2014-2015 Mentors

Christian Aviles 2017 Los Angeles, CA
Servet Bayimli 2016 Brooklyn, NY
Kari-Elle Brown 2015 Deltona, FL
Kassandra Destiny Casillas 2015 Orange County, CA
Erika Chavez 2016 San Diego, CA
Jesse Chou 2015 Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Nicole Clay 2014 Detroit, MI
Ruodi Duan 2014 Temple City, CA
Megan Duff 2014 Marlette, MI
Samanta English 2015 Brooklyn, NY
Shellby Fabian 2014 San Francisco, CA
Nira Goncalves 2014 Boston, MA
Criss Guy 2014 Scranton, PA
Ashley Hall 2014 Grove City, OH
Lisa Hsiao 2016 College Station, TX
Alexander Jiron 2015 Los Angeles, CA
John Kim 2015 Cypress, CA
Juan Llamas 2016 Los Angeles, CA
Rachel Nghe 2016 San Francisco, CA
Emeka Ojukwu 2014 Stone Mountain, GA
Sharleen Phillips 2014 Toms River, NJ
Katarina Schweitz 2015 Los Angeles, CA
Alice Shen 2014 Miami, FL
Alexus Strong 2015 Naples, FL
Tierra Wilkins 2016 Wilmington, NC
Camille Youngblood 2015 Milwaukee, WI
Lawrence Yu 2015 Brooklyn, NY
Rebecca Zakarian 2014 Auburn, MA
Fengsheng Zhu 2014 San Francisco, CA / Shanghai, China

Name: Christian Aviles
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
High school attended: Roosevelt High School
Major (or potential major): History; Sociology
Activities on campus: Concert Band, UMass Marching Band, Transfer Student Association, Orientation Coordinator, Theater
Hobbies: Playing video games, reading, watching movies

I come from a small community in Los Angeles where a lot of students only think of four schools: East Los Angeles College, USC, UCLA, and Cal State LA. I did attend East Los Angeles College before transferring to Amherst, but I wanted so much more out of my college education. I wanted to go far, explore, make new friends, see new places, and live an entirely different life than the one back at home.

I was fortunate enough to have teachers, counselors, coordinators, and administrators who were willing to help me achieve my dreams. Although I attended a high school with more than 5,000 students, I was given the individual attention needed to navigate through my college application process. But I know that not all students are as fortunate as I was. That's why I'm here. I want to be the bridge between students and the college that is best for them.

Words can't exactly describe why I chose to attend Amherst. I wanted a small liberal arts school, close student-professor interaction, and the chance to learn about many different topics by taking advantage of the college's open curriculum. But it was more than just this; I had a feeling that Amherst was the kind of place where you just feel at home. And that's exactly what it is. It's really hard to tell you why Amherst College is the most amazing, extraordinary, and awesome school ever. I do know that my heart tells me I made the right choice in coming here, and I hope that I can help you find the right place for you.

Servet Bayimli
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
High school attended: Brooklyn Technical High School
Major (or potential major): Law, Jurisprudence and 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.

Name: Kari-Elle Brown
Hometown: Deltona, FL
High school attended: Pine Ridge High School
Major (or potential major): Anthropology; Asian Languages and Civilizations
Activities on campus: Amherst Symphony Orchestra, Amherst Flute Choir, Amherst Christian Fellowship, Quest Scholars Network
Hobbies: Writing and editing, performing, exploring, Zumba Fitness

Up until my senior year of high school, I was sure that I would be attending college in my home state, most likely at the flagship state school, University of Florida (Go Gators!). I later learned about QuestBridge, which introduced me to the possibility of attending an elite institution. While I was applying to schools, I was encouraged to “ignore the price tag” if a school really interested me; I was assured that financial aid was aplenty (it really was). I was very fortunate to be able to visit a large number of schools in the Northeast and Midwest in the fall of my senior year; if it is possible, I recommend it. With all of these choices, I started to become increasingly picky about where I wanted to attend: Did I want a large or small school? Did I want to be in a city? Is gothic architecture really awesome or just creepy?

