potential major): Russian; Sociology/English
Activities on campus: Gospel Choir, Amherst Christian Fellowship, Badminton, Black Student's Union,  Reader to Reader, Center for Community Engagement
Hobbies: Working out, volunteering, nail art, reading, creative writing, squash, badminton, foreign languages, singing, eating

The college process for me, as it is for thousands of high schoolers each year, was a long journey of confusion, doubt, stress, and sometimes disappointment. Amidst all of those sentiments, however, the adjectives hopeful, happy, and rewarding also come to mind. I was fortunate enough to attend a small private boarding school with a graduating class of 77. This condition allotted me more than sufficient attention and care from my college guidance counselor. I am also a member of the 10th class of the TEAK Fellowship, a community organization for high-achieving, low-income, NYC students. As it had done during my high school application process, TEAK greatly assisted me throughout my college admissions process by providing me standardized test prep help, interview practices, funded college visits, and a counselor whose knowledge and expertise in the particular area I could rely on. Both TEAK and my high school were definitely instrumental in helping me navigate the application to twelve schools and further on, in choosing the right fit for me after I received ten admissions offers. I ultimately narrowed this list down to three schools, all of which I visited in April of senior year. I chose Amherst College because of the five-college consortium, its incomparable diversity, unquestionable educational reputation, commitment to making college affordable for all applicants, and the testaments of success that three of its alumni, whom I know, offer. After a year here, I am very confident that I made the right choice.

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Name: Amber Boykins '18
Hometown: Lathrop, CA
Major (or potential major): English; Political Science
Activities on campus: Circus (campus literary magazine), Black Student Union, EDU
Hobbies: Reading, photography, listening to music, painting nails, Netflix binges

I began my college search with nearly no accurate knowledge about the application process and no idea about what type of school environment I wanted to join in the coming four years.  Luckily, I had an awesome college counselor and family members that were committed to helping me find the right place to continue my education.  These individuals helped me tremendously, providing both crucial information and thoughtful advice that helped me in making informed decisions every step of the way. I am also an A Better Chance scholar, so I received guidance from and had access to various resources through their organization as well.

I first learned about Amherst from my favorite high school teacher, who is an alum, and I only continued hearing positive remarks from my counselor and other trusted adults.  These accolades piqued my interest in the college, so over the summer of my junior year I applied to one of Amherst’s Diversity Open House (DIVOH) weekends, which would allow me to see the school first-hand.  During my weekend visit, I put in a concerted effort to be fully engaged in all activities and take advantage of the opportunity to talk to students so that I could get a feel for what Amherst is truly like. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to high school students beginning their college search is: ask tough questions, of both yourself and the school.  I really liked what I saw during my visit, so after reflection and discussion with my family and college counselor, I decided to apply Early Decision.

I understand how daunting and difficult the college application process can be, but I believe that it can also be a great opportunity to reflect on your goals and dreams and find a place where you’ll truly thrive. As a Telementor, I am so excited to be a source of support as you make these discoveries. 

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Name: Thais Calderon '17
Silver Spring, MD
High school: James Hubert Blake High School
Major (or potential major): Neuroscience; Spanish
Activities on campus: DASAC, Amherst Dance, Project Salud, EDU
Hobbies: Dance, running, and Netflix

I’m the kind of person that likes to have things structured, to know where I am and know exactly where I’m headed. The college application process had other plans for me, it left me uncertain and confused for periods of time and for others I was just anxious. I didn’t understand FAFSA and then CSS came out of nowhere. Luckily I had someone to guide me through the process who was my telementor and with their help the college process became more like a box of surprises that still left me uncertain just not as confused.

