Saxon B.'s Story

“College was expected of me, but my family did not have the means to make that happen.”

For Saxon Bryant, curiosity is his driving force. Born in Louisiana, Saxon moved frequently during his childhood, living in Kentucky and Maryland before spending his most formative years in Pueblo West, Colorado. Saxon shared that, “College was expected of me, but my family did not have the means to make that happen.”

During high school, Saxon knew that most students from his school went on to attend the local community college. He was thinking of doing the same thing. “And then one day I received something in the mail from QuestBridge,” Saxon explained. “At first, I thought that this does not seem real. What is this program? What are these universities I have never heard of?” 

Ultimately, that piece of paper changed Saxon’s fate. “Because of that, I became a College Prep Scholar,” said Saxon. “Reading that one invitation to apply encouraged me to think outside the box a bit and consider schools out of state.”

As a College Prep Scholar, Saxon met other students from similar backgrounds and was able to exchange advice and encouragement. “The program was tremendously helpful,” Saxon explained. “It really served as an introduction to the college admissions process. The logistical aspects of applying to school are really hard, especially when no one in your family has gone through it before, but the other students really inspired me.”

In connecting with other College Prep Scholars, Saxon considered new questions: “Growing up, I had never really thought of being passionate about anything. I just wanted to be financially stable. Passion never entered the equation. But QuestBridge encouraged me to think about my unique story and what I want to do in the world.” 

Through new opportunities for introspection, Saxon found interests in economics and public policy. From defining his ambitions, Saxon found Penn. “What stood out to me about Penn was really the applied nature of it,” Saxon explained. “There were so many experiential programs and the economics major already had a focus on public policy like I wanted.” Through Penn’s fly-in program, Saxon was able to spend a weekend at the campus: “It was so much fun. We roomed with current students and attended a number of panels on academics and life at Penn. We explored Philadelphia and I even tried a cheesesteak. I had the full Penn experience and I was confident it was the right fit.”

With excitement about his goal, Saxon applied to the National College Match and was selected as a Finalist. When Match Day arrived, Saxon admitted that, “I had one of the weirdest jumbles of emotion I have ever had. When the email came, I couldn’t even click on it. I asked my best friend to do it. But when I saw that I had matched to Penn, I was overcome with a feeling of happiness I had never felt before. It was incredible to share with my family, teachers, and friends.”

About nine months later, Saxon packed his bags and traveled to Penn with his mother. As he began his studies, Saxon noted that, “The one hard thing was knowing that the average student at Penn does not come from the same background as I do. But really, I was surprised that I made friends so quickly. I discovered that even if we all come from different backgrounds, it's actually better. The best thing about college is the incredible diversity of lived experiences.”

In addition to pursuing majors in Economics and Political Science, Saxon quickly became involved in a number of groups on campus that helped him find his niche. Saxon joined the Public Policy Initiative Student Group, founded a business fraternity chapter, helped to organize Model United Nations competition conferences, and assisted in teaching a public speaking class. “I visited D.C. several times with the Public Policy Group and even rose to president of the organization,” Saxon shared. “The trips were so eye opening. We were able to interact with a number of staffers and even some legislators. I saw all of the different ways one can get involved in government.”

Particularly interested in international relations, Saxon began to think about how he could combine that passion with his interest in debate and public speaking: “When I was young, people told me I should be a lawyer, but I honestly didn’t even know what lawyers did. The jobs of lawyers on TV did not seem like a good fit. College changed my understanding of that career path. I learned you could be a lawyer who focused on so many different topics. I could chase all of my curiosities. I knew I wanted to be a lawyer who focuses on international relations.”

Although his senior year took an unexpected turn to virtual learning as a result of the pandemic, Saxon graduated from Penn in 2021 holding tight to his goal. “I will be attending Harvard Law School in three years,” Saxon said. “Before that, I will be completing a Fulbright Fellowship in Taiwan, where I will actually serve as a debate coach at local high schools. After a year in Taiwan, I plan to return to D.C. for a consulting position with McKinsey & Company.”

When asked how all of his upcoming plans fit together, the answer is just one vital word: “Curiosity.” It is integral to who Saxon is. “I want to ask questions and learn,” said Saxon. “Coaching debate in Taiwan, I want to empower people to investigate their own curiosities and doggedly pursue answers to their interesting questions. Working in consulting, I want to ask complicated questions and break them down into digestible tasks. Similarly, law school is all about learning how to question the world around us and then use the law as a tool to improve it. My goal at Harvard is to study exactly that: how to turn a curiosity about the systems and rules which underpin our lives into meaningful community impact.”

Reflecting upon his journey in its entirety, Saxon shared advice for those who may be in his shoes in the future: “Don’t be afraid of exploration. Make sure you are informed and ask your questions. And most importantly, don’t be afraid of failure. I’ve taken a lot of risks and I’ve failed a lot. But please keep trying and be your own advocate. No one else can do that for you. And if you take a chance and do it all yourself, it’ll make those victories all the sweeter.”