An overnight stay at Amherst College solidified my decision to attend here (again, I recommend visiting campuses). The most valuable advice I have is do not panic or freak out during admissions season. Take your time with your applications (read: give yourself enough time by not procrastinating), and really think about what you want, rather than what you’re willing to settle for. Relax. You will go to college, and it will be awesome.


Name: Kassandra Destiny Casillas

Hometown: Orange County, CA
High school attended: Santa Ana High
Major (or potential major): Psychology; History
Activities on campus: La Causa, Project Sunshine
Hobbies: Reading, baking, dancing, sewing

College was always something that I planned on experiencing. However, I didn’t want to go to a community college, which for many of my peers was the only option. Nor did I want to go to a Cal State or a UC. They are great schools, but I wanted to experience something completely beyond my comfort zone.

Did I know what I had to do to get into college? I had a general idea. Did I know how to go about accomplishing those things? No. Did I know what college I wanted to attend? Well, I knew what I wanted to get from college, but I had no clue if my dream college even existed.  

Throughout high school I tried everything that I thought and knew could help me get into my dream college. They were four hectic, constantly changing and confusing years. But I was fortunate to have a family that supported my decisions and helped me in whatever they could. I was a part of amazing programs that helped guide me and make sense of everything I was doing. These programs introduced me to Amherst College as well as many other amazing schools that are pretty much off the grid. It is because of my family, friends and mentors that I was able to find and attend such an amazing college that has become a second home for me. I cherish these people because without them I would not have been able to answer those crucial questions. I too want to assist students through that final journey so that they can find a school as amazing as Amherst is for me.

Name: Erika Chavez
Hometown: San Diego, CA
High school attended: The Preuss School
Major (or potential major): Undecided
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. 

Name: Jesse Chou
Hometown: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
High school: Palos Verdes Peninsula High School
Major (or potential major): Biochemistry
Activities on campus: Vela Scholars, GlobeMed, Questbridge, Rowing, Amherst Christian Fellowship
Hobbies: Biking on the Bird Sanctuary trail, Outing Club trips, badminton, loitering in the Q-center

Coming from Southern California, I had initially set my sights on the Universities of California mainly for financial reasons. Cost was a huge decision factor for me, but after learning more about the financial aid process, I learned it didn't have to be the be-all end-all reason. There were top schools like Amherst that didn't care whether you rode a Chevrolet or your Chevrolegs; they would pick up the tab, or at least however much they had to in order for you to come. I hadn't known about programs like QuestBridge or need-blind, full need schools until I tried to navigate the convoluted process my senior year. The process of applying to college, applying for financial aid, picking a college, and deciphering what your financial aid package can be daunting for sure. My high school counselor had been the one to help me fill out the FAFSA and tell me about opportunities like QuestBridge. I realize I was lucky to have that voice in my own life, and want to be that for someone else as well.

Name: Nicole Clay
Hometown: Detroit, MI
High school attended:
Cranbrook Kingswood
Major (or potential major):
French; Economics
ctivities on campus: Girls Inc., Ventilation

Applying to college was not easy for me. I am a first-generation college student, which means that my family was not knowledgeable of the application process. I was lucky to have an outside source to help me along the way. I participated in an Upward Bound program that dedicated a significant portion of its time helping the students apply to colleges, for different scholarships, and financial aid. I became a Telementor because the program resembles the assistance I received from my advisors in Upward Bound. I am grateful for the advice they gave me during that stressful period. To give credit where it is due, it was the Upward Bound program that informed me of the QuestBridge scholarship and even introduced me to the college I attend now. I am excited for the opportunity to provide guidance to ambitious students who wish to explore the college process without limitation.

