Amid the many hardships and challenges in 2020, one Govs senior had reason to celebrate. Lemuel (Lemmy) L'Oiseau '21 has been recognized for their award as a match scholarship recipient in the QuestBridge National College Match; a national program that connects top-performing high school seniors from low-income backgrounds with full four-year scholarships and early admittance to one of QuestBridges’ 42 college partners, which includes some of the nation’s leading higher education institutions. The Match Scholarship ensures that an education at a top college or university can be affordable and attainable for students from all economic backgrounds.
Out of over 18,500 applicants, L’Oiseau was selected as one of 6,885 finalists to be considered for the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship and later went on to be recognized as one of the 1,464 finalists to receive a match scholarship.
Upon applying to the National College Match, students are asked to rank the QuestBridge colleges of their choice. Working alongside Govs College Counselor Julia Kobus, L’Oiseau was able to secure a match to one of the QuestBridge colleges and was matched with Swarthmore College. “I am incredibly proud of Lemmy for becoming a Questbridge scholarship recipient. Lemmy has been an integral part of the Govs community and a passionate voice for equity and inclusion. They're a tenacious student and dedicated community member — we felt strongly that Lemmy would be a great match for Questbridge and for Swarthmore — we are so glad that it worked out.” said Kobus.
Lemuel spoke about their application experience, future career goals, and advice for students hoping to apply for the QuestBridge College Match program in the future.
Q: How did you first learn about this opportunity?
Lemuel: I first found out about the program from my college counselor, Ms. Kobus, who recommended that I apply. I was really excited and felt that this was a great opportunity for me. There are two parts to the program: College Prep Scholars and the College Match Program, so I went through the College Prep Scholars process and got accepted into that, and then the next summer I started the process to apply to the College Match Program, in which I eventually matched with Swarthmore for a four-year scholarship.
Q: What was the application process like?
Lemuel: It was pretty interesting because there was so much riding on it for me because of the financial burden on my family. Being one child among ten, including a 9-month-old, it was one of the only options I had to be able to graduate from college with little or no debt for me or my family. Knowing that, I put a lot of work and dedication into my applications, essays, and supplements, as well as collecting recommendations from teachers. The process is pretty strenuous but worth it in the end.
Q: How was Swarthmore ranked on your list of potential matches?
Lemuel: You can rank up to 12 of your top choices of the 42 QuestBridge college partners, and the first school that you are accepted into that is ranked highest on your list is the school that you match with. When they send out all the applications, you're only notified of the school that you're accepted into that's also highest on your list, so let's say you ranked four schools and you get notified of acceptance into the second school on your list, you can assume that you didn't get into your first choice, but you don't know if you got into your third or fourth choice. I ranked Brown, Swarthmore, UPenn, and Vassar, and the way that it worked out for me was that I matched with Swarthmore College, which was ranked second on my list.
Q: How did it feel when you found out that you were a finalist to receive a match scholarship?
Lemuel: It’s actually a pretty funny story. The day that the decisions came out I was constantly checking my emails, and I was nervous because I really wanted to record my initial reaction. I had been on FaceTime with a friend earlier and she had asked me if the decisions came in yet. I told her that I had not seen anything come in yet, so I ended my call with her and decided to check the application portal again and noticed that there was a new notification. I just clicked it without thinking about it, and I was like, ‘wait a minute, this is the decision and I’m not even recording myself!’ It all happened so fast, and when I opened the message, there was a little animation with confetti and it said You Matched! across the top. In that moment it felt like a weight was just lifted off my shoulders. It was surreal because I have been dreaming about this moment since I was in Kindergarten. Getting into college is a big deal and the college process was really different for me just because there are so many things I didn’t know. I think I found out just a couple of months ago that there are only eight Ivy’s and I thought How did I not know that? but somehow, I made my way through it. I honestly still don't believe It. I'm still in high school. I haven't graduated yet, but once I step foot on campus in the fall, it’s going to hit hard. I've worked a lot to get to this point.
Q: What do you think helped you stand out in the application process?
Lemuel: I have a pretty unique story. One topic that I enjoyed talking about in my application essays is my big family and the fact that I’ve always considered myself a caring person, which is one of my top qualities, and I try to incorporate that in all aspects of my life. I participate in social justice conferences, which have impacted me a lot because I can be around people who are like-minded. I like to interact with new people as well as others in the LQBTQ community. I attended a Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Seattle, Washington a few years ago, and I participated in one of the LGBTQ community groups, and I just thought, ‘wow, this is what it feels like to be surrounded by people who are in my community.’ It was a pivotal moment — I could genuinely be myself. I think these experiences helped me look at life in a specific way and recall everything that I’ve been through to get to where I am today; I think that helped me stand out.
Q: What are your future career goals, and how will Swarthmore help you achieve them?
Lemuel: The two majors I'm leaning towards are engineering or mathematics. I don't know what type of engineering yet, maybe mechanical or electrical. I’m also interested in computer science and teaching as well, so I'm hoping that Swarthmore will be able to help me narrow down a good path forward. On the other hand, I'm really interested in Chinese, which I have been doing since freshman year, as well as musical theater and music theory. I have been in chorus since 8th grade, which I think really sparked my musical interest, and I hope to continue to explore that interest throughout my college years. Swarthmore has a variety of clubs and is very focused on the success of their students, so I am confident I will be able to figure out what’s right for me.
Q: Any advice you can give to future students hoping to apply for the scholarship?
Lemuel: I actually had to answer this question previously in a promotional video that they were putting together, and one thing I said is that it really pays off in the end — the gratification you feel when you open that letter to show all the hard work that you've gone through — there's really nothing that compares to it. There were so many times where I really didn’t think I was going to make it, to be honest. One night I had something to hand in that was due later that night, and I texted my college counselor, Ms. Kobus, at about 10 p.m. asking for her help. I felt so bad! But I am very grateful for the support of those around me. I realized that although you go through ups and downs, the journey that you're on, and the places you're heading are so worth it. After all the hard work, the effort is so worth it in the end.