My guidance counselor introduced me to Questbridge my junior year and it was the one of the best things that could have happened to me. With the support of my telementor and counselor, I was able to get through the college process and feel confident in my application. I was offered acceptance to great schools and offered very generous financial aid to all of them (thanks to Questbridge) so the choice was all mine. I chose Amherst because it embodied what I wanted from a higher education institution and it has produced ambitious, active, and bold minds; something I want to be when I graduate. I am very thankful and I feel lucky to have had the kind of college application process that I did (it could have gone terribly wrong, trust me) and I hope to be as helpful and comforting as the people in my experience were.

Erika Chavez '16 - 215 x 215 .jpg Name: Erika Chavez '16
Hometown: San Diego, CA
High school: The Preuss School
Major (or potential major):  Anthropology and Spanish
Activities on campus: Girls Inc. Tutor, La Causa, Careers in Education Professions Program
Hobbies: Reading, watching movies

Being a first-generation student I did not have much help going into the college application process. Luckily, I attended a school that did a good job at helping students find the school that fit their needs. Applying to college is difficult because there are so many things to take into consideration. What do you want to study? Do they help with financial aid? Can you handle snow? Having someone to talk through these problems with was what helped me find a college at which I am now very happy.

When applying to colleges, I knew that I wanted a small school on the East Coast, which made it easier for me to narrow down my search. Finding Amherst was like finding the missing piece to a puzzle: I knew that this was the place where I wanted to spend my next 4 years. I know that without the help of counselors and mentors I would not have thought of Amherst as a possibility, so I look forward to being that guiding voice for someone else.

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Name: Antonella Dominguez '18
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
High School: Emma Willard School
Major (or potential major): Asian Languages & Civilizations; Art History; Anthropology
Activities on campus: Student docent at Beneski Museum of Natural History, women's ice hockey team manager
Hobbies: Painting, drawing, arts & crafts projects; translating Japanese literature; thinking up good puns

I think one of the most difficult things about the college application process is choosing which colleges to apply to. Visiting colleges and surfing college websites can teach you a lot, but staying overnight or even attending a class at a college can help you make a much more informed decision. I knew I wanted to attend a small liberal arts college not too far from home, so I visited a few different colleges, including Amherst. I didn't know what I wanted to major in, and it wasn't until I visited Amherst that I realized what I wanted to study and pursue as a career. I once volunteered at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and so stepping into the Beneski Museum of Natural History was like stepping into a dream. I knew I wanted to work there and learn more about museums to be able to work at the AMNH in the future.

I decided to apply to Amherst Early Decision. As a result, I only had to complete one application, but it was still a stressful part of my senior year. I went to boarding school and could not ask help from my parents, but I did have the TEAK Fellowship for support. The TEAK Fellowship is a non-profit organization that helps low-income students enter private high schools, and they fully supported me for both high school and college applications. Before TEAK, I never imagined myself achieving at elite schools, but they gave me the support I needed to get through both application processes. Amherst was a match for me and I have enjoyed my time here. There is always something to do and so many places to discover on campus. I enjoy the small community, and when things get hectic and stressful, there are so many ways to unwind and relax. I look forward to spending the next three years here.

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Name: Felix Edwards '18
Hometown: Thomasville, GA
High School: Thomasville High School
Major (or potential major): Philosophy; English
Activities on campus: Model UN, Art Advocates, AAS (student government); The Indicator, Campus Activities Board, GlobeMed
Hobbies: Hiking, photography, bike riding, exploring Western Massachusetts, reading playing in the snow with friends

When I began my college search, I thought that I knew what sort of college I wanted to attend, but really, all I knew was that I wanted to go to a liberal arts college outside of my home state. I was entirely unprepared for the number of vastly different schools that would fit those constraints! The guidance counselor at my small public high school was much more accustomed towards directing students towards different regional vocational schools, and as a result I had to wade unassisted through the college application process. 

I applied Early Decision to Amherst, and I was so happy when I was accepted, even though I had never visited. When I finally arrived here, I realized how lucky I was to go to a school that connected with me. I think that there is a lot that can be gleaned from reading about different schools, but in the end what really makes a school the right choice is the personality of the place, and that can best be found by talking to people or visiting. 