Name: Ruodi Duan
Hometown: Temple City, CA
High school attended: Arcadia High School
Major (or potential major): Black Studies; History
Activities on campus: Alumni Office Student Caller, 5PAN, Holyoke Bound Coordinator
Hobbies: Running

I graduated from a public high school with a graduating class of 1,000 where there was virtually no personalized advice or support our two counselors could provide. My parents were not educated in the United States and did not attend college, so my search essentially consisted of brochures, mailings, and what I heard from friends. I came to the Amherst Diversity Open House Weekend fall of my senior year, and that really opened me up to the concept of a liberal arts college. I also applied to a variety of other schools, including Northwestern, Wellesley, Dartmouth, and schools in the UC system, but Amherst continued to stand out. My experiences here have fundamentally changed how I see the world and my relationship to it. My Amherst liberal arts education has given me a much more nuanced and informed perspective of society, critical thinking skills, and the opportunity to speak up.

Name: Megan Duff
Hometown: Marlette, MI
High school attended: Marlette High School
Major (or potential major): Economics; English
Activities on campus: Fencing Club, Outing Club, Amherst College Electronics, Quest Scholars Network
Hobbies: Reading, hiking

Before beginning the college application process, I didn’t worry too much about being a first-generation college student from a rural community. I figured that applying would be pretty straightforward, even without help from my high school or parents. While the application process itself wasn’t too difficult, the knowledge I lacked was the knowledge of what exactly colleges were looking for. Anyone can fill out an application, but a good application is an entirely different story. Luckily for me, I have a mother who helped me immensely in the hunt for programs to facilitate my college search. She found the QuestBridge program and I attended a conference at Yale which gave me the information I needed to succeed in my “quest” for the perfect college for me. Still, I know what it feels like to be lost and unsure and powerless in the college admissions process. As a telementor, I hope to prevent my mentees from ever having to feel that way as well as help them to make their college dreams come true. 

Name: Samanta English

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
High school attended: Teachers Preparatory High School
Potential Major (or potential major): English; Theater and Dance
Activities on campus: Community Engagement Leader and Tutor for Girls Incorporated of Holyoke, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Program Board, Quest Scholars Network, Intramural Volleyball
Hobbies: Reading, creative writing, listening to music, playing volleyball, acting

As student from a public high school in a low-income neighborhood, I had never heard of liberal arts colleges like Amherst and neither had anyone at my school besides a few teachers. By junior year, I figured I would attend a state school upstate since I knew I would be accepted there and there was a slim chance I could get into an Ivy League school. Then, a teacher told me about QuestBridge, a program that provides opportunities for high-achieving, low-income students. I received the College Prep Scholarship and went to Yale for a conference that introduced me to a plethora of private colleges I had never heard of. I learned that my economic status should not stop me from applying to "expensive" private schools and that I can and should apply to those schools. I had no outside preparation for the SAT, no way of visiting any schools outside of New York City, and no help from my parents, but I applied to the College Match Scholarship and matched with Amherst. So, my advice to students entering the college application process is to not limit yourself because there are so many opportunities out there that you may not know about. Look beyond the schools in your community, learn about the liberal arts schools you may not have considered so far, and expand your outlook.

Name: Shellby Fabian
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
High school attended: Drew School
Major (or potential major): Sociology; Architectural Studies
Activities on campus: America Reads Tutor, Strategic Planning Committee (working to plan/design future facilities at Amherst College), Peer Career Advisor
Hobbies: Painting, graphic design, listening to music, relaxing with friends

In the fall of my senior year I was indecisive about what type of college was best for me. Deciding on size, location, etc. stressed me out because after spending hours on college websites, I didn’t know where I fit. After applying to QuestBridge I got a better sense of what schools I could get into, which helped me form my list of schools to which I would apply. To appease my stress, I created a balanced list of schools that had a wide variety (big/small, rural/urban, etc.). I also wanted to be sure that wherever I got in, there were programs and opportunities that I was interested in. I chose Amherst mostly for its rigorous academics, diversity, beautiful campus, and great financial aid. As a telementor I hope to provide my mentees with the support of someone who can relate to them and wants to help.


