CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND YOUR PATH TO COLLEGE?
As a first-generation/low-income student, I struggled navigating through the complex application and financial aid processes of colleges. With the help of QuestBridge, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to higher education for low-income students, I was lucky enough to receive a full scholarship to Stanford University, where I am currently a junior majoring in political science and communication.
Since starting college, I have continued to work with QuestBridge to mentor and guide college-bound seniors through the college application process and encourage them to not let socioeconomic status define their future. I also serve on Stanford's University Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, where I provide the student perspective on issues of access facing applicants and current students. Currently, I work with Edmit, a startup dedicated to providing greater price and value transparency for college-bound students by allowing them to compare and improve their financial aid awards. After navigating through the process myself, I became increasingly passionate about expanding access to higher education for all students, and working to knock down the financial barriers that often prevent low-income students from pursuing top universities.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE BIGGEST DIFFICULTIES YOU FACED IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS?
Overcoming the steep learning curve that is associated with the college application process was definitely difficult. High schoolers are expected to make one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives, while being bombarded with so much information on colleges, financial aid, and scholarships. Luckily, I had a strong support system of teachers, counselors, and family that was able to help me through the process and provide me with information about resources like QuestBridge, which helped eliminate the financial barriers to access that so many high schoolers face. It is absolutely critical that students from low-income backgrounds have these resources and this support as they navigate through this process, and I have spent the past couple of years working to make this a reality.
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE QUESTBRIDGE SCHOLARS PROGRAM?
My high school counselor happened to receive a brochure in the email about the program, and gave it me during a meeting I had with her. Nobody from my high school had applied in the past, so I applied to the program not knowing much about it. Little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. QuestBridge provided me with the resources and support necessary to apply and be admitted to a top university like Stanford.
HOW CAN OTHER STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT SIMILAR PROGRAMS THAT FIT THEIR BACKGROUNDS AND ACADEMIC GOALS?
There are countless college access organizations out there. I would suggest doing a quick Google search of these organizations. Look at their programs and requirements, and determine which ones seem like the best fit for you. They offer a variety of support, but all share the same mission: expanding access to higher education for all students.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR INTERNSHIP AND EXPERIENCE HELPING STUDENTS PLAN THEIR FINANCIAL PATH TOWARDS COLLEGE?
In November of last year, I started working with Edmit, a startup dedicated to providing full price and value transparency for students applying to college. Edmit's site allows students to compare the cost of different colleges; information about estimated debt and earnings; and an estimate of how much financial aid they would receive based on GPA, test scores, zip code, and other data points. Edmit also provides students with the support necessary to request more aid from colleges, a feature that gives students more of a say in the financial aid process. During my time at Edmit, I have created and fostered partnerships with college access organizations to ensure that Edmit is accessible to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, and that they receive critical feedback from proven leaders in the field. I have found it incredibly fulfilling to provide students with the resources and support necessary to overcome the financial barriers that prevents so many from pursuing higher education.
WHY DOES THE COST OF ATTENDING COLLEGE FUNCTION AS SUCH A DETERRENT FOR STUDENTS?
Applying to college and preparing yourself for an entirely new chapter of your life is already overwhelming for students. Once you add on the sticker price of college tuition and expenses, students are rightfully discouraged and worried about being able to pay for their college education. College is the first major financial decision students have to make in their lives.
WHERE DO YOU RECOMMEND STUDENTS, AND THEIR SUPPORT SYSTEMS, TURN FOR RESOURCES AND GUIDANCE AS THEY BEGIN TO PLAN HOW TO FUND THEIR EDUCATION?
Take advantage of sites like Edmit that help you calculate cost of attendance and estimated aid for the schools you want to attend. The National Center for Education Statistics has a great college navigator tool that allows you to look at aid estimates for universities based on income range.
Create a preliminary list of private and public universities that you are interested in, and do your research to determine what each school may cost. Use this as a guide, but always apply to a few universities that may seem out of reach financially, because you never know what aid they may offer.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ROLE OF A UNIVERSITY IS IN SUPPORTING STUDENTS STRUGGLING TO PAY FOR COLLEGE?
I believe that universities should do everything in their power to knock down every financial barrier to access that exists within their respective institutions. College can be stressful, and that stress is only multiplied for low-income students struggling to find the money to pay for basic living expenses while in college.
Jacob RandolphQuestbright Scholar, Stanford University
Jacob is a junior at Stanford majoring in political science and communication, He plans to attend law school after his undergraduate career. His interests include nonprofit management, public relations, and policy making. His prior experience includes work with community-based organizations, congressional offices, campaigns, and college access organizations. Outside of Stanford, Jacob served as a delegate representing Congressional District 35 at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and currently represents CA Assembly District 47 as a delegate to the California Democratic Party. In the future, he hopes to further involve himself in congressional and presidential campaigns, nonprofits focused on college access, and politics and policymaking at the state and federal level.