I chose to be a Telementor so that I can help others search for colleges in a more systematic way than I did. I want to help my mentees comprehend the intangibles of the colleges they are looking for so that they can find the college that will keep them engaged for the next four years.

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Name: Bolaji Ekhator '18
Hometown: Wakefield, MA
High School: Saint Mark's School
Major (or potential major): Political Science
Activities on campus: Amherst Football, Amherst College LEADS program
Hobbies: Reading, writing, watching movies, listening to music

As a first generation college student, my college search process was a largely independent undertaking with little guidance from others. Although my parents were supportive of what I wanted to study and what I wanted in a school, they were mostly unable to help me in regards to applying to schools. From coordinating trips to visit schools to reaching out to college coaches, I completed this process essentially on my own, and as a result, I was able to make a calculated, uninfluenced decision about what school was right for me. Ultimately, I hope that as a Telementor I am able to provide assistance to high school seniors in their college search and help to make their college application process as smooth as possible.

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Lisa Hsiao '16
College Station, TX
High school: A&M Consolidated High School
Major (or potential major): Neuroscience
Activities on campus: Equestrian, Tour Guide, Reading Mentor, Music Department Usher, Amherst Christian Fellowship
Hobbies:  Knitting, crafting, stargazing, reading, baking, playing the harp

Coming from a large public high school, I had very little college admissions guidance. I had no college counselor, and no tutoring for the SAT or ACT. No one read over my admissions essays, and no one helped me fill out my FAFSA, but somehow I was admitted to Amherst. 

Now I'm a prospective Neuroscience major hoping to pursue a career in medicine, although I'm planning to explore many of the other extensive options here at Amherst thanks to the open curriculum. From the beautiful fall foliage and the breathtaking view from Memorial Hill to the incredible students and staff, I am continually amazed and humbled by all that Amherst has to offer. With such gifted students from all around the world, I learn just as much from my peers and their experiences as I do from my professors in my classes, and I know that it is only through the help of others that I am able to call myself an Amherst student today. I am so thankful for the opportunities I've been given here at Amherst, and I hope to use what I've been given to bless others. 

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Name: Ha Ram Hwang '17
San Diego, CA
High school: Del Norte High School
Major (or potential major): Chemistry and Anthropology
Activities on campus Health Collaborative, Terras Irradient (A Cappella), DBJ Five College Dance, ACEMS, Amherst Christian Fellowship, Reader to Reader
Hobbies: Val sitting, baking

The college application process was a tough one--I am a first-generation Asian-American and my relatives had never attempted to diverge from the community college route. Having been very active and motivated in high school, I knew I wanted to take a chance, but I had no idea how to do it. It wasn't until senior year that I began scrambling to take SATs and ACTs, while applying for too many colleges that I had no idea about. I also had no idea about the financial aid process so I spent countless hours trying to understand how I was going to afford college--that is, if I was going to make it at all. It wasn't until I received my acceptances and heard about my peers' experiences that I finally sat down to do critical research in order to narrow down my choices. It is then I learned about the generous financial policy of Amherst College and the differences between large universities and liberal arts colleges. Thanks to my lonely struggle, however, I now know how to navigate the system and hope to prevent others from stumbling into the same confusing journey that I took my senior year.

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Name: Caroline Kinsley '17
Hometown: Tempe, AZ
High school: Tempe Preparatory Academy
Major (or potential major): Classics
Activities on campus: Choral Society, Women’s Chorus, Book Conservation at Frost Library, Classics Club
Hobbies: Reading, Knitting, Sewing, and Painting

While applying to college, I had very little support from my family. As a result, while I knew what I wanted in a college, I had no idea how to go about applying. Luckily, I had the privilege of attending a small liberal arts school that was able to offer me much needed guidance. I made a list of characteristics I wanted in a college (small, liberal arts college with good financial aid on the east coast) and brought it to my college counselor. She directed me towards QuestBridge, and from there I researched each of its partner colleges. After finding the ones that interested me, I made a short list and applied to those through QuestBridge’s National College Match. Through hard work and the support of my college counselor, I matched with Amherst College!

