Haley V.'s Story

“My college path changed because once I started my application through QuestBridge, it widened my perspective on the colleges that were also 100% need-met schools.”

A daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Haley Vien, Macalester College ‘22, was born and raised in Oakland, California, where she was inspired by her older sister to pursue a college education. After watching her sister receive an acceptance letter to Tufts University, Haley envisioned her own college experience: “I was mostly focused on finding a small, private school that had small class sizes, incredible professors, and provided a supportive environment where FGLI (first-generation, low-income) students could find resources and community.”

In high school, Haley learned about liberal arts colleges, but struggled to finalize a list. “I wasn’t sure how to apply to these colleges,” Haley explained. A college counselor then introduced her to QuestBridge. “My college path changed because once I started my application through QuestBridge, it widened my perspective on the colleges that were also 100% need-met schools,” Haley said. 

As she navigated the National College Match application process, Haley was grateful for her support system, which consisted of teachers, school counselors, and college support staff from a community-based organization called Summer Search. “My parents didn’t have any knowledge at all on how to get me to college, so this [support network] is what made it possible for me to turn a dream into a reality.”

After submitting her application, Haley became a National College Match Finalist and set her sights on Macalester College. While she was not matched that December, Haley was thrilled to be admitted to Macalester a few months later through QuestBridge Regular Decision: “I hope that I can be one of many examples of non-Match Questies that have done and will continue to do incredible things to make this world a better place.”

Once at Macalester, Haley planned to study Computer Science with the intention of one day working as a software developer. However, college and the world around her helped to reframe her goals: “I was meant to be in education. … At the time that I declared my major, it was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and it made me start to think more about what brought me joy.” When she officially declared her major in her second year, Haley chose American Studies. “I shifted entirely from seeing myself on my computer all day to what I am doing now, standing in front of youth, teaching and laughing all day.”

Outside of classes, Haley became involved in a myriad of groups on campus, including Bonner Community Scholars, Asian Women of the Diaspora, and the Macalester QuestBridge Scholars Network Chapter, where she served as President for two years. “Something that college has taught me about myself is that I can be a leader,” Haley said. “My two years as the QuestBridge Chapter President were transformative, and I am grateful that I was able to be a part of such an amazing growing community. Before coming to college, I did not consider myself as a conventional leader because instead of being the person that would steer a group, I would be the person that would make sure that everyone was doing okay. Now, I have learned that being a relational person is a type of leadership, and I also grew in different leadership styles that I didn’t expect.”

Haley graduated from Macalester in 2022 and held tight to her passion for supporting students and recent graduates. “I currently work as a Youth & Community Program Specialist with Right Track, a youth employment program through the city of Saint Paul,” Haley explained. “I serve as a mentor to a group of young people that are civically engaged with Saint Paul, from community projects to voting on decisions that affect the city. I facilitate leadership development activities full of important skills that we hope the young people take with them into the world outside of the program.”

As she reflects on her path through college and now into her career, Haley notes that following her heart, giving herself grace, and knowing when to take a break have led to the most fulfillment. “As Questies, I know that poverty anxiety makes us want to work every single minute of the day to achieve our goals. However, whatever timeline you are setting for yourself was created by you,” Haley shared. “You are doing your best and that is enough. You deserve grace, time, and a break, so I hope that you are giving yourself all of those things.”