Dear QB: How does ranking colleges work?

Now that your National College Match application has been turned in, you may be wondering what’s next. While you wait to hear your results, it’s important that you fill out your National College Match Rankings Form to rank colleges for the National College Match. This is what makes QuestBridge a unique application process. By ranking schools, you have the opportunity to be considered for early admission and a full scholarship by up to 12 of our college partners!

Remember: the schools on your rankings list should all be top choices. What does that mean? That means you should only list schools you would be equally happy attending since you are committing to attend any of the schools on your list.*

How do I rank schools?

First things first: before you can make an informed decision about which schools would be a good fit for you, you need to know more about them. Begin by reviewing our list of 39 college partners, then visit their websites and explore resources they provide online to learn more about their offerings and campus culture. College fit is a big topic, and it encompasses academic programs, community experiences, and geographic location. This is your chance to reflect on what’s important to you. When it comes to academics, you’ll want to consider each college’s available areas of study, the flexibility of its curriculum, and learning experiences beyond the classroom. Community experiences can vary based on the size of the student body, student organizations, and professor and alumni networks. Finally, think about the place you’d like to live for the next four years and whether you’d prefer a small town, a city, or somewhere close to home. 

Tip: Use our Research Worksheet to help guide your research and create your rankings list.

Once you’ve done your research, you can rank up to 12 of your preferences through your application. You can decide how many schools you rank, but students who rank more schools increase their likelihood of matching. The National College Match Rankings Form is now available on your Manage page. After submitting your Rankings Form, you will have access to the required Match Agreement Form on your Manage page. This form must be signed by you, a guardian, and a school counselor, and uploaded to your Manage page by October 12, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

What are the advantages of ranking?

One great reason to rank schools: this is the only way to be eligible to receive a guaranteed full four-year College Match Scholarship to one of our college partners. If you match, you know you’ll be able to afford to attend a wonderful college as early as December 1.

What if I don’t match?

Even if you don’t match with a school on your list, that doesn’t mean you’ve been rejected! If you rank colleges for the College Match but are not selected for a College Match Scholarship, some of the colleges you ranked may consider you in December for Early Action or Early Decision. You can learn more by going to our college partners page, navigating to an individual school’s Application Requirements page, and reviewing the “Options following the Match” section. Many Finalists who do not match continue to apply to any of our college partners (including the ones they ranked!) through QuestBridge Regular Decision. Our college partners may be very interested in your application and will offer generous financial aid packages to students who apply through QuestBridge Regular Decision. 

* MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale do not require students admitted through the match to commit to attending their institutions.

Want to do a quick review of the rankings process? Watch our video about ranking colleges:


Dear QB is an advice column for QuestBridge applicants and QuestBridge Scholars. To submit a question, email questions@questbridge.org with “Dear QB” in the subject line.