QuestBridge is a national nonprofit that connects the most talented low-income youth to top colleges and opportunities. QuestBridge has helped low-income students build a better path for success that goes from high school all the way to their first job.
Brown has had the opportunity to welcome a community of QuestBridge Scholars to College Hill, and one of those students is Anthony Walley ‘20. Hailing from Worcester, Massachusetts, Anthony is undecided in his concentration but is on a pre-med track. This past summer, Anthony represented the Admissions office as a Summer Ambassador, providing tours and information sessions for visiting prospective students. We interviewed Anthony about his experiences from high school to finishing his first year at Brown.
Anthony is a first-gen student, his mother an immigrant from Liberia and his father born right in Anthony’s hometown of Worcester. Ever since Anthony was young, his dad emphasized the value of getting a good education.
“I was a very slow reader. I didn’t really know how to read until kindergarten. Everyone else could read much better than I could, so it made me feel really self-conscious. I remember I came home crying to my dad saying, ‘I can’t read, I’m so stupid, I will never learn how to read.’ Then he told me, ‘Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna pick up this book, and you’re gonna read just a little bit every day.’ And by first grade, I was reading at a higher level than anyone else in the class. But at the end, he was just really excited to have a son who always did well in school. Nothing made him prouder when he realized that I had plans to go to college, and that was something I wanted to do on my own volition. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to go to college. And that was a huge step for us.”
With his father’s guidance, Anthony began to find more success in the classroom. He later went to South High Community School to be part of the Goddard Engaged Scholars program, an accelerated program for gifted students. Here he discovered his love for science as one of four sophomores to take AP Chemistry.
“I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world. These tiny things we can’t see collide with one another, at just the right time and just the right angle, to become the catalyst of everything we see around us. Like this table we’re sitting at right now. It’s made up of a bunch of tiny little things that collided and stuck. That’s it. Just to think about it that way I needed to know, I needed to know what’s governing this? What’s the rule behind it? And that’s what I found in AP Chemistry.”
Some teachers tried to intimidate Anthony out of taking AP Chem, considering that no sophomore had ever taken it before. However, Anthony found a lot of success in the classroom, getting a 5 on the AP Chemistry exam. Then entering senior year, Anthony hoped to get into the top colleges that would further challenge him in the classroom and beyond.
He decided to join the QuestBridge Program after seeing two QuestBridge students from his high school get into Ivy League universities. The QuestBridge matching process is fairly straightforward. Each student ranks a list of schools in the early process, while the college does the same in ranking a list of students. A “match” is when the rank between one college matches with that one student. However, In the early matching process, Anthony did not match with any schools.
“It was crushing to not get matched, but it’s important to note that most kids don’t get matched. At least with the QuestBridge community at Brown, most students end up getting into great colleges through regular decision. I decided that I was just going to wait until March, and regular decision was still a chance. It’s just a little more waiting. I can’t let this one defeat make me believe that it’s never going to happen.”
When the regular decision deadlines comes around, QuestBridge still facilitates what is usually an overwhelming experience for students. All of Anthony’s ranked schools still considered him again in the regular process. He ended up applying to thirteen schools, some of those being safety schools.
March finally came around and acceptances to those schools rolled in. While his family was thrilled to see all those letters, Anthony still felt like he was waiting.
“My parents were freaking out, saying, ‘You’re going to college, why aren’t you excited!’ But I haven’t heard back from the schools I wanted. Thinking back, I now understand why they were so excited because no matter what, their son was going to college. Even if I didn’t end up at Brown, I was going somewhere. But at the time, I hadn’t proved anything to myself yet. I was waiting for April 1st, 2016, to see my real acceptances. Those were the colleges I wanted to go to.”
Anthony ended up getting into two out of three of his top choice schools. The first was Amherst College, making him the first student from his high school to ever be accepted. However, he ultimately chose Brown because of the academic freedom it offered.
“What was amazing about Brown was that everything I wanted to learn was truly on me. I didn’t feel any obligation to do things I didn’t want to do. Every class I took was completely on me. I truly felt like I was able to do what I wanted to do.”
But while Brown provided amazing opportunities not attainable before, Anthony also reflected on the challenges he experienced. Anthony was initially shocked by the wide range socio-economic diversity present on Brown’s campus, and how he stood within that range as a first-gen student.
“It was a little isolating at first to go to this affluent school coming from somewhere where I didn’t really have much. It was weird going to school with kids who would say things like ‘I’m a third generation legacy here, my parents are doctors!” and I just think, wow, my parents probably clean all the rooms of the hospital where your parents work at. Going to school with kids who may have seen the world, I just think about how I never even left the eastern coast. Farthest place I’ve ever gone was Louisiana. I haven’t even seen California yet.”
While this isolation did not make college the easiest transition for Anthony, he explained that feeling like he had to navigate college all on his own isolated him further.
“I realized that Brown has support if you need it and look for it. If you seek it out, there are people and the support systems to help you. That was my problem, I wasn’t seeking out any help. I truly believe that it was me who thought I could do everything on my own. The mentality of being afraid to ask for help makes you dig a hole so deep you need help just get out of that hole.”
The most significant resource Anthony found at Brown was the First-Generation and Low Income Center (FLICenter). When Anthony needed financial resources to stay at Brown into the summer, the center provided him guidance, support, and affirmation.