My college application process was long, stressful, and difficult, but I learned a lot about the process. I would love to be able to take this experience and use it to help others find the right colleges for them.

Zixi George Liang '17.jpg Name: Zixi (George) Liang '17
Guangzhou, China/ Westmont, IL
High school: Hinsdale Central High School
Major (or potential major): Film and Media Studies, Mathematics
Activities on campus: Glee Club, Film Society, IT, Olio Yearbook, Mock Trial
Hobbies: Cinema, biking, singing, sledding down Memorial Hill

I had the privilege of attending an excellent college prep school in one of Chicago’s western suburbs, but even with the wealth of resources I had, college applications were extremely complicated and time-consuming. Despite all the help you may or may not receive – from counselors, parents, even friends – looking for, applying to, and choosing a college is ultimately a personal process, and it is up to you to make that final decision. While a large number of students in my graduating class simply chose to attend the local community college or the state university, I spent countless hours reading guidebooks, browsing through online college forums, and just sitting around having debates in my head. In the end, choosing Amherst was a due to a combination of several factors, including a gut feeling that the school was “the right choice,” but it was a visit during the Diversity Open House Weekend that finalized my decision. After a year here, I can say that I do not regret my decision one bit. And I am here to – hopefully – help you make that decision. 

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Name: Juan Llamas '16
Los Angeles, CA
High school: Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School
Major (or potential major): Neuroscience
Activities on campus: La Causa, Quest Scholars, The EDU

I was the first person in my family to attend college and so the college search and application process was completely new to me. I attended a relatively small magnet school in Los Angeles, California. My schooldid the best that it could in order to help the students with college applications, but because there were so many of us, in-depth and personal help was not readily available. Besides that, most of our counselors focused on guiding students into attending one of the California state schools, such as the University of California and Cal State schools, where most of our student body ended up.

Fortunately for me, I heard about the QuestBridge program and was also able to get help from resources outside of my school. Through QuestBridge, I learned about and applied to many schools that I would not have heard about otherwise. Without programs such as this one, I would not have heard about Amherst College and would not be here now. The resources I used outside of school were a great help and I do not know what I would have done without them. I realize that many students do not have the same resources available to them, which is why I want to assist them. I hope to be an asset in their search for their ideal college and an important resource in their lives throughout the application process.

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Name: Melissa Martinez '18
Hometown: Houston, TX
High School: S.P. Waltrip High School
Major (or potential major): Neuroscience
Activities on campus: Resident Counselor, IT Specialist, Outing Club Historian, Quest Scholars, Women's Club Soccer
Hobbies: Running, drawing, poetry, languages, gymnastics

As many students before me have experienced, I was full of dread and confusion as the college application process crept up. Initially, I thought I would probably attend a community college because the costs of attending the state schools were too high. Being the first in my family to even consider attending college, I had no one to look to for advice, until I found out about QuestBridge, which introduced me to colleges that were willing to pay for me to attend college. 

Even so, the QuestBridge application was stressful, and I turned to my calculus teacher for help. I was matched to Amherst College through the QuestBridge National College Match Program and have made amazing friends since. Having had this wonderful opportunity, I am beyond eager to help others who share a similar experience in seeking some additional guidance regarding the college application process. 

