Admissions Officer Insight: Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions!

Here at QuestBridge, we constantly seek ways to help students on their journey through college admissions, so we asked College Prep Scholars what they wanted to know from admissions officers. Four similar themes surfaced from more than a thousand responses. Take a look at the answers from admissions officers who represent some of our college partners!

Question 1: What can I do to stand out among other applicants?

UChicagoRebecca Kahn-Witman, University of Chicago, Senior Assistant Director of Admission

“Be yourself! I know that sounds cliché, but if every student put together the same application, our jobs as Admissions Counselors would be quite boring. I also always encourage students to figure out what they want while applying to colleges and universities. Being able to identify something (whether big or small) that is important to them, will help the applicant “stand out”. Never do anything because of how it will look on the application; do things because you are excited and passionate about them and it will shine through in the application. Standing out doesn’t mean being the most unique person the admissions committee has seen. The passion, genuine nature, and thoughtful reflection of the application and essays are most important, as we will see the care that you put forth and ultimately, that’s how you’ll stand out.” Continue reading

Dear QB: I’m on a college wait list. Now what?

DearQBIf you’ve been put on a college’s wait list, it may feel like you’re in the purgatory of college admissions decisions. Neither a clear “yes” nor a downright “no,” the wait list can be an unsettling place to be.

Although there isn’t a foolproof method to getting off a college’s wait list, we’re here to help you navigate this uncharted territory. Here are a few tips to help you demonstrate your continued interest to the college(s) at the top of your list: Continue reading

Admissions Officer Insight: What You Can’t Find on Colleges’ Websites…

With the deadline to rank colleges for the 2016 National College Match quickly approaching, we hope you are diving deep into college websites to do as much research as possible. We asked a few of our college partners for insight about things you may not find on their websites, but are central to their campuses…

Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College“Four years at Bowdoin teaches you to be intellectually fearless. Surrounded by people from all over the country and the world, your professors and peers will push you outside of your comfort zone in and out of the classroom, and in doing so will open the world and help you to find your path through it. Continue reading

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.

Are You Ready To Be A Carl?

On the first day of my visit to Carleton College on Accepted Students Weekend, I felt like I was on a reality show. I was one of dozens of accepted students, sitting in a large auditorium, waiting for my name to be called by one of the hosts. Whoever would call my name would give me their personal tour of Carleton, clear out a space in their dorm for me to sleep, and shape my perception of the school. Finally my name was called by Sasha, a freshman Quest Scholar at the time.

Sasha immediately made me feel comfortable; the pressure of the “Are You Ready To Be A Carl?” faded and I felt at ease. Having applied through QuestBridge to Carleton, I had dozens of questions: Should I consider non-QuestBridge schools? How will I know that this QuestBridge school is THE school? How do I weigh the importance of financial aid in my final decision? Sasha discussed her experience with the application process and answered even my most trivial questions. Besides mitigating the stress of the decision process, Sasha enabled me to fall in love with Carleton.Carleton College

In the evening, Sasha invited me to follow her to an Ebony practice, one of Carleton’s dance performance groups, open to dancers with two left feet, two right feet, or one of each. I sat in the front of the dance room with other accepted students and watched all of the Carls dance to Lady Gaga. Some Carls were on beat, confident in every move they made; others were lost two measures behind, hysterically laughing, making enthusiastic faces to compensate for their dancing. Carleton’s personality shone through ten times more than it had on the classic tours, the information sessions, and the student panels of other schools. And I adored its personality.

Before coming to Carleton, I didn’t quite understand what it meant to be a Quest Scholar once on a campus. Sasha showed me that it means you are finally allowed to dance; the stress of college applications and financial aid forms were over. As a Quest Scholar, you finally are given four years, at an amazing school, to spend dancing.

