QuestCast Recap: Behind the Scenes with Admissions Officers

To best assist you with completing your National College Match application, we invited admissions officers from some of our college partners to give you their insider tips. In this blog, you’ll find excerpts from their responses to commonly asked questions. For their full responses, watch the QuestCast recording.

Behind the Scenes blog picture

Application Reading
Q: Why do admissions officers value the QuestBridge application?

Paul: “The QuestBridge application actually gives us personal information, it gives us anecdotes, it gives us a lot of details. The regular common application or college application might not have the space to give all that information. For me and for a lot of our staff, it really does provide a way to get to know you in a more personal way.”

Q: What type of students are college partners looking for?

Valencia: “Most of us are definitely are going to be looking for students who can see themselves joining a community of achievers. Those are often students who have applied themselves in terms of rigor and academic coursework, who are naturally and intellectually curious — students who have demonstrated the ability to make an impact, whether that’s in their high school community or their local community, in a way that we can see them making a positive contribution to our campus communities.” 

Q: What does “holistic review” mean?

Stephanie: “The holistic admission process takes everything in the application into account as we are reviewing a student’s application. We are really thinking about what that student is going to bring to our community: academically, extracurricularly, and in terms of the intellectual vibrancy […] All of the bits and pieces that you put into your application are going to be reviewed by the admissions office and valued by the admissions office as a holistic review process.”


Family & Household
Q: What is the importance of explaining my financial situation accurately and thoroughly? How can I do so?

Valencia: “We want to really understand your situation uniquely because each of [the college partners] is committed to making sure that we have accessibility in the form of financial resources through the QuestBridge process, so we want to make sure we fully understand your financial situation.”

Q: What additional information should I provide about my household and/or financial situation?

Stephanie: “Any additional information that you just feel like ‘huh, this could impact our family’s financial aid package’ that’s always good to share proactively, like Valencia mentioned, with all of the colleges that you are applying to. Whether that’s through a particular form or by sending it via email to the financial aid office but most importantly definitely including that in your QuestBridge application, I think that is really critical.”


Q: What role do teacher and counselor recommendations play in the review of my application? 

Paul: “We want to see someone else’s assessment of who you are, what sorts of obstacles you may have faced, what sorts of accomplishments you might have done in the classroom as well as in the community.”

Q: What steps can I take to secure a great recommendation?

Stephanie: “Let your recommenders know why you selected them to write your letter of recommendation […] For your teachers, what was your favorite project in that class, how do you feel you best collaborated with your peers or where did you best excel in that class, what was that moment of ‘a ha’ that really hit you during that class […] That would be really helpful as they think about stories they can share that would really paint a picture of who you are as a student.”


Academic & Activities
Q: How important are test scores?

Valencia: “Each of us have a holistic review process and so while the test scores are an integral part of the actual application and review process, it is important to note that it is one singular component. However, it does give us an opportunity to review some of your progress, if you will, in respective areas as it relates to subjects that would be critical in understanding the potential preparation that you have in regards to joining our campus community and the academic opportunities that we have.”

Q: What kind of extracurricular activities can I highlight? 

Stephanie: “Anything you do outside of that [classroom] time is valuable — so whether that is time you spend in your high school community involved in extracurricular clubs, sports, theater, music, dance, etc., or in your community doing similar types of activities.” 

Q: What kind of additional information should I provide about my academics and activities?

Paul: “Grades matter and the classes that you take also matter, but one of the things that I like to highlight is that the trends in your grades is something we are going to see. When we see your grades, we see the whole transcript […] Even though there might be a down valley in your GPA, if it comes back up, what does that say about what you have been able to walk through and the academic progress you have been able to show, despite those circumstances?” 


Short Answers and Essays
Q: Are short answers and essays weighed and evaluated in the same manner?

Paul: “We want to be able to get to know you as a person through some of those short answer questions. Honestly, some of them are really fun in the way we get to know you in a different way than we would through any of your other applications […] Definitely don’t neglect the short answers because oftentimes, there’s some really good short answers that give us a good idea of who this person is.”

Q: What makes a great college essay?

Stephanie: “It has to be an essay that is well written. I think an essay that really stands out and is a great essay is an essay that tells us a story and that shares a narrative of who you are.”
Paul: “We like humor – we like to get to connect with you and there’s a lot of different ways that you can foster that human connection in a positive way.”

Q: What kind of essays have stood out to you?

Valencia: “I think what’s really important is how you tie a specific subject or experience back to yourself and make it unique in regards to how you responded to it, versus thinking too much of what you should write about […] We really want you to be your authentic self.”


Final Tips
Paul: “Take a reflection of what this is all about. This is all about what you and your community and the people around you have accomplished.”

Valencia: “There is rarely an advantage in waiting until the last minute, and so give yourself time and invest in yourself. Put the time aside to really work on your application so that it is something that you’re very proud of.”

Stephanie: “Ask questions! Shoot an email over to the admissions officer or the QuestBridge office and get your answer because that is what we are here for.” 


There are so many more great tips that the admissions officers shared, so we encourage you to watch the QuestCast recording to benefit from their expertise!