“The most humbling experience for me was when I went into the FLICenter toward the end of my second semester of Freshman year. I told the dean that I wanted to stay at Brown during the summer for Emergency Medical Technician training, but I needed money to help pay part of my rent. It was humbling that no one judged me when I asked for help and that the dean truly wanted to help me. I realized that these resources were here all along, and that I was just being stubborn pretending I could do things on my own. I’m in a new place where I’m going to need help adjusting, but people can’t help you until you tell them what’s wrong.”
The support systems put in place within the FLICenter were actually lobbied for by Brown students. Anthony emphasized that this realization completely changed his experience at Brown. He was blown away by the opportunities that were available to him all the time, such as going to see free screenings with his friends or simply eating late-night Jo’s with his friends. He also felt empowered by the communities he surrounded himself with, such as with the Black, first-gen, and theatre communities. With this in mind, Anthony connected his experiences to what he believes is the best part about Brown. He concluded that Brown has the ability to adapt to the needs of its students, changing for the better.
“Don’t change yourself to fit to Brown, change Brown to fit to you. There are so many things here that this administration will do to make sure they appeal to all the students here. All of them. Just think of our history of change. Students thought there wasn’t a space for people of color to be themselves on campus, they fought to establish the Brown Center for Students of Color and it was made. First-gens thought there wasn’t a place where they could get what they needed so they fought to establish the FLICenter, so it was made. You don’t have to be a certain type of student to be at Brown. You can be anything you want and Brown will adapt to you. Don’t change to go to Brown, go so Brown can change to you.”
College rankings through QuestBridge are due on October 12th, 2017, where you can have the opportunity to be “matched” or admitted earlier with a guaranteed four-year National College Match scholarship.
Learn more about QuestBridge here.
Q/A with Anthony:
What do you miss most about home?
I think the thing or things in this case that I miss most about home are my friends and family. Maybe it might be thing honestly because they are kinda inseparable. My Mom and Dad would call my friends my second family. There also isn’t some supercool story about why they are my favorite, for my family it’s that I miss mornings on the weekend when I’d go to my parents room and talk to them about my week and whatever was on my mind while we watched The Price is Right. As well as the weeknights when my mom would watch Jeopardy and she’d say I should audition because I knew so many of the answers.
Favorite memory from Freshman year?
My favorite memory from my first year of college has to be the first night I meet my friend Isha. She had been moving in and was the roommate of a girl I had met at a pre-orientation program (Amalia). We hung out during the day through unit meetings and orientation events, and I brought up the fantastic film Space Jam. When she mentioned that she never seen it, I told her, ‘that changes today.’ I happened to own a DVD of Space Jam and screened Space Jam around midnight in its entirety for Isha. She later got me a Space Jam poster for Christmas.
Where do you study?
My favorite place to study is my room because I can be as quiet or as loud as I want to be. I really like listening to music when I study, so whenever I go to libraries I get nervous about my music being too loud and distracting. However, when I study in my room I can play the music over my speakers if I feel like it. So I get to study in whatever environment I’m feeling at the time.
Favorite campus food?
Mozzarella Sticks!!! I don’t think that really needs much explanation.
Most rewarding experience in college?
My most rewarding experience so far has been attending meetings with The Brotherhood, a community of black men who discuss issues facing black men on campus and in the world. It was amazing to have a forum to talk about things that I had kept to myself for such along time. It was refreshing to see that I hadn’t been going crazy all this time and that my experience weren’t only valid they were fairly common.
Where will you most likely be outside the classroom?
I’m not sure if there is one place I’m likely to be after class in varies from day to day sometimes. Somedays I’m spending 6 plus hours in the Ratty, others I’m studying/napping in my room. However most Friday or Saturday nights you can find me performing improv with Improvidence, Brown’s oldest and best improv group.
Favorite class at Brown
My favorite class at Brown so far has been TAPS 0030 – Intro to Acting and Directing. I gained a lot from the class both by acting and watching my fellow classmates act. There were a number of incredible actors in the class, and I can’t wait to see them do some shows here at Brown.
My favorite professor so far has been Rachel Clausen. She taught Intro to Acting and Directing my spring semester. The class was two and a half hours, but she made the time just fly. She was always full of energy and made the class super engaging and fun. She also had great feedback for our presentations. Under her instruction I really grew as both an actor and a student.
Favorite Brown tradition
Not really a tradition so much but a feature of one of our buildings here at Brown. The stairwell in the List Art Building is the one of the best treats Brown has to offer.
Favorite club/activity you’re involved with?
My favorite thing that I do on campus has to be my work with Improvidence. The members of this group are some of the funniest and kindest people I know on campus. I had no experience with improv comedy prior to coming to Brown, but I auditioned and ended up getting in. Trying improv has been one of the best decisions I have made during my time here at Brown. I’m super excited to see what’s in store for the group this coming semester.
What advice do you have for the younger students in your community back home?
Do the things that you are passionate about during high school. I know a lot of people think that there is some secret combination of classes and activities that will guarantee you a spot, but in reality no such thing exist. Every high school is different and each student within that school is different. There are so just too many unique cases for there to be some formula that encompasses every student at Brown (or any college). If you just do the things you love, it makes the whole college application process a lot easier because you are talking about things you really like doing so you already have a lot to say about them. You will also be in classes and activities that you really enjoy, so you’ll perform better in those spheres and that will come across in the application.
What’s your favorite thing to do on weekends with your friends?
I’m really into the music scene here at Brown, so I love going into downtown Providence to attend the various concerts. There are always are tons of people talking and dancing. I’ve seen all sorts of members if the Brown Community at these concerts, even some of my teaching assistants and professors. It’s always so fun to realize that so many people you interact with on a daily basis have similar music tastes.