By: Margot Radding

Carleton College, Class of 2018

A Sweet and Savory Welcome

If you’re freaking out about choosing which university you’re going to attend, you’re not crazy, you just really care about where you’ll spend the next four years of your life. And that’s perfectly normal.  I’m sure you’ve got this really elaborate list comparing each school. This school is located in New York while the other is in Cali, this one has 3 dining halls while the other only has 2, this one is ranked #5 in physics, while the other is ranked only #6. Lots of us, including me, have struggled with this decision and, honestly, it’s a nice problem to have.

College admissions staff are quite aware that it can be tough deciding which school you want to attend solely based off of information you found online or heard from someone else. They know that the best way to get a first-hand experience of what a college is like is to visit that college. That’s why many schools, like Yale, have admit weekends, like Bulldog Days, where all of the admitted students stay on campus and get to be college students, without the burdens of being college students.

There’s only one problem. From personal experience, I can tell you that admit weekends like Bulldog Days can be very overwhelming. Basically, someone is trying to cram the college experience into the span of three days. Thousands of people descend upon campus and you’ll meet lots of people, see cool student groups perform, and go to a Master’s Class. Now there’s nothing wrong with all of that, but sometimes you just need to sit down, relax, and talk to current students about their college experience. That’s exactly the experience that our Quest chapter at Yale strives to provide for prospective students.

During Bulldog Days we host two events: one is a breakfast with our Admissions Department and the other is a late night hangout with current Quest students.

We’ve been honored to have Amin Gonzalez, an Admissions Officer and a supporter of QuestBridge, host a breakfast where many “prefrosh” can come meet with an Admissions officer with any questions they may have regarding Yale. This provides students with the opportunity to ask questions specific to their situation as Quest Scholars. High-achieving, low-income students have many questions that their wealthier counterparts don’t even consider. These can include questions related to work-study on campus, how to shop for textbooks, and how to navigate financial aid. Knowing the answers to these questions provides clarity and helps students have more credible information to justify their college decisions.

382080_334061940030758_44351947_n59592_334061776697441_1797619755_nBy day, we provide the administrative perspective of Yale. By night, we give you the student’s version of life at Yale. Our signature event involves a late night gathering in a student kitchen at one of our residential dining halls, Silliman. As prefrosh pour in, current Quest Scholars welcome them to Yale and, together, make the best grilled cheese sandwiches with the best bread, cheeses, and meats! Recently, we’ve added a chocolate fondue fountain to the mix and who doesn’t love five pounds of flowing chocolate? For me and many other Questies at Yale, this event has been one of the highlights of Bulldog Days. Although you get to meet many future classmates during other events, now you get to meet future classmates with whom you can really relate. I’ve met some of my closest friends through Quest and Bulldog Days helped bring us together.

Another benefit of bringing together prefrosh and current Questies is that prefrosh really get to learn what life at Yale is really like. They get to learn what it’s like being a low-income student on a generally wealthy campus. Current Questies get to pass down advice that they’ve found to be very helpful while they’ve been at Yale. Although every student’s college experience is different, their experiences can really paint an accurate image of what college life is like, especially for a Quest Scholar.

For all the current and future Quest Scholars who are currently deciding what school will be their home for the next four years, take that opportunity to visit each school and see if you can imagine yourself living there. To those who will be visiting Yale during Bulldog Days, welcome to the family and we hope to see you at our events!

Boola Boola!

By David Elias

Yale University, Class of 2016


To Move Or Not To Move?

IMG_0355Deciding whether to move away for college or stay close to home can be a difficult decision, but there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. It mostly depends on your personality, timing, and a host of other curve balls, but I can say that for me, it was the best decision. I am a pretty independent person and knew I always wanted to live in California since I was 5 years old. My dream is to be a journalist so I guess one reason why it seemed smart to go to school in California was because the career that I want to have has a big concentration in Los Angeles. Being on the West Coast made it easier to find internships and opportunities and be a part of the media as an undergrad.

I also knew that I wanted to be away from the cold. Weather may not seem like a big factor in college decisions, and I would agree that is not the most important, but weather often can affect your mood. My thinking was that more sunny days would make me happier and more willing to study. Also, who wants to trudge through the snow every day to get class every day? Not me.