Nira Goncalves
Hometown: Boston, MA
High school attended: Miss Porter's School (Farmington, CT)
Major (or potential major):
Political Science; Sociology
Activities on campus: El Arco Iris Community Engagement Leader, Tutor/Mentor at El Arco Iris, La Causa, BSU
Hobbies: Reading, volunteering, writing, traveling, pottery, spending time with family and friends

The college process was a bittersweet process for me filled with a combination of indecisiveness, uncertainty and anxiety, as well as excitement. My process began during the spring of my junior year where I began working closely with my counselor, flipping through scholarly sources, and attending writing workshops. Unlike many of my other peers, I had not previously visited college campuses nor had I given much thought to where I wanted to attend college. Due to the fact that I had an array of interests for possible career fields, I decided to apply to liberal arts institutions. With this in mind, the summer after my junior year, I did a lot of research on my own by requesting admission materials, visiting local schools, asking questions and keeping myself organized in order to narrow down my list. I finally solidified my college list during the fall of my senior year after what seemed to be an unending cycle of constantly removing and adding schools. I eventually decided on ten schools based on location, academic rigor and size. Once I completed this part of the process, I began working on my personal statement and supplemental essays. I also kept two large folders: one with basic information about each of the ten colleges (including exam dates) and the other with financial aid information.

When March rolled around, I eagerly waited for the acceptance letters. Thankfully, I had many great schools to choose from, which meant I had to continue learning more about each school. Amherst had always been my first choice due to a list of factors, so I enrolled! In terms of the college process I would recommend staying organized, asking questions when in doubt and starting early! It never hurts to stay on top of things and to ensure that all of your materials have been received. I look forward to being part of the Telementoring Program!

Name: Criss Guy
Hometown: Scranton, PA
High school attended: Pittston Area Senior High School
Major (or potential major): English or Black Studies
Activities on campus: Ultimate Frisbee, Usher for the Theater Department, Student Counselor for a K-6 after school program
Hobbies: Ultimate Frisbee, basketball, tennis, writing, reading, traveling

I followed my parents’ advice and had big plans for myself when I entered high school. Even as early as 10th grade I dreamed of making it to an amazing school, somewhere far away from home. However, toward the end of my junior year, it seemed I was no closer to my far away dream school. The reality of the college search process set in for me shortly after I picked a handful of schools, in and out of state, ones that I thought could be perfect for me. All of the schools I chose came with tremendous costs that my family and I could not cover. Sometimes even the high application fees and other costs for added standardized test score reports deterred me from applying to certain places.

My choice of schools became limited by the generosity of financial aid packages and outside scholarships. In my experience, it was the scholarship search and financial aid research process that were the most stressful for me. All of the information I found about paying for school came through my use of internet searches and the College Board website.

One of my searches eventually led me to the QuestBridge College Match Program, a program that offers full scholarships to high-achieving low-income students. I decided to give it a shot and was then introduced to one of the most complicated and thorough applications I have ever seen. The guidance department I worked with had neither heard of the schools I applied to as part of the Match Program nor heard of QuestBridge itself. After many extended visits and notes left for counselors, I finished the application and at least made sure my school knew what QuestBridge was. The few stressful months during my senior year were well worth my eventual acceptance to Amherst College via the QuestBridge College Match.

I want to show students that applying to colleges does not have to leave them under a pile of forms and essay drafts. Once I started applying, I learned how to be much more organized and independent with my work and schedule. Dozens of college deadlines made me more responsible and taught me how to manage my time better. However, I found this time is not strictly business, paperwork, and writing what will “sound good” to admissions offices. Writing essays and filling out applications made me take a good hard look at myself and figure out a lot about who I am and what I want to be eventually. As a Telementor, I would like to show my mentees how to handle all that comes with their college search and help them make it to the other side as an accepted student.

