OAKHURST – Two Yosemite High School students are each set to receive valuable scholarships for two of the country’s most desirable universities: twin brothers Travis Wood and Trevor Wood are sailing into the final months of their primary school academic careers already knowing where they’re going for college, and how they’re going to get there.
The scholarships were awarded through QuestBridge as part of the 2015 National College Match, a program that pairs “talented high school seniors with full scholarships to the nation’s top colleges.” This year, 657 exceptional students in low-income families from 44 states have been selected as College Match Scholarship Recipients.
The Wood brothers will graduate from YHS this June with the Class of 2016. Last year, they applied to a variety of colleges through QuestBridge, and as a result they recently learned that Travis will attend the Penn School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and Trevor will attend the University of Chicago.
The boys are the sons of Aileen Earl-Wood and the late Richard Wood, a Merchant Marine who passed away suddenly in December of 2011, when the twins were in 8th grade. Before that and since then, the family has placed a high value on education. The family also includes two older brothers: Sean Thomas, 25, lives at home, while Jared, 20, is in his second year at UCLA.
“Education was absolutely a priority all along, and it was a priority that one of us would always be home with the boys,” says Aileen, adding that both parents volunteered in the classroom at Rivergold Elementary, and when the kids were young they spent untold hours in the library together.
Since 2003, the QuestBridge College Match has successfully connected over 3,500 high-achieving, low-income students with full scholarships to QuestBridge colleges. These prestigious scholarships are generously provided to recipients by the partner colleges. Travis and Trevor are the first students from Yosemite High School to be successfully matched to a partner college and admitted with a guaranteed full, four-year scholarship, including tuition, room and board, and other expenses.
Aileen says the boys were told repeatedly throughout the QuestBridge that most applicants do not get matched. “They try to let you down easy,” she recalls, “so we were hoping, but told it often doesn’t work out. They said not to despair because many other QuestBridge scholars are notified during regular admission periods. Travis and Trevor were notified in December of their scholarships.”
Thankful to the entire Yosemite High School staff, Aileen believes that having counselor Stephanie Samuels recommend the brothers for QuestBridge was extremely helpful.
QuestBridge received an all-time high of 13,264 applications from across the country last year, from which 4,895 were selected as Finalists to continue in the College Match. Finalists were selected based on their academic achievement coupled with high financial need, and were identified as being strong potential applicants to QuestBridge partner colleges.
“It is so exciting to see this great increase in the number of College Match Scholarships this year,” said Ana McCullough, Co-Founder and CEO of QuestBridge. “It really demonstrates our partner colleges’ deep commitment to providing opportunity to these deserving students and taking away the financial worry that attending college often presents.”
The caliber of this year’s College Matches is exceptional. In addition to an average unweighted GPA of 3.91, the middle 50% have received between 1890-2140 on the SAT (out of 2400), and between 29-33 on the ACT (out of 36). Academically, 96% rank in the top 10% of their class, including 28% who rank 1st in their class. Financially, their median household income is $30,245, and 84% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The majority of these QuestBridge Scholars—75%—are also among the first generation in their families to attend a four-year U.S. college.
The Wood brothers are the first in their family to attend college out of state.
“I have been accepted into the number one nursing school in the world,” explains Travis. “I chose this because I can fulfill the pre-med requirements that are needed for medical school through my nursing degree and then I can have the option to go to medical school.”
If Travis does go to medical school, which is the plan right now, he intends to nurse for the duration of the program in order to pay for it.
“My dream job is a sports medicine physician. I chose Penn because it is a great school for medicine in general. Freshmen live on campus and I hope to get a suite-style dorm, preferably in the New College House that opens in 2016.” Travis will leave for school late in August.
It’s fitting that Trevor leaves for Chicago in September, after Travis, because that’s the order in which they were born: Travis first, Trevor after.
Trevor Charles Wood has been admitted to the University of Chicago as a physics major.
“The most challenging aspect was the period of time between becoming a finalist, a distinction around 4000 applicants reached, and submitting my common applications to my ranked colleges,” says Trevor. “We had from September 21st until the 30th to complete up to 12 applications. I got 5 done and did two of them on the last day. I see now why it is recommended to pre-emptively fill them out.”
Travis agrees that waiting was the hardest part.
