28-year-old program gives college financial aid to high GPA seniors from low-income families


Screenshot used with permission from Questbridge.org

A screenshot of the QuestBridge website featuring one of its services known as National College Match. Those eligible to apply have a chance to get admitted to the college of their dreams.

Scrolling mindlessly on TikTok during the summer before senior year, senior Jackie Tapia-Zapata stopped swiping through her “For You Page” when her eyes fell upon the word “QuestBridge” on a video reporting about some of the various scholarship opportunities. 

“I told myself, ‘I was going to check it out,’” said Tapia-Zapata, who coincidentally received a letter from QuestBridge in her stack of college pamphlets two days prior. “I decided to go for it.”

Tapia-Zapata is among some on campus who are familiar with what this organization offers. Besides those like the seniors who discovered QuestBridge via social media, some find out through their counselors.

The Accolade reached out to the organization asking for an interview, but QuestBridge officials provided only the following:

“Established in 1994, QuestBridge is a non-profit organization that helps high-achieving, low-income students gain admission and scholarships to over 48 of the country’s top-ranked colleges through our National College Match application,” according to QuestBridge’s email response. “We have two programs for students.

“For juniors, we have the College Prep Scholars program. … For seniors, we have the National College Match program.”

According to QuestBridge officials, “Our programs have served over 90,000 students and QuestBridge Scholars and Alumni total about 20,000 globally.

For Tapia-Zapata, such background information about Questbridge and how it can help fund students’ college expenses are what intrigued her the most.

“[Money] is going to be hard for me to go to college without scholarships, and for all those years to be covered means that I won’t have to worry about tuition,” she said. “I can focus on what truly matters – my education.”

The QuestBridge website advises that applying as a junior shows college advisers that students are competitive candidates for admission, giving juniors a head start.

“Students who apply to colleges through the QuestBridge program usually say it’s a lot of work but the potential reward will make it well worth it,” said Cindy Moreno, one of the Sunny Hills counselors. “They like how streamlined the application process is and the timeline of notification of finalist status, which usually happens in December.”  

Upon contacting QuestBridge officials via email, they would only provide the following information: 

Students who take this program are five times more likely than other applicants to receive a full four-year scholarship, according to QuestBridge.

“The fact that it promises a full ride to a lot of private universities for all four years was really alluring to me,” Tapia-Zapata said. “Especially since [QuestBridge] is geared and focused on low-income students like me.”

Questbridge.org said that students match with one of the top universities in the country with a full four year scholarship hence making QuestBridge a very competitive program.

“Students who are matched with a school through the QuestBridge program are usually in the top 5-10% of the graduating class,” Moreno said. “Personal circumstances are also a factor that is taken into account, looking at how a student has dealt with different situations during high school years and how they chose to thrive despite them.”

According to questbridge.org, qualifications need certain requirements in order to qualify for the National College Match [NCM]:

  • Primarily A’s in the most challenging courses available (usually including honors, Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate level courses
  • All sources of household income are taken into account, including, but not limited to salaries, wages and more
  • Households earning less than $65,000 per year for a typical family of four with minimal assets
  • Participation in extracurricular, community or other activities

To join QuestBridge, students must apply before Tuesday, Sept. 27, through the website using their personal email and filling out the application, which includes two teacher recommendations, a counselor recommendation, two essays, and a two-part short answer response.

By Wednesday, Oct. 19, all applicants will be notified if they have been selected as NCM finalist. For the following procedure, QuestBridge suggests only to list out and rank schools that scholars are determined to attend because of the binding aspect.

Tapia-Zapata said she plans to rank one university, USC.

“I plan on getting my master’s in library and information sciences, and USC is one of the few schools who have that as an option,” she said. “I’m hoping that it’ll give me an edge when I graduate and start looking for jobs.”

According to the Dec. 1, 2020, QuestBridge press release, out of over 18,500 applicants, the nonprofit organization selected 6,885 finalists to be considered for the NCM scholarship. 

“It’s a full four year ride to college and [QuestBridge] is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” Tapia-Zapata said. “Best of luck.”