For families with low incomes, the stress of paying for college can be intimidating. This is even more true for families whose children may be looking at elite colleges.
While they may be eligible for Pell Grants, those don’t always cut it when faced with a cost of attendance that exceeds your annual income.
Luckily, a solution exists for families with more modest means and exceptionally talented students.
QuestBridge is a matching service and scholarship program that provides full financial aid to students who demonstrate enormous academic potential.
While not every high achiever is eligible, and it is a competitive process, a QuestBridge Scholarship offers life-changing opportunities.
Who Qualifies for QuestBridge?
A QuestBridge application starts early, with students expected to apply by the summer between junior and senior year. While the process is holistic, two factors emerge as the most important.
As QuestBridge seeks to provide opportunities for academically talented students, performance factors like grade point average (GPA), test scores, and the intensity of your child’s academic program matter.
Scholars are typically in the top 10 percent of their class, with strong grades in Advanced Placement (AP) and honors-level courses. While test scores are not required, students typically have scores higher than a 27 on the ACT or 1260 on the SAT.
Additionally, strong leadership potential should be apparent through extracurriculars, but as QuestBridge recognizes that lower family income can restrict extracurricular involvement, factors like part-time jobs matter here, too.
Additionally, your family’s income is taken into account. An income of below $65,000 for a family of four is the norm for applicants, but this is not a strict cutoff.
Higher incomes in more expensive parts of the country are also permitted, as are allowances for other family members enrolled in college.
Any student living in and attending high school in the US can apply, and US citizens or permanent residents can apply from abroad. This is not a program designed to help foreign nationals attend American universities.
QuestBridge National College Match Partners
The flagship of the QuestBridge program is the National College Match program. Designed to help students “match” with a top school, students who apply get the ability to explain how their backgrounds can make them more qualified applicants.
Think of this as the chance to help your child rebalance their application against those who have had every possible advantage. After all, colleges actively are seeking the sort of work ethic and tenacity that QuestBridge students provide.
For a full list of the 45 universities that work with QuestBridge, check out their site.
Here are some QuestBridge schools to give you an idea of just how broad reaching the program is:
- Amherst College
- Boston College
- Boston University
- Columbia University
- Davidson College
- Duke University
- Hamilton College
- Pomona College
- Stanford University
- Yale University
The QuestBridge Scholarship Application
Students who are interested in applying should start researching QuestBridge during spring of their junior year, and begin their application the following summer. From there, eligibility is confirmed, and students receive guidance on how to proceed. Students can select up to 12 partner programs after submitting an application to QuestBridge.
By late October, QuestBridge finalists are notified. These are the students who are most likely to gain a scholarship with QuestBridge.
Other students still have access to some QuestBridge resources, but will not go on to the Match Program. From here, finalists clarify any remaining questions from potential match universities, and finalize their rankings of universities.
Here is where things get interesting. Universities and students are then matched—with universities providing QuestBridge with a ranked list of students, to be compared against each student’s ranked list of universities.
Once matches are confirmed, those students receive notification that they’ve been accepted with a full scholarship.
For students who fail to match, they can then apply to any program’s regular decision, with the added benefit that they are a QuestBridge finalist.
While 100 percent aid is not guaranteed by QuestBridge, many of the universities that QuestBridge works with offer full need-based aid. Additionally, being a QuestBridge finalist is a prestigious award that sticks out among regular decision applications.
How Much Does QuestBridge Help?
While QuestBridge is primarily a scholarship program, it does offer plenty of help along the way.
Students who apply can get college counseling from experts in helping students from more modest backgrounds gain admission to some of the top universities in the country.
For matched students, the advantages of getting into a university’s Early Decision with a full-ride are remarkable. However, even for students who don’t match, the prestige of being a QuestBridge finalist adds significantly to both need-based and merit-based awards.
Financial Qualifications and Awards for QuestBridge
QuestBridge students can expect that a college will meet 100 percent of their demonstrated financial need, but adding in merit awards, financial aid packages have the potential to become full rides.
At any rate, students should expect to graduate without loan debt, a major advantage, and have a support network that sticks with them through college and into their early careers.
Even for students who ultimately aren’t selected as finalists, the benefits are considerable. The sort of college advice that comes from the early stages of QuestBridge is valuable, and can prove especially helpful in preparing the best argument when appealing for additional financial aid.
Quest for Excellence Awards
Finally, QuestBridge also offers students extra help through the Quest for Excellence awards. These awards help QuestBridge applicants before they become QuestBridge finalists or college students.
Some of the benefits of the Quest for Excellence program include a new laptop, money for traveling for college visits, and even tuition and travel assistance at some of the top pre-college summer programs in the country.
Special awards are offered for the humanities; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and a variety of other fields.
For those students whose family incomes are modest and who are high achieving, QuestBridge offers an incredible opportunity to gain access to a level of education that is often financially beyond reach.
Students who are interested should start researching the program, as well as its affiliated colleges, in the spring of their junior year to make the most of it.
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