the story of how I made my college decision
by Quinn Holmquist
20 August 2012
(Author’s note: This story is all true. If you are a high-school senior reading this, I hope you will find my experiences relatable and take away some wisdom. Really, though, anyone who has ever made a tough decision will relate to how I made mine.)
Recently, I met my friend Patrick for a farewell meal at Noodles and Company. What was supposed to be a 1-hour lunch meeting turned into a 3-hour-long hang-out session. After a while, our conversation (and our feet) brought us into the local Wal-Mart, where we marveled at the fish tanks. We watched the fish – hundreds of them crowded into each toaster-oven-sized tank – swim under the glow of fluorescent lights and above what some might call a seafloor and others might call a laminated picture of aquarium rocks. Inspired by this display of nature’s beauty (or trying to gloss over the lack thereof), I began an a cappella rendition of one my favorite songs: “The Circle of Life.”
Halfway through the chorus, Patrick stopped me. “Quinn,” he said, “that song is flawed. Life is more of a zig-zag, unpredictable and abrupt, than a circle.” As I thought about my senior year of high school, I realized how right he was.
If you had asked me at the beginning of my senior year where I thought I’d be going to college, you would have heard the name of the School-That-Must-Not-Be-Named which lurks close to Duke’s campus. (Disclaimer: despite my apparent sentiments, I actually don’t subscribe to this whole rivalry business…yet.)
For most of my senior year, I was set on going to Chapel Hill. I felt like my personality –community-minded, outgoing, relaxed – fit at Chapel Hill. I had visited the school multiple times and already felt plugged in with friends there. I had even been a part of some of the community-service organizations on campus. Chapel Hill was the easy choice.
I had applied to Duke, but it was largely off my radar until I received a call earlier this year. The gentleman on the line notified me that I was a finalist for the B.N. Duke Scholarship and invited me up to Duke for a weekend.
I had not expected any such call, and I was still sure that Chapel Hill was for me. But I decided to go into the Finals Weekend for the Scholarship with an “open mind.”
What I saw while I was at Duke blew my mind wide open.
I saw among the B.N. Duke Scholars (hereafter referred to as the Scholars) a deeply-rooted and rightly-motivated commitment to serving people. Helping those in need is my passion, driven by Christian faith. I have seen lots of people serve others in a self-aggrandizing fashion, but the Scholars served because they genuinely cared about people. Their authenticity manifested itself as they shared stories about the local and international summer experiences provided by the Scholarship.
I saw staff members willing to invest in the Scholars. Members of the B.N. staff host dinners for the Scholars, readily give them advice on classes and life, and answer e-mails faster than light. As I considered my decision for college, I spent a long time talking on the phone with a few of the B.N. Duke staff members. More than the conversations we had, the time they spent with me spoke volumes about the uniqueness of the B.N. Program.
I saw a balance between work and play in the larger Duke community. There were (of course) students holed up in the beautiful libraries, but many weren’t too busy to join me and some of the other Finalists in an intense game of midnight Ultimate Frisbee on the quad, or to stop me on campus and try to convince me to come to Duke – even when they were late for class, or to share with me on the bus from East to West Campus how their studies at Duke had taken them abroad. Students at Duke love Duke. And they love to talk about it with anyone who will listen. They love it partly because they have discovered a happy medium between studying and relaxing.
Most importantly, I saw a group of about 60 Scholars who were more than friends. Thanks to the B.N. Duke Program, they were brothers and sisters; they were family. They referred to themselves as the “B.N. Family” and even called us Finalists (affectionately, not condescendingly) “the B.N. Babies.” After I found out that I received the Scholarship, nearly 10 different Scholars contacted me to give me advice and listen to my questions. Even before I had accepted the Scholarship, I already felt like part of their family.
In what I saw at Duke, I felt like I could see myself there, calling Durham home.
I never saw all that before, but that was because I was still on the zig. I hadn’t zagged yet. As I write this today, the day before I leave my house and make Duke my home, the zag was obvious.
My path at Duke will be similar to my path to a college decision. While I know that I want my major and my activities at Duke to be guided by my passion for service, I don’t know exactly what form that passion will take. But I’m not too worried. I know that God will guide me in my decisions, just like He has so far. Also, I’ve got a great new family waiting for me at Duke. And who knows? Maybe we’ll figure out how to save the world, or at least those poor, crowded fish.
Here are a few things about me which may help you get to know me better.
High-school activities: Latin Club, National Honor Society, President of Accafellas (a men’s a cappella group), founder of an elementary school garden, high school ambassador, church youth group (youth choir, praise band keyboard player and singer, mission team member), founder of a teenage-guys Bible study, Gloversville, NY Mission Trip team leader, counselor for Rainbow Express Camp (for children with special needs), private tutor, former Treat Team Member at Rita’s Italian Ice
Interests: triathlons (I’ve done four), reading, playing the piano, singing, waking up early, sailing, foreign languages (I want to be fluent in Spanish), working with the homeless and special-needs communities, working with kids, gardening, Ultimate Frisbee, cooking, smoothie-making