How I got into college on nearly a full ride


Two weeks ago on Tuesday, I spent the entire school day trying and failing to focus on my classes. I knew that it was the day I would find out if I matched with a college through QuestBridge, but all I knew about what time I would find out is that I would receive a decision by the end of the day. This was a source of great panic for me, and I refreshed my email every ten minutes.

I found out about the QuestBridge program two years ago when another student from school matched with Vanderbilt University. The organization serves as a way for high-achieving, low-income students to gain admission to top colleges on nearly a full scholarship.

First, seniors have to apply to be QuestBridge finalists by the end of September and find out if they make the cut a few weeks into October. Finalists then rank up to 12 schools from QuestBridge’s list of 42 schools. After submitting supplements for the ranked schools by the beginning of November, students find out in the beginning of December if they matched with a school.

Personally, I ranked nine schools because those were the ones I was sure I would want to go to if I had the chance. Writing all those supplements (and recording a video supplement) was definitely a challenge while balancing school and other responsibilities, but I just had to make the time for it instead of trying to find the time.

I also started writing the supplements before knowing I was a finalist because I knew I wouldn’t be able to produce my best work within a bit over a week for nine different schools. Once I submitted everything, I spent all of November trying not to think about college because I knew it was out of my hands at that point. Still, I was counting down the days until Dec. 1 when I would find out if I matched with a school.

Matching with a school means you were accepted into a ranked school on an almost four-year scholarship. I say almost because some schools still require students to fulfill a small work-study requirement and/or contribute a portion of their savings if they have any. However, each school’s financial aid package promises no family contribution and no student loans.

If you rank a school and match, then it’s a binding acceptance. You have to attend that school next year and withdraw all other applications. (The only exception is MIT.) Also, you only ever find out the one school you matched to or that you didn’t match at all since you match to your highest ranked school that also wants you.

Finally, on Dec. 1 during R7, I saw that QuestBridge decisions were out. I did not want to wait until the end of class. I FaceTimed my friend because she wanted to be there when I opened the letter. My family was asleep, so I was whispering to her and finally opened it after a quick prayer.

I saw that I matched with Northwestern University and whisper yelled the good news to my friend. I ran upstairs to wake up my family and tell them and then I ran back downstairs because I remembered I was still in history class. To be honest, I was really out of breath by the end of it.

These past few weeks, I’ve been talking to other students who matched with Northwestern from all over the country. I’m really proud of them, my other friends and myself for applying and getting into college during a pandemic because it is quite the challenge.

It feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders to know where I’ll be for the next four years (as a journalism major!). At the same time, I know there’s still a lot I want to achieve this year like earning the IB Diploma.

To students interested in QuestBridge, I would recommend looking at the website to learn more about the specific schools and associated requirements. I believe it’s a shame that more students don’t know about this program and others like it. All students deserve the chance to go to college wherever they wish regardless of socioeconomic status.