Ashley Hall
Ashley Hall
Hometown: Grove City, Ohio
High school attended: Central Crossing High School
Major (or potential major): Biology; English
Activities on campus: Anime Club, Traditional Games Club, PRIDE, Reader to Reader, QuestBridge
Hobbies: Reading, writing, knitting, crocheting, sewing, video games, biking

Growing up, it was a foregone conclusion that I would go to college. I spent years researching some of the best colleges in the country, and striving for the best ACT and SAT scores I could get. I knew I was on my own since neither of my parents is particularly computer savvy nor did we have much money to visit colleges. I spent hours searching through guide books, lists of the top colleges in the country, and online forums looking for a college I could call home for four years. I knew I didn’t want to go to school in Ohio, my home state, and that I wanted to go somewhere on the East Coast with lots of history. I discovered QuestBridge through a friend who had been matched. QuestBridge, I discovered, would let me apply for free to top schools throughout the nation. In the end, I applied to twelve schools, two of which were in Ohio while the remaining ten consisted of top tier liberal arts schools and Ivy League schools.

 My high school counselor was no help at all, believing QuestBridge to be nothing more than a scam: I was on my own. While my friends were panicking and writing application essays, I was already done applying, since the QuestBridge application is due in late September. Through QuestBridge, I learned that despite being low-income, I could get into one of the top schools in the nation. A few weeks later, I found out I was a finalist for QuestBridge. Though I was not matched, I believe QuestBridge helped me get into Amherst. It certainly opened my eyes to lesser known, top tier colleges.

 As a Telementor, I’m hoping that I will be able to help students get through the application process. I want to support and encourage students through the inevitable stress of the application process.

Lisa Hsiao
Name: Lisa Hsiao
Hometown: College Station, Texas
High school attended: A&M Consolidated High School
Major (or potential major):
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. 


Name: Alexander Jiron
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
High school attended: John Marshall High School
Major (or potential major): Economics; Political Science; Mathematics
Hobbies: Playing basketball, economics, reading, watching movies

As the first person in my immediate family to apply to a four-year college, I did not have the family resources and experience needed to successfully navigate the college search and application process without outside assistance. Fortunately, I had been enrolled in a college preparation grant program called GEAR UP since the 7th grade. This program was immensely helpful in making the college search and application process far less hectic than it would otherwise have been. My GEAR UP counselors (some of whom I am still in contact with) provided me with personalized assistance, taking a genuine interest in ensuring that that I had all that I needed to make it through the long process. They made sure that I met submission deadlines, helped me fill out the FASFA, provided me with fee waivers, read and edited my personal statement countless times, and so on. In addition to GEAR UP, I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful college counselor, who introduced to many schools that I had not heard of, one of which was Amherst College. My college counselor decried what she referred to as the “cult of the UC,” which was firmly rooted in my large, public high school, and was very adamant that I expand my college search beyond in-state universities and big-name national universities. In particular, she was enamored with liberal arts education, which I had not heard of before coming to her, and pushed me to look into small, liberal arts colleges, which eventually led me to apply to Amherst. She also emphasized that I should not allow financial considerations limit my list of colleges, as most elite colleges and universities were need-blind, and introduced me to the QuestBridge National College Match, which I used to apply to Amherst College. I have been blessed to have had so many wonderful people help me along my way to Amherst College, and so I hope that I can be of similar help through Telementoring to others who aspire to attend an elite university or college but do not necessarily have the all the resources and experience they will need to get through the college search and application process.


Name: John Kim
Hometown: Cypress, CA
High school attended: Oxford Academy
Major (or potential major): Biology; Math
Activities on campus: Zumbyes, Reader to Reader

Applying to college was an interesting experience for me. As a first -generation college student, I had a hazy idea of how to apply and what it would be like. I didn't know what to expect or work toward. My adviser at my high school left at the beginning of senior year, so I didn't have a very personal relationship with my counselor. The process was long and arduous, and I felt like I would be rejected from everywhere at times, but I pushed through, on my own, and ended up at Amherst! It was scary when I was waiting for those college acceptance letters to roll in, and I wish there had been someone to tell me to relax and enjoy my senior year. I joined Telementoring because I feel like many high school seniors could use a little reassurance, like I did.