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Name: Silvia Mavarer '18 (Study Abroad Fall 2016)
Hometown: Miami, FL
High School: Ronald W. Reagan / Doral Senior High School
Major (or potential major): Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought
Activities on campus: Pride Alliance, First Generation Association, Quest Scholars Network
Hobbies: Working out, watching Netflix, listening to music

During my junior year of high school, one of my teachers spoke to the class about QuestBridge. After applying for and receiving the College Prep Scholarship, I was able to attend a conference in Chicago that introduced me to a plethora of amazing schools, like Amherst, that I had never heard of before. I decided to apply to fly-in programs before my senior year, and I ended up getting the opportunity to visit Amherst for its Diversity Open House (DIVOH) Program. When the time came to submit my QuestBridge College Match application, I ranked Amherst and I was matched! I want to help other students learn about all of the different opportunities that are out there for them, so that they can end up at a school that makes them as happy as Amherst makes me.

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Name: Dakota Meredith '17
Bensalem, PA
High school: Archbishop Wood High School
Major (or potential major): Biochemistry; English
Activities on campus: Rhythm & Shoes musical theater Stage Manager and Writing Team Leader, GlobeMed staff member, Pride Alliance, Colleges Against Cancer
Hobbies: Reading, writing, dancing, singing, tie-dying, and, most importantly, thesis writing

When the time came to apply for college, I had no idea of what kind of school I wanted to attend. I knew I would prefer to stay on the East Coast, and I knew I wanted some of the independence associated with moving away from home, but that was all I had on my checklist. My high school advisor was nice enough and was able to assist me in some of the financial aid process, but she had hundreds of other students and couldn’t do much to help me think about the big questions. Would a smaller or larger school be better for me? Did I want my college to be better known for its English department or its science program? Should I live in the city, or should I look somewhere more isolated? As a result, my college list was long and very scattered.

I also didn’t feel comfortable talking to my advisor or my family about the stresses and insecurities that come part and parcel with the college application process. It was incredibly nerve-racking to know that ultimately my decision would come down to who was able to give me the best financial aid package. And when I was rejected from the school I had applied to through Early Decision, I was crushed. It took a lot of effort for me to be able to move on and work on applications for other schools. In the end I discovered Amherst, and although the situation was such that I had to accept their admission offer without the benefit of visiting first, since then things have worked out fantastically. I’ve found a home at Amherst, and I’d like to help you find the same perfect fit. I also want to help you be more organized and decisive than I was, even though eventually things worked out for me. And last but not least, as a Telementor I want to be there to talk to you through this incredibly stressful process.

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Name: Aleks Merkovich '17 
Queens, NY
High school: Stuyvesant High School
Major (or potential major): Biology, Psychology
Activities on campus: Route 9 (a cappella), Glee Club, Amherst Dance, Resident Counselor, Biology TA, Biology Research Assistant
Hobbies: Photography, listening to music, walking

As a child of immigrants and part of the first generation of my family to go to college, I had to rely heavily on outside sources to help me find and apply to college. My parents knew very few colleges outside of Ivy Leagues and state schools, and everyone else in my family had attended a state or city university. Luckily, my school had lots of resources to help with the process, including college trips, college fairs, and college representatives come and talk to us. We also got to sit down with individual college counselors who would help us with our search. The QuestBridge program ultimately is what expanded my college application pool, allowing me to apply to tons of great schools I had never even heard of before! That's even how I found Amherst. When I was applying, I originally didn't think a small liberal arts college was for me, but visiting the school really made a difference. If there's one thing I learned through the application process, it's that visiting a school is super important; it can determine whether or not you apply - or even attend! - a certain school.

Lilly Mommens '18.jpg Name: Lilly Mommens '18
Hometown: Portage, WI
High School: Portage High School
Major (or potential major): Computer Science
Activities on campus: Amherst Christian Fellowship, Fencing, Stage Combat, Women's Chorus, QuestBridge Scholars Network
Hobbies: Drawing, painting, Writing, crocheting, binge-watching Netflix

My college search process was a mess. I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. My 'list' of potential colleges ranged from the local community college to Yale, with lots of other schools in between. I was so concerned about not getting into school that I felt tempted to apply to every school that sent me a flyer in the mail. To calm my swarming thoughts, my friend suggested I apply through QuestBridge. The two My of us struggled through the long application together, and naturally I only ranked one school: Yale. At that point I had never even looked at Amherst. After being rejected, I applied regular decision to many other schools. I visited Amherst after I was accepted (but before I committed) during a Diversity Open House. I was stunned by how much I felt at home.