“On QuestBridge’s site there is a general profile of the past winners that includes grades and test scores etcetera, so we were constantly checking that and comparing ourselves to other applicants that we met at Stanford,” Travis confesses. “This ate at us since our junior year, through the three application processes, so you can imagine how relieved we were when we got matched.”
QuestBridge, a national non-profit based in Palo Alto, California, connects the nation’s most exceptional, low-income youth with leading institutions of higher education and further life opportunities. By recruiting, developing, and motivating these students— beginning in high school through college to their first job—QuestBridge aims to increase the percentage of talented low-income students attending the nations’ best colleges and to support them to achieve success in their respective careers and communities.
“The first step, which is optional, is to apply to be a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar,” explains the slightly older twin. “This was done in the end of our junior year in 2014 and it gave us test prep, essay help, early access to applications, and the opportunity to go to Stanford to meet college representatives. It also looked good on the following applications because it showed we were dedicated.”
The brothers then applied to be QuestBridge Finalists and in late October found out they were selected.
“This meant that QuestBridge had chosen us and the only step left was to apply to up to 12 of the 40 partner colleges associated with QuestBridge. I applied to five and ranked them in order of how much I wanted to go to them. In order they were: Penn, Stanford, Columbia, Brown, and USC. You get into your highest ranked college that accepts your application,” Travis says.
Trevor ranked Columbia, University of Chicago, Stanford, Penn, and USC. His goal is to become a Theoretical Physicist researching subatomic particles.
The brothers will be talking to students about QuestBridge this month and encourage those juniors and younger to ask their counselors about the program. Admittedly, it wasn’t easy, considering the numerous applications and essays the brothers were required to fill out.
“The applications were tedious, and then once we finalized we applied to our five colleges within a week. This coupled with our schoolwork was a lot to handle. My advice to future applicants is to start your applications early,” Travis suggests.
That tedium and overload all pales now in comparison with the very bright future the guys are staring into.
“The most exciting part is getting to go to such a great school for practically no money (we have a small student contribution) and getting to experience all that it has to offer,” Travis marvels. “Another great reward, that all of our friends are jealous of, is not having to worry about college anymore. We are done with our applications, we know where we are going, we know how to pay for it, and we can stop stressing about testing and getting perfect grades.”
Both of the future east coast scholars are grateful for the support they’ve received throughout the process.
“I would like to thank my mom for helping us with our applications and being so understanding of us going to school so far away,” says Travis. “I would like to thank my cross country coach, Mrs. Peterson, for allowing us to miss a few practices to allow us to work on our applications. I would like to thank my counselor, Mrs. Samuels, and the other counselors for telling us about this application and helping us to send the proper materials to the colleges. Finally I would like to thank all my friends for being so supportive during the process.”
Trevor is equally grateful to his parents and teachers.
“The most exciting part is being able to attend such a great college, and it being free is just a plus. The University of Chicago was ranked 4th in the nation last year by U.S. News, and I never thought I could attend a school like that. University of Chicago is known for its beautiful buildings,” marvels Trevor. “It looks like Hogwarts — and it has nice dorms, so I look forward to that.”
“I’d like to thank Mrs. Samuels for nominating us, as well as writing letters of recommendation,” Trevor says. “I’d also like to thank Mr. Skeahan, Mrs. Hardison, and Señor Browning for writing me letters of recommendation. I couldn’t have done it without their help.”
YHS counselor Stephanie Samuels works with approximately 400 students annually, and says Travis and Trevor Wood are “extremely low maintenance, self directed and motivated.” Both students are full International Baccalaureate diploma candidates with 4.44 G.P.A. in the school’s most challenging program. They are active in the California Scholarship Federation (CSF) club, members of the Academic Decathlon Team, and involved with Key Club.
Apart from the QuestBridge connection, the Wood brothers were also selected for the University of Pennsylvania’s PEEPS Program and flown to the university for a weekend visit and encouraged to apply for early decision all paid for by U. Penn.
Samuels says both young men are devoted sons and caring brothers, as well as gifted athletes who have participated in cross country, water polo, soccer and swimming, and hold down summer jobs.
“These resilient, focused, independent young men will go far in life,” says Samuels. “They have maturity beyond their years and determination that will serve them well.”