My Experience as a Quest Scholar – Gio Santiago, Brown University

Gio Santiago
2014 National College Match Finalist
Quest Scholar at Brown University, Class of 2019
Home town: Chicago, Illinois






It was during my junior and the start of senior year that QuestBridge became like an old friend to me. It offered myself, a low-income hispanic student from the west side of Chicago, the benefit of applying to college with like-minded individuals. QuestBridge’s approach to the college application process relieved a lot of stress for me. At first, applying for college through the Common Application seemed daunting. However, the National College Match prepared me extremely well for what was to come. QuestBridge allowed someone like myself (who had no parents or siblings to help guide me through the CSS Profile or the Common Application), the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge of how to navigate the confusing world of financial aid forms, and supplemental applications. I felt as though the organization was in and of itself a mentor to me. I no longer felt alone or scared about applying to college, I found myself tackling essays head on, and even helping my friends understand the process.

When I was finished understanding the process, I had completed sixteen college applications, seven of which were QuestBridge partner schools. Many people around me either applauded my hard work, or misunderstood why I had taken on so many challenges during what was supposed to be the best year of high school. For me, high school was a gateway to higher education, hoping to eventually lead me to success in this competitive society. Part of being a successful applicant is understanding that you are in control of your future. The power to make something of yourself can be more easily attained with organizations like QuestBridge.

Finding a passion for environmental science, I won scholarships to attend summer service and research trips in Hawaii, Belize, and New Mexico. I believe that part of being a successful applicant is indicating how passionate you are about what you have done. I put my heart and soul into my applications with the guiding force being my family, future, and passion for environmental change. While QuestBridge is an extremely important tool for low-income students, it is important to remember that QuestBridge does not guarantee you get matched or accepted to a partner school. Therefore, part of being a successful applicant is creating a college list that reflects three types of schools: safeties, matches, and reaches.

Feeling as though I had conquered the college process, I sat and waited for March to roll around. As the spring approached, anxiety began to settle in. Although I knew I mastered the college application with QuestBridge’s help, ultimately, a fear surged over telling me that I was not good enough to get into my top colleges. However, that fear was quickly put out as the acceptances began pouring in. In all, I had received admission to twelve schools, waitlisted at one, and rejected at three. Of the seven QuestBridge partner colleges I applied to, I received admission to five. One of which, happened to be my dream school: Brown University. The prestigious east coast Ivy League school offered me the type of environment that I felt I would one day thrive in. I ultimately chose Brown due to its collaborative and passionate learning environment, quirky student body, and the combination of attending a research university with a liberal arts college embodiment at the heart of its core. Also, Brown offered me the best financial aid package. I will walk away from my undergraduate experience with no loans to take out — an idea that seemed almost impossible without QuestBridge.

Another benefit of being accepted to a QuestBridge partner school is becoming a Quest Scholar. As a Quest Scholar, I will be welcomed to a community of individuals who are in a similar socioeconomic group — which is quite refreshing at Brown: a historically privileged institution. In addition, becoming Quest Scholar allows me to participate Quest internships, summer conferences, and mentoring opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable.

As I reflect on my college process, I know many of the tools and information I have now would be impossible without the help of QuestBridge. The organization gave me the courage to see myself as an agent of change for my family, future, and other low-income individuals. As a Quest Scholar at Brown, I hope to not only get involved with social and political activism, but also partake in mentoring services to help educate others on how to make the most of the disadvantages they must deal with. The opportunity to succeed is made more readily and easily available with QuestBridge’s guidance on how to prevail even from the most difficult of situations. With their vision, I am able to see college as a way to persevere and make the most of what is to come.