Looking back, I had a number of people trying to help me but so few who actually could. In my experience, hardly anyone was even able to explain what it meant to apply 'Early Decision', as the schools my friends applied to (mainly state schools) had a rolling admission set-up. I was so confused, and I remember just being glad it was over. Still, coming out of this struggle at Amherst College makes it all worthwhile. I feel even more at home on campus than I do at home sometimes. As a Telementor, I hope to help other students connect to the school that will make them as happy as I am.

Rachel Nghe '16 .jpg Name: Rachel Nghe '16
San Francisco, CA
High school: Lowell High School
Major (or potential major): Political Science; Asian Languages & Civilizations
Activities on campus: Crew, Equestrian, Mock Trial, Multicultural Resource Center
Hobbies: Basketball, watching movies, knitting and crocheting, baking

As a first-generation college student who attended a competitive public high school, I never doubted attending college once I graduated--the question was what kind of college. The resources I had came from my counselor and teachers, the College and Career Center, friends, and online websites, all of which gave me very limited insight into the colleges I applied to. In fact, other than the colleges that were well within reach of a travel budget, I did not visit any schools outside of California during my search. This included Amherst College, which I never stepped foot on until orientation week as a first year student. 

I had never heard about Amherst College until the end of the junior year, when I realized a role model from my school attended there. Fortunately, I was able to contact her and obtain information about the pros and cons of small liberal arts colleges, which certainly prompted my interest and application. When I received college letters, I was deciding between a large university 30 minutes away from my home or a small town college 3000 miles away from home. My ultimate decision was risky, and I chose to leave my comfort zone to attend Amherst College, a decision I never regret taking. It took time and effort to adapt to the culture shock, but I am glad to have taken this risk to learn about myself and about a world outside of my community. As a Telementor, I hope to offer advice to those making tough decisions, and counsel those who, like me, do not have the necessary resources to know about the college application process, and push those rising high school seniors to make preparations early for critical life changes.

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Name: Cristian Ramirez '18
Hometown: Bradenton, FL
High School: Manatee High School
Major (or potential major): Neuroscience
Activities on campus: ACEMS, Charles Drew Health Professions Society, Debate Club, Orchestra, Amherst Democrats, Outing Clug
Hobbies: Camping, mountain biking, cooking, video games, reading, writing

As a first generation student attending a large public high school, I was unsure whether I would be able to afford the very best colleges or how to even begin applying (much less whether I would even be accepted!). Fortunately,  I had wonderful guidance counselors who took a particular interest in me, gave me individual advice and attention, and introduced me to QuestBridge. It was through these resources that I was able to sort through the (long!) college application process and was ultimately admitted to my dream school.  Amherst has been the perfect fit for me academically, socially and in even other unimaginable aspects, from the challenging, interesting classes, amazing professors, great friends, close-knit class, breathtaking views (I spent my first snow day ever sledding down Memorial Hill), and opportunities available to me. I was very lucky to have had one-on-one attention paid to me during my college search process, and I think every student needs and deserves that kind of mentoring. As a Telementor, I hope to be a resource to help my mentees achieve their loftiest goals. Don’t forget: college is accessible, affordable, and most importantly, you can do it!  

