“I would say this to students at home: When making plans for the future, plan early, and plan with the best information and facts available.”
Gaston, Carleton College
Hometown: Waldorf, Maryland
When Carleton College joined QuestBridge as a partner in 2012, Gaston Lopez was one of the first students to be matched with a full four-year College Match scholarship to the school. Before even stepping foot on campus for his freshman year, Gaston decided that he wanted to lead Carleton’s new QSN chapter. He wanted to take initiative and contribute to his fellow QuestBridge Scholars and his new campus. “I felt that I needed to do something,” says Gaston.
This was not the first time Gaston had found himself making a home in a new place. Born in the Philippines, he immigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old with his two siblings to rejoin his parents, who had come over a year earlier for better employment opportunities. The family settled in Waldorf, Maryland, a small city growing into the surrounding farmland.
Gaston had a series of teachers who encouraged him to learn for the sake of learning, like a high school physics teacher who inspired him to pursue higher education in science. When it came time to think about college, Gaston applied to the QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship as a junior and was invited to attend the 2012 College Admissions Conference at Princeton University. There, he met an admissions officer from Carleton who showed him how the idyllic Minnesotan location, community atmosphere, and opportunities to explore a wide range of academic subjects made Carleton a perfect fit. Before the conference, Gaston had never heard of Carleton and says that he “wasn’t sure about liberal arts colleges,” especially because he was interested in a science degree. However, the more he looked into Carleton, the more excited he became about the college’s emphasis on learning for the sake of learning.
In his senior year, Gaston applied to the National College Match and ranked Carleton as his top choice. Coming home from school on November 30, 2012, Gaston remembers worrying that he might not be accepted to any school or, worse, not receive the financial aid he needed to attend. When he logged into his QuestBridge account and saw “Congratulations!” written at the top of the page, Gaston was thrilled that he knew where he was going: Carleton College.
Now in his sophomore year, Gaston is majoring in physics with an interest in particles fueled by his summer internship at a laboratory in Minnesota. Taking advantage of the diversity of courses offered at Carleton, Gaston has filled his schedule with the classes that interest him, including religion and Arabic. He is also very involved with campus life: serving as a Chaplain’s Associate, promoting spiritual and ethical life through the Chapel, and mentoring freshmen through his QuestBridge Scholars Network chapter.
As Gaston reflects on what advice he’d give to younger students, he says, “I would say this to students at home: When making plans for the future, plan early, and plan with the best information and facts available. Although I did do a substantial amount of planning, the college admissions process – or other paths for that matter – would have been less stressful and much clearer had I planned with either in mind.”
After coming so far, Gaston makes sure to keep in touch with family through video chat. Within weeks of walking onto Carleton’s campus for the first time, he was able to watch his baby brother do the same: take his first few steps across the floor of his family’s living room.