Juan Llamas
Name: Juan Llamas
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
High school attended: 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 school did 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.

Name: Rachel Nghe
Hometown: San Francisco, California
High school attended: Lowell High School
Major (or potential major):
Political Science; Asian Languages and Civlizations
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.

Name: Emeka Ojukwu
Hometown: Stone Mountain, GA
High school attended: Rabun-Gap Nacoochee School
Major (or potential major): Sociology; Mathematics; English; Psychology
Activities on campus: Black Students Union, La Causa, A Better Chance Tutor, Student Security, El Arco Iris Mentor
Hobbies: Reading, video games, watching basketball, enjoying the company of great people

I was once asked: What’s the worst thing that could happen if you don’t get into your number one college choice? At the time I was sophomore in high school still harboring the dream of going to Duke University that I'd had since I was 8 years old. I didn’t think the question really applied to me then since I still had so much time until I thought about college, and I also had no doubt that Duke would accept me.

Fast forward two years, and with a waitlist letter from Duke sitting heavy in my hands, I had no choice but to think back to that question. I won’t lie, not being accepted into the school that I thought was tailor made for me was a blow to my ego, but as I sat there and thought about my future, I realized that all was not lost, the world did not end, and that by no means was this an insult to my character. I accepted their rejection and immediately started to look at my other options determined that no matter where I ended up, I would make the most out of it. Amherst College proved to be my best option, and so here I am doing everything I can to make the most out of my college experience. I have no regrets and truly cherish the opportunity that fell in my lap, even though I wasn’t searching for it.

So now I ask the future college students of the world the same question that was asked of me (with a little twist, of course): What’s the worst thing that could happen if you don’t get into your number one school, and are you willing to do your best no matter where you end up? Keep all your options open because you never really know where blessing may occur.  

Name: Sharleen Phillips
Hometown: Toms River, NJ
High school attended: Toms River High School East
Major (or potential major): Psychology
Activities on campus: Whistle a Happy Tune, CCE Front Desk Team 
Hobbies: Reading, listening to music, going to the beach, traveling

I went to a large public school in New Jersey, where most kids went to the local community college or a nearby state university. I knew I wanted to go to a small liberal arts college out of state, but I didn’t know anyone who had gone that route, so I did the research on my own. I extensively looked through guidebooks at profiles of various schools, searched for schools online, and took many, many quizzes to determine what kind of school I wanted to go to. I visited every school I was seriously considering because I knew that there is no substitute for seeing a campus and talking directly with students. I took notes after each college visit so that I could look back in a few months and see my actual impression of each college as well as likes and dislikes. I had definite favorites on my final college list, and Amherst was my dream school, but I really liked all of the schools on my list and could see myself at any of them. I chose not to apply Early Decision because I didn’t want to commit myself to any school before seeing the aid offers. After writing and rewriting my various essays and filling out applications, all I could do was wait until my decisions came in March and April. After feeling relieved and elated from the acceptance letters, I ultimately chose Amherst because it was the school at which I felt most at home. It was absolutely the right choice for me, and I am thankful to be here every day.

Name: Katarina Schweitz
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
High school attended: Rosary High School (All-Girls Catholic Prep)
Major (or potential major): Psychology; English
Activities on campus: Mock Trial, Feminist Alliance, Intramural Sports, Campus Security
Hobbies: Hiking, Surfing, Baking Desserts, going to sports events,  listening to/stalking Britney Spears

If it weren't for my high school academic counselor holding my hand through the entire application process, who knows where I would be for my college education. I knew I wanted to pop my California bubble and head out to the East Coast, and that I preferred a smaller school; however, my financial situation was not the greatest. My counselor suggested the QuestBridge Scholarship Matching Program, and with much effort in a fairly short amount of time I was matched with Amherst College! Every day I sat in my counselor's office as she helped me through the entire process, so I would love to continue this assistance for future college students!


