A few months ago, I remember receiving an email from Ana McCullough titled, “An invitation from Questbridge.” Admittedly, I simply selected it and marked it as read, as I do with all of my college emails. However as time passed, I continued to receive more and more emails from Questbridge inviting me to apply, so I finally clicked the link. That is when I learned about the College Prep Scholarship program. On their website, I discovered the plethora of resources they were offering to students who were awarded their scholarships: counseling with college essays, full rides to pre-college summer programs at top universities, and more. I did not end up applying to the program however, and it is something I regret as I begin my college application process.
Questbridge was created by Stanford students as part of an initiative to increase student outreach. Their mission is to help high-achieving, low-income students learn about a myriad of opportunities available to them by assisting in their application process to top universities partnered with the organization. In addition, they offer a variety of resources on their website for everyone to use such as tips for writing a college essay and using the low-income strategy. Questbridge offers three main services: College Prep Scholarship Program, The National College Match, and The Questbridge Scholars Network.
College Prep Scholarship Program
The College Prep Scholarship program is targeted at low-income, high achieving, high school juniors. The application opens in mid-February and is due in the last week of March. It includes a very extensive application that requires personal information, financial background, academic records, letters of recommendation, personal essay, short answer responses, and an activities list. Even though a lot is required of applicants, the benefits for the scholarship winners are endless.
As the name suggests, the program offers rising seniors with college preparation resources. Members will receive the opportunity to attend Questbridge’s annual conference to sit in on exclusive presentations by admission counselors. Students who previously had not thought of applying to a selective college often leave the meeting inspired after learning about the generous financial aid offered by top colleges and the large support system waiting for them at these universities.
The essay used for the application will be used for college applications and will be reviewed by a college counselor for free, a service that can cost up to thousands of dollars, and is otherwise unattainable for low-income students.
Another major component of this program is full-rides to attend pre-college summer programs at these prestigious universities, including Stanford, Columbia, UChicago, to name a few. Students are able to earn college credit and experience learning in a college environment while still in their high school years, something that low-income students would not have the chance to experience otherwise.
In addition, admitted students are able to receive information throughout the year regarding topics such as fly-in programs, mentoring programs, and will have the opportunity to apply for Quest for Excellence awards.
While the application may seem daunting at first glance, if you start early and work step-by-step without procrastinating, you will complete it in time. If accepted you will be able to meet with a community of people who have gone through significant challenges in life, and you will be able to have them as a support group for your college admission journey and beyond.
The National College Match
The National College Match is a program targeted at rising high school seniors. The application opens in June and is due in late September. It is very similar to the application used for the College Prep Scholarship, in fact, you even have the option to reuse its application for this program. The National College Match helps high school seniors apply to college and gain admission to top universities by providing them with a free application that is able to highlight the strength of their accomplishments in regards to their circumstances. This program offers opportunities for low-income students to be recognized in the same light as their competing peers.
After submitting the application, members have up to mid-October to rank Questbridge’s partner colleges from 1-12, 1 being your top choice and 12 being your last, of course you don’t have to fill all 12 spots, you could even only submit 1. Ranking colleges means that these are the colleges you want to be considered for admission with a college match scholarship which provides a full-ride for all four years of college. While all partner colleges provide students with scholarships to fulfill 100% of demonstrated financial need, the college match scholarship eliminates the need to fill out FAFSA and the CSS profile every year. However, with the exception of Stanford, MIT, Yale, and Princeton, the college match is binding, meaning you have to attend no matter what. You will only be matched to the school that is higher up in your list that wants to offer a match. (Say the University of Pennsylvania is your second choice and Trinity College is your fourth and both schools are interested in providing a college match scholarship, you will only be matched to the University of Pennsylvania). Students will receive notification of their status in the first week of December, students who do not match have the option to apply early action/decision or through regular decision.
To some students, this may seem as a high degree of commitment, therefore some finalists opt to not enter the match, but rather choose to apply through Regular Decision. Applying through regular decision allows them to apply to partner colleges for free, and are still able to receive a generous financial aid offer, and are able to compare offers if admitted to more than one. If admitted to a partner college either through the match or regular decision, students gain access to the Questbridge Scholars Network, a community of scholars to guide you through college and other elements of it such as internships, to help you succeed through it.
Bottom line, applying to the National College Match does NOT guarantee admission to a partner college, in fact most students are not admitted. However, there is nothing to lose from applying. You are granted the opportunity to begin applying to college two months before applications even open on August 1st. By September, you will have everything needed for your other non-Questbridge college applications, minus the supplements. Even if you are rejected, you almost have all the materials needed to apply to schools through the Common Application. And of course, there’s also the chance of being selected as a finalist, and even admitted to a top university.
The Questbridge Scholars Network
Once a student commits to a partner college they become a member of the Questbridge Scholars Network chapter at their respective college. The QSN will send information about internships and grants throughout your college career to help ensure each student's success. In addition, the chapter serves as a support group, preventing students to drop-out as a result of unforeseen pressures and stress, allowing them graduate in four years, and helping each other overcome the hardships that come being a low-income, first generation college student.
I encourage all students to read more information about Questbridge and their many programs offered. Every year, low-income students are given a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a top university for free.