QuestBridge and the Application Process

What is Questbridge?

Questbridge is an organization that helps students from underserved communities during the college admissions process by providing them with resources. Through becoming a College Prep Scholar, you would have access to summer programs, awards, conferences, and an opportunity to attend one of their college partners for a full ride scholarship to top universities and liberal arts colleges through the National College Match Program.

Who’s eglibible?

Questbridge has two main programs that look to admit students: the College Prep Scholars Program and the National College Match. Applicants of both programs typically:

  • Reside in the U.S
  • Have high academic achievement
  • Have household income less than $65,000 annually for a typical family of four

The College Prep Scholar Program admits high school juniors, while the National College Match admits high school seniors. Both programs have holistic review processes, so it is crucial that you look into their requirements page and ask further questions. Every personal circumstance and situation is different! Make sure to check out the College Prep Scholars requirement page and the National College Match requirement page!

What is the College Prep Scholar Program?

Getting in this program as a junior means you would have the opportunity to go to college conferences (both virtual and in-person) and learn more about Questbridge’s 40 college partners (which includes MIT, Yale, Amherst, Pomona, Duke, Northwestern, and many more). This program also gives eligible students scholarships for summer programs at these universities, distinguished awards and tips on college apps. It also prepares you for the upcoming National College Match.

Moreover, what I found to be a valuable resource that still remains to this day is the connection to a community of Questbridge Scholars through a Facebook group. This community is one of the most close-knitted, receptive and supportive I’ve found. Aside from helping each other through the college apps season, students from this group quickly form friendships, study groups, and many use it as a way to network, gather feedback for class projects, and form nonprofits together. Even now, many of the Questbridge groups are still active, sharing college tips, discussing class, mentoring each other, and endlessly growing.

The application is free and on a separate portal page. It’s also quite long and comprehensive, so remember to pace the application process and don’t wait until the very last minute. The deadline is usually around the end of March. The application consists of:

  • A biographical essay and several short essay questions
  • Info on your academic achievements, extracurriculars and financial background
  • A letter of recommendation
  • A highschool transcript (unofficial ones are accepted)
  • Standardized test scores

Questbridge has several webinars, guides and question center to help with the application process as well.

What is the National College Match?

This program is for highschool seniors, and it allows you to rank up to twelve colleges for a full scholarship. Even if you do not get the scholarship, you can apply Regular Decision through the Questbridge portal, and many receive similar financial aid packages, so the Match is most definitely not the end-all-be-all to the college apps process.

Another thing to notice: Being a College Prep Scholar gives you some advantages to applying for the National College Match since both applications very similar (and are on the same portal). However, you do NOT need to be a College Prep Scholar to apply to the National College Match. Many people I’ve met who were a part of the Match weren’t College Prep Scholars.

The application is due in September (super early, I know! But being so early means you are extra prepared for Early Decision and Regular Decision, when the time comes). The application consists of:

  • Two essays and short answer questions
  • Info on your academic achievements, extracurriculars and financial background
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • A highschool transcript
  • Standardized tests scores
  • A school report from your counselor

After your application, you can rank up to twelve Questbridge partner schools. Most schools are binding decisions, meaning that you are required to attend the school if ‘matched’ (except for MIT, Yale, Princeton and Stanford). You will only be matched to one of these schools on your ‘ranked’ list.

If you are selected as a Finalist to the Match process (this happens around October), you can continue and need to submit additional application materials such as extra essays and financial aid materials depending on the school. You will need to submit all the additional application materials to your ranked school by November 1st. Being a Finalist, you get to revise the order of your school rankings. You need to be very sure about choosing the schools you rank on your list– if you are matched, it is binding. In addition, as each school has different requirements, it can become especially tiring and intense to submit all materials by the deadline.

Tip #1: The more colleges you rank, the more work you have to do. I ranked all 12 colleges, and in between trying to write different additional essays for some of the colleges and doing FAFSA/CSS/IDOC for other colleges, I realized that my choices had to be worth the effort.

Tip #2: Use your resources! I can’t emphasize enough how the Questbridge community has been the most wonderful thing that I gained from the whole process. The Facebook group for Finalist applicants is the busiest during this time, and the most productive. Moreover, there are Facebook groups out there from previous Questbridge generations. Many are more than happy to mentor and provide advice. Students share advice and tips, and having everyone go through the same process as you helps with keeping track of the timeline.

If you decide not to continue as a Finalist or are not selected, then you can apply to other schools in/out of the Questbridge partner schools depending on your choice.

You will find out if you are Matched to a school by December. If Matched, you will attend that school on a full scholarship. However, if you’re a Finalist and not Matched, you can continue doing Early Decision, Early Action, or Regular Decision. Some Questbridge schools allow you to use your National College Match application for the Questbridge Regular Decision, but you can also apply to other schools in/out of the Questbridge partner schools as you’d like, through Coalition, Common App, or anything else.

Published by Tien Vu

Tien is a rising sophomore at Haverford College and a Questbridge Scholar. She is planning on studying Biology with minors in Psychology and Health Studies on the pre-med track. She is passionate about connecting low-income communities to resources for higher education and beyond. Her other interests include learning more about social justice work, exploring multimedia art, and discovering new music

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