Farrah B.'s Story

“I always knew that I would go to college; it’s all I ever wanted to do.”

Born and raised in a rural Southern town, Farrah Bui epitomizes the Southern pride of her hometown of Fort Mill, South Carolina. However, her family’s history also reflects a story of resilience and struggle. When her mother was just 14 years old, she immigrated with siblings to the U.S. on a special government program that placed Vietnamese youth in the U.S. in the 1970s. In South Carolina, her mother married at age 17. Lacking educational opportunities, she eventually attended cosmetology school and began work in a salon. 

Years of hard work later, Farrah’s mother became the owner of the salon, and also eventually divorced her husband. Though her family was strained financially, Farrah, the eldest of three, had her mind set on attending college as a first generation college student. “I always knew that I would go to college — it’s all I ever wanted to do,” she said. “There was just a common understanding that to get somewhere in life, you need to have a good education.” 

Through a good education, Farrah hoped to provide a better life for her mother, just as her mother provided for others her entire life. Having witnessed a close cousin aspire to attend Harvard, only to have her dreams shattered due to an unstable household, Farrah was inspired at a young age to aim for the top colleges in the country. 

Farrah’s journey to a top college did not come easily. At her high school, the vast majority of students stayed in South Carolina for college. Farrah didn’t let that stop her: “I was set on applying to out-of-state schools. I knew that it would help me grow up and experience the world, and force myself out of my comfort zone.”

She kept her aspirations secret for the most part, even from her parents, fearing that she would be judged or wouldn’t be good enough to get into her dream colleges. Still, Farrah was a top student in high school, and was deeply involved in community service — providing outreach to disadvantaged children — as well as student council and Girls’ State.

In the summer before her senior year, she received a brochure for QuestBridge in the mail, and felt she had nothing to lose by submitting an application. When she applied to the National College Match, she ranked Princeton first After being named a Finalist, Farrah nervously awaited the results. On December 1, she learned that she had not matched. “I felt my fears of not being good enough reaffirmed,” she explained.

Though upset and disappointed, Farrah found comfort in the words of a supportive teacher who reminded her: “This is not indicative of where you’ll end up. This is your second chance.” 

Buoyed by the encouragement, Farrah bounced back quickly and immersed herself in the Regular Decision process. Farrah ultimately applied to 10-15 private colleges, in addition to state schools as a back-up plan. She was accepted to every school, except Duke, where she was waitlisted. She was the very first student in the history of her high school to be accepted to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Farrah chose Princeton: “I’ll never forget the day I found out: April 1st, 2010.”

At Princeton, Bui went on to study in the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs (Global Health) and find an array of new hobbies: club lacrosse, advising sexual assault victims through an on-campus organization, and Indie Music Radio DJ. Following graduation, Bui moved to San Francisco and accepted a position with Google in “People Operations” (more commonly known as Human Resources).

Offering advice to new QuestBridge Scholars starting college, Farrah said that, “You’re in class with a bajillion others like you. I doubted myself a lot. Be confident in yourself. Once you get past doubting, people are capable of doing a lot more than they think they can. ... Take in the moment. Be fearless."