“I was skeptical of my chances of getting a scholarship. I didn’t think I’d be able to get it.”
Myliyah, University of Virginia
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Myliyah Hanna grew up in the Bronx, New York, and was raised by a single mother alongside her younger sister. She attended a small public school with a strong reputation that specialized in musical theatre and technology. Even though Myliyah’s mother had not gone to college, most of Myliyah’s aunts had, and the expectations put upon Myliyah were not if she was going to school, but where.
But despite being Myliyah being on the accelerated track throughout all four years, Myliyah and her classmates were encouraged to apply to community college.
“My teachers meant the best,” Myliyah says. “But they reminded us that we were competing with students from areas where they didn’t struggle with low standardized test scores.”
“Not to say that I doubt my own intelligence,” Myliyah adds. “But at that point I didn’t think I would stand out on paper.”
Luckily, Myliyah’s mother was not swayed, who told her daughter that she was “not applying to community college”.
“We both knew there was no need,” Myliyah says. “I always did well in my studies.”
So Myliyah began thinking harder about college. She liked the small environment of her high school, but wanted to experience life outside of New York City. When her guidance counselor told her about QuestBridge, she decided to apply to schools both within and outside the group of QuestBridge’s colleges, even though she was doubtful.
“I was skeptical of my chances of getting a scholarship,” she says. “I didn’t think I’d be able to get it. I was intimidated by the stats of the schools, how top-tier they were. But I thought I’d go for it, even though I wasn’t expecting much.”
Myliyah admits that her skepticism prevented her from doing proper research on the schools she ended up applying to as well as taking the QuestBridge application as seriously as she should have.
“But I thought, ‘I’ll give it a try’,” she says. “Maybe it could turn out okay.”
Luckily, she was right. Myliyah ended up being accepted Early Decision to the University of Virginia.
“I remember I got the acceptance right before I was going out. It said ‘congratulations’, and I was like, ‘whoa’. But it didn’t hit me until I went to school.”
At school, she says, was where she realized the extent of UVa’s prestige. Her teacher told all the others, and word of Myliyah’s exciting news spread quickly.
“It’s the difference growing up in the inner city,” Myliyah explains. “I’d never heard of the school before I applied, because it was like, ‘what would be the point of us knowing about schools like that?’ We were encouraged to go to community colleges just so that we could secure a future for ourselves. As opposed to shooting too high, and getting shot down.”
Now, she’s thankful she went for it and is happy to have attended UVa. “I’m getting a really good education. My writing skills and ability to speak about certain topics have increased exponentially.”
Despite her appreciation for college, home is still very much a part of her. “Every day I am reminded where I come from in my background as well as financially,” she says. “When I go back home, I go back to a diverse place. I realize that I am fortunate enough and privileged enough to say I’m a student at UVa."
She adds that even if not everyone at UVa understood where she came from or could relate, people were willing to learn and listen about how being Black can shape one’s experience at a college like UVa.
“It makes me happy to be here coming from the background that I have and think, ‘I’m succeeding at the school you never thought I could go to,’” she adds.
Myliyah studied African American Studies with a concentration in African American fiction. She also learned Japanese, and is interested in teaching English in Japan. Ultimately, Myliyah knows she wants to be a professor.
“Had I not applied to QuestBridge, I don’t know where I would be,” Myliyah says.