Scholar Rundell Douglas graduates from Boston College.

First-Generation Student Soars at Boston College

Like many first-generation, low-income students, Rundell Douglas believed that college might be out of reach for him. He excelled at math and science, and dreamed of studying medicine and returning to his native Guyana to improve their health care system. But he had only heard of Ivy League schools and worried about the cost of a college education. Then he became a CDI Scholar.

CDI walked Rundell through the college process, helping him prepare for tests, research colleges, complete applications, and apply for financial aid. Ultimately, he attended Boston College, where he majored in biology and served as a RA. Today, he is the first member of his family to graduate from college, and in the fall he began a Master’s of Public Health program at George Washington University.

Below we talk with Rundell about his college journey.

Before becoming a CDI Scholar, what were your feelings about going to college?

As a first-generation student, I had no source of knowledge about the college process. Confused about approaching the process, I often felt college would not be a possibility. Because the Ivy leagues were the predominant subject of college conversations, I strongly believed those were the options available to me. Also, I was unaware of the cost-effective methods to fund my college career. I strongly believed I would have to go into debt.

What made you interested in applying to the CDI program?

I was pessimistic about the college application process. However, I departed the CDI information session feeling confident about identifying the right campus and securing funds for college through the help of CDI. CDI offered affordable standardized tests preparation, a structured process for college research, and invaluable support from a strong team of counselors. At home, I discussed the meeting with my mother. Her confidence in the program reinforced my decision to apply.

What were you looking forward to about college? Why was it important to you?

I strongly believed in the cliché of college being the best four years of your life and where you meet your lifelong friends. I was ready to step outside of my safe space and experience a new environment. I love getting into the school spirit, so I was excited to attend sports games with my new college family. I was ready to forge meaningful relationships with my professors and friends.

How did the work you did with CDI prepare you for the college process?

I had the impression that the college process would be burdensome and time consuming. However, in working with CDI, I developed an action plan that made the college process balanced and manageable.  I completed my essay and standardized testing ahead of schedule.  So when I think about it, I did not have a college process during the traditional college process time. I spent most of that time maintaining a strong senior year.

What was your final college choice?

With all the offers considered, I decided on Boston College. Although BC offered a substantial financial package, it was the campus tour that sold me on the school. Sporting a beautiful campus, BC offered space and proximity to the city center. CDI connected me with another Scholar attending BC. Through this connection, I got to explore the city and receive a non-biased student perspective. After returning home from the tour, I had considered all of my top choices and knew that I felt more at home at BC. It offered a new experience in an amazing location.

How did the CDI team support you as you went through college?

The team allowed me to explore my new life on my own terms, while also being present to provide support whenever I needed it. They provided guidance on approaching certain professors or departments with any issue I was facing. There were times the counselors served as a reference for a job application, provided feedback on term papers, gave career counseling, and acted as a conversation buddy when I needed to talk.

How did you give back and get involved on campus?

I participated in various clubs where I interacted with a diverse population of students and mentored them in important life skills, ranging from CPR to financial literacy. I was also a Resident Assistant where I worked with first-year students, offering resources and time to guide them in their adjustment to the new environment. The skills that I developed through this position allowed me to effectively advise younger CDI scholars at BC on various matters: selecting the best courses, connecting them with peers in the same field of study, and providing resources to ensure their success.

What was the process of applying to graduate school like?

Although the graduate school process had some hiccups, I was able to reduce the burden by incorporating a few methods from my college process with CDI. This provided sufficient time for me to take multiple tests, write my personal statements, and prepare an excellent profile. CDI offered support by connecting me with other Scholars and friends that had completed a master’s of public health and/or attended a prospective school on my list. They also reviewed my personal statements and offered constructive feedback, and assisted me in taking the appropriate amount of loans for my program.

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