"It's still processing, for sure. I can't believe it," she said. "It's like a dream. ... Two years ago, I never even thought I would leave Kentucky for college. I was going to go to (the University of Kentucky), and I was OK with that.
"I talked to (PTHS college and scholarship counselor) Sid Hancock, and she said, 'There is a world out there for you to look at, so many opportunities for you.'"
This year's scholarship recipients had an average unweighted grade-point average of 3.93 on a 4.0 scale, and the middle 50 percent made between 1360 and 1500 on the SAT and between 29 and 33 on the ACT. The median household income is $32,491.
Raber is ranked first in her class and is a Kentucky Governor's Scholar. She will graduate with 12 AP credits, is an AP Scholar with Distinction and holds an ACT composite score of 33.
Raber, a foster child, is involved in several extracurricular and volunteer activities at her school, including the speech and debate team, serving as captain and being named state runner-up in Future Problem Solvers and serving as a state representative on the Commissioners State Student Council. She is also a member of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, Paducah Tilghman Hospitality Committee and the National Honor Society.
Raber started the process last March with the junior application to QuestBridge. After she was accepted, she was sent podcasts and other information about the senior application, which she submitted in October. Princeton, in New Jersey, was on her list of preferred colleges, which also included Brown, Chicago, Vanderbilt, Washington and Lee and Washington University in St. Louis.
On Monday, she and 1,043 other seniors received the news that they were matched with one of the colleges that they listed on a list of preferences.
"QuestBridge isn't just scholarships," Raber said. "It's connecting other low-income students together and hearing other people's stories and how I can relate to them, thinking you could never go to an Ivy League school because you're from a poor family, and then, they go. It's amazing; it's magical. It's still unbelievable."
Raber took part in an arts and humanities symposium at Princeton University last October, where she took classes and met several of the 100 high school students taking part in the symposium.
Raber said she wanted to attend Princeton because she felt it put a big focus on individualism. The symposium on its campus also showed an emphasis on art and how it is incorporated into other forms of education.
"My big thing was, I met a (college) senior there working on her senior thesis," she said. "She's doing psychology work and mixing it in with creative writing, which is something I'm really passionate about and what I want to study as well, how we mix in writing with psychology and use it as a coping mechanism.
"Her whole thesis was she wrote a long epic poem incorporating interviews she had with people struggling with eating disorders. It was a study of eating disorders, but it was this one big, beautiful poem. Just hearing how passionate she was about that and all the support she had gotten from her professors and from other students was really amazing to me. This is what I want to do, so seeing that she had done that inspired me even more to follow what I want to do."
Raber said she wanted to work in psychology or psychiatry to work with or develop treatments with less of an emphasis on medication and more naturalistic methods of coping with mental illness, including yoga, art and writing.
"You may fix one problem (with medications), but then, there's seven more that come up with it," she said. "It drains people sometimes; it just takes everything out of them. I feel like a healthier means for this would be to embrace that you have a mental illness, but learn how to incorporate that into your life and move past it without medications that take away from you."
Raber said her friend, 2018 valedictorian Anna Grace McGee, is a student at Princeton, giving her a familiar face when she starts her college career. Raber is the second Tilghman student to earn a QuestBridge scholarship in the last three years, as 2017 graduate Vanessa Davis earned a QuestBridge scholarship to Notre Dame.
Raber is the daughter of Lisa Hill of Paducah.
Emily Smith of The Paducah Sun contributed to this article.