“It seems like everyone was talking about college,” Brandon recalls of his junior year in high school. “They’d say, ‘You have to go to college. What are you going to do?’ I had a definite freak-out moment.”
Worse yet, Brandon felt like he was facing college alone. His high school’s guidance office, as he remembers, had only one counselor for every 500 students. “I don't believe they had the time for each individual student,” he says. Although his mom wanted him to attend college, he lived with his father who was not as supportive. Brandon says, “It all fell on me.”
His anxiety reached a high point when he took the SAT. He felt like his entire future was riding on it.
Looking back, Brandon describes the college application process as a symphony. “You have all of these different things going on with different groups of people and organizations, and you have to be the one who conducts it all.”
Brandon started taking charge by giving himself a pep talk during the SAT and changing his mindset. “You can do this,” he told himself. “This is part of the process. Calm down, have your moment, let it go and move on.”
Later, Brandon got help from his chemistry teacher. “I had a very close relationship with her ... she mentored me through pretty much everything I needed help with.” Ultimately, he says, he needed a guide to point him in the right direction.
With a new attitude and more support, Brandon was ready to get down to work filling out the applications and researching funding. “Once I got over my initial intimidation ... it really wasn't that bad.”
Brandon started out as a chemistry major, but switched to medical sociology after taking a class with a particularly influential professor in that field.
“Her first lecture was amazing,” he says. “Finally, here was somebody who would openly talk about things like discrimination, gender, racism, sexual orientation — anything imaginable — with no filters. I really think it was pure learning at its best. Throughout that semester, I fell more in love with sociology, and to this day I still love going to every lecture. [That experience] completely changed the way that I see the world and the society I live in.”
After he graduates, Brandon plans to earn his Ph.D. in medical sociology.