Reyhan U.'s Story

"Keep pursuing your dreams even when there are roadblocks in the way. Don’t ever give up dreaming big."

Originally from Ankara, Turkey, Reyhan Umurhan moved to Sugar Land, Texas, with her family at the start of her second year of high school. “I really liked school in Texas and did very well with schoolwork,” Reyhan explained. “However, as an ESL student, one real challenge I faced was English. Thankfully, a family friend who was a high school counselor saw something in me and suggested QuestBridge. He had worked with QuestBridge students in the past and understood my background as an ESL student.”

As Reyhan learned more about QuestBridge and explored college partners, she found her fit with Rice University: “Most people at my high school went to state schools in Texas, so Rice was a very high aim,” Reyhan said. “Even so, Rice became my dream school early on. The residential life seemed really tight knit, and the education system was also amazing with many opportunities for research.”

With a clear goal in mind, Reyhan applied to the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program. “While I waited to hear, I remained very excited about Rice, but developed a feeling that I would not get in,” Reyhan admitted. “I thought I had no chance with QuestBridge or with Rice. Maybe it is imposter syndrome, but I just didn’t believe it would happen.”

Despite her doubts, Reyhan was selected as a 2020 College Prep Scholar. “I was so surprised. Becoming a College Prep Scholar was the best and most life-changing moment I have ever had,” Reyhan shared. “I was so happy and proud. I saw the potential right there and realized Rice could be possible.” 

As a College Prep Scholar, Reyhan met students from all over the country and learned more about the National College Match. “I met a community of students who were not only my first stop when I had a college-related question, but a support group where we shared common struggles and cherished each other throughout the college application journey,” Reyhan said. “Another resource that helped me feel prepared was the College Prep Scholar series, which was a series of short informative emails geared towards first-generation, low-income applicants like myself. Being a College Prep Scholar really gave me a sense of accomplishment at the opportunity to be recognized by the best universities in the United States as a competitive applicant.”

In fall of 2020, Reyhan submitted her National College Match application and was selected as a Finalist. “I ranked Rice number one, but unfortunately did not match,” Reyhan explained. “Still, I loved Rice and wanted to keep trying, so I applied Early Decision through QuestBridge. A few months later, I learned my application was deferred.” Determined to find her way to Rice, Reyhan began to send letters: “To be honest, I tried so many things. I sent essays to Rice to restate my interest and explain my goals if I was accepted as a student. I shared updates and even sent them a recommendation from a Rice alum that I got to know. I did everything that I possibly could.”

After a long journey, Rice’s decision day finally came. “I was praying so much and hoping to be admitted,” Reyhan said. “When I saw the confetti pop up on the page, it was an indescribable moment. This was what I have been waiting for perhaps my whole life. It was so rewarding because of how much work I put into this.”

A few months after receiving her letter, Reyhan traveled to Houston, Texas, to begin school. “Orientation week is still one of my favorite college memories so far,” Reyhan shared. “Because Rice has such a focus on comfort and community, first-year students come a week early and are able to make friends, get support in course selection, and attend all kinds of information sessions to help learn about life at Rice. At the end of that week, I definitely felt like I was home.” 

In the years since orientation, Reyhan has only deepened her connection with the Rice community: “I live at Martel College, one of the university’s 11 residential colleges, and will remain a Martelian every year I attend Rice. What is unique about our housing system is that we are not assigned based on majors or where we are from. It is completely random, and that has allowed me to make friends from many different backgrounds, interests, and experiences.”

Focused on a childhood goal of becoming a dentist, Reyhan is studying chemistry and is a member of Rice’s pre-dental program. “It took some time to figure out which major would be the best path for dentistry, but chemistry is a discipline that I have always liked and that aligns with my goals,” Reyhan explained. Outside of the classroom, Reyhan serves as a peer career advisor, is active in the Muslim Student Association, and has been able to explore research interests with support from a graduate school mentor. “Right now, I am investigating the clinical applications of the demineralized bone matrix in bone repair and tissue growth, which has a lot of applications in the dental field,” Reyhan shared.

Following her graduation from Rice, Reyhan hopes to attend dental school: “I am a member of the Rice Pre-Dental Society, which has allowed me to learn so much about the dental school process from my peers,” Reyhan said. “Some students take a gap year and others go straight to school. Some attend just general dentist education and others choose to continue on and specialize in things like oral surgery or orthodontics. It has been great to have that support network to learn from. I am not sure what will be right for me yet, but I am very excited to find the program that fits my goals.”

Reflecting on her journey to the college of her dreams, Reyhan encourages other students to believe in themselves: “Keep pursuing your dreams even when there are roadblocks in the way. Don’t ever give up dreaming big.”