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Name: Tia Robinson '17
Brooklyn, NY
High school: The Kew-Forest School
Major (or potential major): Political Science; Asian Civilizations and Languages
Activities on campus: The Amherst Student, Black Student Union, Campus Activities Board
Hobbies: Traveling, Reading, Writing, Listening to music  

There was never a doubt in my mind that I would attend college, however I had no idea how the college process worked. My mother went to a nearby college, so we didn’t know much about how to apply for college, not to mention deciding on which one would be a good fit. I was completely clueless about how rough the college process was. I followed what my fellow classmates were doing and started my college search early, thank goodness! However, because I was just following along, I had no idea if what I was doing was correct or necessary. This is where having a great support system kicked in. I actually had two college counselors, one from my high school and one from a program called Prep for Prep. My Prep for Prep counselor could sense my uncertainty and fear, so she suggested that I first decide where I wanted to go college. My mother and I had some disagreements about how far I would be able to go, but after some reassuring, she decided that I needed to pick what was best for me. Then I decided whether I wanted to go to a large state college or a small liberal arts college. I was open to both options until I realized that a small liberal arts college would provide me with more specialized attention and support. I was still pretty indecisive and I ended up applying to 11 colleges, Amherst being one of them.

After my acceptance letters rolled in, my counselors were still accessible to help me with financial questions and final decisions. Financial aid may be the toughest part of the college process! My counselors were always there to help me and it gave me the encouragement that I needed. I choose to attend Amherst because of its rigorous curriculum, diversity and sense of community.

I became a Telementor because I wanted to give another student the support system that I received during my college process. I want to give back the reassurance and help that I was given. College applications and financial aid may seem overwhelming at first, but with a little help it can be very manageable!

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Marina Tassi '17
Bridgeport, CT
High school: Central Magnet High School
Major (or potential major): Computer Science
Activities on campus: Peer Tutor, Hello Girl: Women in Computer Science
Hobbies: Running, Blogging, Piano, Acting

My College Search: I come from a large urban city in southern Connecticut. Although I've had some fantastic teachers and great opportunities, the resources at my school were limited, especially the guidance in the college search process. I want to make sure everyone gets to lead with their best foot and have more confidence in the decisions they make throughout the college application process. Information is power.

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Ralph Washington '16
Harlem, NY
High School: Cristo Rey New York High School
Major (or potential major): Economics
Activities on campus: Campus Center Manager, Beneski Natural Museum monitor
Hobbies: Running, videogames, talking with friends

The college application and selection process can seem extremely daunting. Luckily for me, I had a lot of help along the way. Although I was aware that I was attending a college preparatory high school, I did not really begin thinking about college until the latter part of my high school career. I had never spoken to family or friends about college. My main focus was just getting good grades and playing a lot of Xbox. My junior year, however, my school announced that the junior class would be going on a “college road trip” for three days to visit a bunch of different colleges. That trip is what made me enthused about the college process.

I applied to seventeen schools in total. That’s a bit cool to say, but in reality it was a mess. My list consisted of schools I knew I wanted to go to, safety schools, schools my college counselor thought I’d fit into, schools I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting into, and even schools that I wasn’t really interested in but had a cool school color or mascot so I decided to try my luck (Northwestern, I’m thinking about you…). Although I knew I wanted to go to a small school that was near New York, I applied to a number large schools and schools that were far away. It’s important to know what you want in a school, but it is just as important that you cast a wide net, as things may change along the line. I was happy with the results that started to come in and ecstatic when I finally got my decision from Amherst (which happened to be the LAST school I heard from).

College will undoubtedly be among the best few years of your life. This is why it is very important to put a lot of time into your selection of schools. I have changed significantly my two years at Amherst, and I know that I will continue to change and Amherst will continue to shape the person I become until, and even after, I graduate. It is my hope that I can assist all of my mentees in finding the place that will shape them into the person they are striving to become as well.

