A ridge is basically a sturdy and mountainous hill. But for me and many of my peers, we’ve had a backbone-like ridge that has shaped our academic aspirations and hopes for not only gaining acceptance to, but also affording a quality education at top colleges in the U.S.
That ridge, as you may have guessed, is QuestBridge.
I first learned about QuestBridge from a now Quest Scholar from my high school (Hillcrest) in Jamaica, Queens. Tasnim Fairabi is now a Quest Scholar at Yale and, through her words of encouragement, I applied to and was named a College Prep Scholar earlier this year.
On the day of College Prep decisions, I checked my status page on the bus coming back from a tennis match and read about a conference at Yale, free SAT prep, other awesome benefits to help prepare me for senior year, and more specifically, the National College Match. Although I was flustered with thoughts about what all this meant and why I was even selected, I felt a light-bulb of realization and sudden appreciation tremor up my back into my mind.
College didn’t have to be all about unpaid and crippling loans or admissions that overlook academically qualified, low-income students. I’ve been able to see that tens of thousands of qualified, low-income students do not apply to top colleges because of preconceived notions that first-generation, minority, low-income, and individuals who’ve faced personal adversity cannot afford to go to top-tier colleges. QuestBridge enables academically motivated high school students from low-income backgrounds to thrive at top QuestBridge partner colleges, all of which are some of the most financially generous colleges in the nation.
This has been a reality that has never slipped from my mind, especially after I applied to the QuestBridge National College Math and was named a Finalist. Although it’s been a great opportunity to apply to up to 12 colleges for a chance at a full scholarship, the road has not been easy; and, like all ridges, QuestBridge requires some effort and climbing on behalf of the hikers (in this case 16, 17, and 18-year-old high school seniors. Yes, I am still 16.)
If I had a nickel for every time I slept late working on supplements, scholarship applications, or catching up on homework, I’d honestly still probably be broke. However, that is beside the point. Applying to college is no doubt hard work, but as low-income students applying to college (and this extends to all students, not just finalists), we have an innate desire to learn from hardships. We’ve experienced financial barriers (CollegeBoard fees) and other adversities that give us more struggle, but also more determination to achieve great things.
I don’t know where I would be without QuestBridge because being surrounded by a family of people who understand my experiences and financial difficulties is the biggest free-of-charge blessing I’ve ever had.
I’ve come a long way from doing deliveries every night (just kidding, I still do deliveries) to applying to my dream schools that I wouldn’t be applying to if I wasn’t standing on this ridge. I wish everyone the best of luck through this process as we find ourselves and discover our best fit colleges while powering through senior year. ‘Til next time, folks.
– by Sunpreet Singh, 2015 National College Match Finalist