Name: Alice Shen
Hometown: Miami, FL
High school attended: Coral Gables High School
Major (or potential major): Mathematics
Activities on campus: Badminton Club, Amherst Christian Fellowship
Hobbies: Piano, reading, writing poetry

I hadn't thought about applying to college until my junior year of high school, and when I did start thinking about it, I had no clue where to start. Thankfully, one day, I received a QuestBridge brochure in the mail. Through this amazing organization, I learned that it was possible for low-income students to attend amazing colleges, and I also discovered liberal arts schools. I had never heard of Amherst before. Moreover, I found the Telementoring Program, and it helped immensely with the confusing college application process. My mentor called, e-mailed, and mailed me large packets of material about financial aid, writing essays, and interviews. This stressful yet exciting period passed quickly, and soon I was waiting for the acceptances. After the decisions came out, I had difficulty deciding where to go. I spent much time comparing financial aid packages, academics, and location. I was unable to visit most of the schools I was accepted to because of transportation expenses, so I felt as though I was choosing blindly. However, I was able to visit Amherst because of the transportation-paid Open House in April. On the second day of that weekend, I commented to a fellow pre-frosh, as we sat in Frost Library, that I felt I fit in perfectly. I went home, and had narrowed my choices down to Amherst and Florida International University, which was ten minutes from my house and provided the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship. I obviously chose Amherst in the end, and after I mailed out my enrollment form, I knew without a doubt that it was the best decision I made in my entire life.

Name: Alexus Strong
Hometown: Naples, FL
High school attended: Barron Collier High School
Major (or potential major): American Studies; Computer Science
Activities on campus: Ultimate Frisbee, Student Security
Hobbies: Reading, intramural sports 

Upon finishing middle school, I was fortunate enough to be accepted by a local program known as Quest For Kids, which serves as a college preparation and counseling service for low-income students throughout the entirety of their high school careers. I attended a relatively large, public high school where I didn't have an actual relationship with my guidance counselor until my senior year. However, because of my involvement in Quest For Kids, I was aware of what the college search and application processes entail, and I felt extremely comfortable beginning them at the end of my junior year. I began visiting schools that summer, all of which were much larger than Amherst, and I didn't feel very comfortable at any of them. When I returned from the visits, my counselor in the Quest For Kids program suggested that I apply to attend Amherst's Diversity Open House Weekend. Despite my faith in the comprehensiveness of my college research up to that point, her suggestion was the first I had heard of Amherst College. I attended the Open House, fell in love with the school, and decided to apply Early Decision. The guidance I was fortunate enough to receive throughout the college search process made it far less stressful than it was for some of my peers, and I could not be more excited to help another person through the process.

Tierra Wilkins
Hometown: Wilmington, NC
High school attended: Heide Trask Senior High
Major (or potential major): English; Women and Gender 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!

Name: Camille Youngblood
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
High school attended: University School of Milwaukee
Major (or potential major): Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought (LJST)
Activities on Campus: Varsity Field Hockey, Amherst LEADS, Black Women’s Group Sr. Chair, Random Acts of Kindness
Hobbies: Travelling, reading & writing poetry

The college search and selection process requires organization, persistence, and guidance. Throughout high school, I was given remarkable personalized counseling on where I should attend college. The process started freshman year when I met individually with my college counselor as well as with my entire grade to discuss hurdles I would have to cross during the college search and application process. Sophomore year was a continuation of the advice and encouragement from our college guidance office. In our junior year, our class (100 students) took a college tour to four very different colleges and universities to show us the qualities that we would and would not like in our future college. It was during junior year that I was prepared for the required entrance exams, how to fill out applications, what to expect during an interview, what to look for in a college, and active consultation on my final list of five colleges.