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Name: Christin Washington '17
Brooklyn, NY
High school: Loomis Chaffee
Major (or potential major): Political Science and Black Studies
Activities on campus: African Caribbean Students Union, Equestrian, Black Students Union, Homeless Connect
Hobbies: Reading, watching “reality” shows, knitting, writing, listening to music

During my college application process, I had a college counselor from my school and one from my program, Prep for Prep 9. Although I had help from two major influences in my life, I often felt pulled in different directions (and the two separate Naviance websites, reviews on CollegeBoard, and advice from The Princeton Review helped complicate things a little further.) Swamped with uncertainty about the size of the classes I wanted to be in and the size of the college I wanted to attend whilst focused on my need for a generous financial aid package, a welcoming community, and a challenging curriculum, I wondered and worried how it was possible to find the perfect college for me. More informal questions concerned me such as, how will my hair get done and is it possible to get into Amherst after being denied from the Diversity Open House? Trust me, I can relate to the feeling of opening a can of worms during my college process.

However, the good thing about it all was learning how to be flexible with what I wanted and unwavering with what I needed during this major process and decision. Likewise, the college process was an extremely reflective time for me that I would not change for the world. As stressful and reflective as this process was, as a Telementor, I aim to ease the confusion and help balance varying emotions by supporting fellow students through the college process. I have experience as a resource for underserved high school students who need or request advice and general help navigating through the college websites and financial aid forms. As a Prep for Prep student, I am also very familiar with enrichment and mentor groups and the importance they place on prospective students having access to a college education. I am truly excited about offering guidance any way I can, to share the advice and the resources that were given to me, and to find the school that best suits you!

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Name: Tierra Wilkins '16
Wilmington, NC
High school: Heide Trask Senior High
Major (or potential major): English; Black Studies
Activities on campus: Reader to Reader, Girls, Inc., Pride Alliance, Orientation Leader, Theater
Hobbies: Reading, drawing, painting nails, working out

I didn't know about Amherst College until my senior year of high school. It wasn't until I received an invitation for an overnight visit that I began to research the college. I liked what I read and decided at the last minute to go. It was the best decision I could make. I fell in love with the campus and the people. Coming from a low-income, racially homogenous area in southeastern North Carolina, I was desperate for some diversity, and Amherst offered that to me. I decided to apply Early Decision, and now here I am (yay)! (Funny story: I flipped a coin when I was deciding where to apply early. Amherst beat out Yale, and I'm okay with that.) However, my college application process was more stressful than it sounds. Because I am a first-generation college student, I wish I'd had someone there to help me along the way and answer my crazy questions. I became a Telementor to help students like me. I can't wait to work with you!

Stephanie Yang '16.jpg Name: Stephanie Yang '16
Fort Lee, NJ
High School: Bergen County Academies (Academy of Visual & Performing Arts)
Major (or potential major): Practice of Art (Studio Concentration)
Activities on campus: Korean Students Association, Poster Designer for Theater & Dance Department, Project Manager for Office of Student Life
Hobbies: Graphic design, watching movies, MMORPGs, dyeing my hair

As both a first-gen American and college student, I went into the college process half-blind. I've wanted to be an artist since kindergarten and I've wanted to go to art school since I was in elementary school. I even had a list of art schools I'd wanted to apply to since the fifth grade. My junior year of high school, however, I realized that art school was financially out of reach and I had to look elsewhere to get the aid I needed. QuestBridge was a great resource in finding schools that fit that criteria; when the acceptances started coming in, the schools that I had applied through QuestBridge were the ones offering the best aid. Eventually, I ended up visiting Amherst and loving it. It meant I wouldn't be able to get a BFA in Graphic Design like I'd always wanted, but it did mean I'd have the kind of academic rigor and variety I'd grown up used to, especially with the open curriculum. For me, the college process meant lots of research, scrolling through forums, and trying to accumulate enough resources to make definitive decisions about both where I wanted to go and whether it was a viable option. It was hectic, chaotic, and while I love where I ended up, I wish I could have had more personal resources than my friends who didn't know any more than I did, which is why I chose to be a Telementor. Rather than just a list of statistics and facts, I'd like to be someone who can answer questions, give advice, and reassure you that it's all going to be worth it.