Most importantly, I guess I wanted a different view of the world. I had never been to the West Coast before and I always heard it was more laid back, a little more liberal, and overall a place where I would be able to enjoy college life. When I visited Pomona for the first time on their diversity weekend, I fell in love with the West Coast and could not see myself anywhere else. And just to make the decision easier for myself I basically applied to only West Coast schools so that I would have to end up there.

This is not to say that moving away from home is the easiest thing in the world, because I am 99.99% sure that all of you who will go to college away from home will feel homesick at some time, whether it’s missing your home’s food, people, the vibes—and this is for everyone who goes to college in general. I still miss home every now and then, especially during holidays where I can’t just fly home to see my family because it is a bit expensive (you should also factor that in when you are deciding). Especially for me, moving from Chicago, a big city, to the small little suburb of Claremont, it was definitely an adjustment. But I think that is the beauty of college. You evolve, you grow as a person, you gain independency that you never thought you had, and as long as you choose the college that is right for you, adjusting does not take very long. I am super pro-moving away from home because I think the process made me completely immerse myself in the college environment and I know many of my friends who stayed closer to home had a longer adjustment process because they visited home constantly the first couple of months. It honestly just depends on your circumstances, but as long as you do what’s best for you, college will be a great experience no matter where you go!

 — Ashley Land, Quest Scholar, Pomona ’16

I’m Going On An Adventure!

adventureIn a beautiful September of 2009, I stood in front of Clark, my freshman dorm building, for the first time of my life. It was my first time living away from home, and I felt exuberant for my new semester. As I was staring at fellow new students coming in and out of the dorm building, I just couldn’t wait to start living here. This was also the exact moment the first real problem hit me: how to move all my luggage into my room. I had two large suitcases and a huge backpack. Luckily, I was assigned on the first floor, just by the staircases, and a few upper classmen helped me settle in. It was a real pain moving everything in and taken everything out in my room. I was forced, yet gratefully, to learn my first lesson of traveling alone: never pack more than needed. Later, I learned from my upper classmen, that the campus had tag sales every semester. Most of the non-essential or essential items can be found at those. As the freshman class comes in, the senior class graduates, and people love to recycle. I got two lamps (in perfect condition), a mirror, a dozen hangers, and a laundry basket, almost for free. They have served me loyally during my college years, and have been passed down to my lower classmen. In short, just pack the essentials, and the rest can come later.

The other things I realized after moving to Wesleyan were that I was expected to be more independent and take on a lot more responsibilities than I’d ever imagined. Of course, the first thing that jumped into my mind was “Freedom!” The first semester of college was like a door suddenly swung open, and waves of thrilling things kept washing me over. To keep myself standing in the tides, I would need a lot more skills, such as self-control, time management, etc. After many years of learning, I gradually acquired these skills.

There were so many “first-time-experiences” waiting for me in my freshman year. I used a clothes dryer and the campus ID card paying system for the first time. I had to figure it out with a hallmate. I still remember the two of us standing awkwardly in front of the laundry machine, trying to figure out the difference between the bottoms of “regular” and “bright color”. I had a roommate for the first time. The residential life had us sign a roommate agreement. It seemed silly when we sat down to read over the agreement, but it made sense afterwards. We learned from each other, learned to share, and grew together. It was a great time.

Moving away from home for college was a big step outside my comfort zone, but the magic did happen. The new environment tested my limit. This was a great opportunity to discover myself, to build new bonds, to broaden my horizons and to challenge my belief. I learned to use different perspectives to view things and make decisions. “Independence” and “responsibility” were not merely elusive concepts anymore. They gradually grew flesh and bones, became my concrete reality. I may have been far away from home, but I formed new roots, and learned to extend them further. That was a priceless adventure for starters, and I am still traveling.

Shu Zhang, Quest Scholar Alum, Wesleyan ’13