It was senior year, however, that proved to be the most fruitful to me. I was given lots of advice from not only my college guidance counselor, but also the Head of the Upper School, the Dean of Students, and my advisor. It helped that they knew me well and so were able to guide me on the right path to the college that fit me best. After months of essay preparation, visits from about a hundred college representatives to our high school (annually), and much deliberation, I decided to apply to Amherst College Early Decision.

I applied for the Telementor Position because I want to give other aspiring students the opportunities and guidance that were available to me. As a Telementor, I hope to keep my mentees organized, focused, and excited about the college process!

Name: Lawrence Yu
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
High school attended: Stuyvesant High School
Major (or potential major): Neuroscience; Psychology
Activities on campus: Karate Club, Choral Society, Glee Club, Equestrian Team, Chinese Awareness Organization, GlobeMed, Notetaker, Reader to Reader Mentor, Gym Equipment Room Monitor
Hobbies: Running, Starcraft II, French

I believe I started looking at colleges shortly before the beginning of my senior year. My college selection process was facilitated by my high school college advisors, guidance counselors, various internet college review sites, and college data books. My college advisors gave me a good tip on how to pinpoint which school or what group of schools was right for me: create a list of different things you expect to have in a college, or different interests you have—anything that you believe will be something important to have over the next four years of your life, like location, school size, student demographics, sport programs, etc.; then, see how schools you are curious about fare in each of those categories. If there are a few select things you value most in a school, put them on the top of your list when searching for schools, and then narrow your search from there. I looked at websites and books that ranked schools based on the aforementioned statistics and other ones. And that was how I found Amherst College! I applied to college using the CommonApp, but QuestBridge is another way to do it; each has their pros and cons, so my suggestion is to look at each application form, and choose the one that best fits your needs.   

Name: Rebecca Zakarian
Hometown: Auburn, MA
High school attended: Auburn High School
Major (or potential major): Psychology; English
Hobbies: Reading, writing, cuddling with my pets, shopping, spending time with family and friends

At the age of 11 or 12, I can vividly remember planning my college search. I was certain that I would begin looking as early as freshman or sophomore year of high school, compiling a list of potential universities that would suit me and my goals, and that in preparation for attendance at a competitive university, I would have created a compelling background of skills and talents. While I did spend my high school years cultivating a strong academic and extracurricular background, in reality, the realization that the college transition was near was startling and overwhelming. The pressure to write a distinct, well-formed essay, the tedium of filling out paperwork over and over again, and the anxiety of waiting for acceptance letters and financial aid awards was an incredibly stressful experience. I am looking forward to helping another through the transitioning process by answering questions, assuaging worries, providing accurate information, and anything else I can offer.

Name: Fengsheng Zhu
Hometown: San Francisco, CA / Shanghai, China
High school attended: Galileo Academy of Science &
Major (or potential major): Economics; Women's and Gender Studies
Activities on campus: China Awareness Organization, Amherst
Mixed Martial Arts Club, Girl's Inc.
Hobbies: Reading, craft projects, anime, badminton

Coming from an inner city high school, where students’ college destinations are mostly limited to in-state public institutions, I started my college search with only the UC system in mind. It was not until I applied to the QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship that I realized that attending an elite private school could be affordable, and there are more options available than the big-name research universities. The discovery about liberal arts colleges through QuestBridge proved to be a turning point of my college search. I was drawn to the close interaction and superior teaching quality offered at liberal arts colleges, and I was grateful for the opportunity to visit college campuses through diversity programs. Although my college process was shortened due to my application to QuestBridge National Match, the access to the invaluable opportunities enabled me to look beyond the norm and think about what I want for my education. And I am glad to serve as a Telementor, and give back to the support I received that made a difference in my college process.    

Advice for the college process: start early and be open-minded. It’s never too early to start thinking about where you want to go and how to get there. In your college search, take a moment to learn a little about schools that you have never heard of, you will be surprised by what you find.


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