Dear QB: How is it possible that a top college can be more affordable than my state school?

DearQBThis is one the most frequent questions we receive here at QuestBridge — and it’s also one of our favorites to answer! We know that every year, there are over 30,000 outstanding high school students from low-income backgrounds who are academically qualified to attend the nation’s top colleges. Over 80% of them do not apply to even one selective college.

Many of these promising students assume they can’t afford an education at a top college, or think that these schools don’t want low-income students on their campuses. QuestBridge exists to tell these students this: you can afford to dream big. Why? Keep reading…

Reason #1: Top colleges can be more affordable for low-income students than public or community colleges.

While leading colleges have a very high, intimidating price tag, they often have large endowments and can commit to meeting all demonstrated financial need. On the other hand, public and community colleges, and many lower-endowment private colleges, generally do not have the resources to cover all demonstrated need.

Remember to use net price calculators and look at what a college will cost for you. This tool will calculate an estimate of the financial aid you will receive and the net price you would end up paying at that college.

Still don’t believe us? Based on a family of four with an annual income of $65,000, here’s what the cost breakdown could look like:

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Reason #2: Our college partners are actively seeking qualified low-income students.

That’s right. They want more low-income students on campus. And that’s where the National College Match comes in. Unlike other college applications, the National College Match application gives you plenty of room to explain your personal and financial circumstances.

It will not hurt you if the reader knows you come from a low-income family. Many students are concerned that our college partners will be reluctant to admit them (especially through Regular Decision) if they see that they applied through QuestBridge and will likely need significant financial aid. That is not true!

Remember this: Since our college partners have already guaranteed to meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need of every student admitted, your financial need and personal story actually help differentiate you from the other applicants.

We want to emphasize how important it is to explain your circumstances on your National College Match and financial aid applications. You should provide explanations of any special circumstances that pertain to your family, and how they impact your family’s financial situation. Examples of special situations include:

  • Father is unable to work due to severe depression and anxiety.
  • Sibling has a chronic kidney condition and student’s family does not have insurance. They struggle to pay the high medical bills.
  • Family expects their income to drop significantly next year because the mother lost her job.

Applying to college is a daunting task, and the prospect of paying for it can be even more overwhelming. If you’re a high-achieving student from a low-income background, we hope you take advantage of the opportunities offered through QuestBridge to make your dreams of attending a top college possible!