Admissions Officer Insight: Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions!

Last month, we asked College Prep Scholars which questions you have for admissions officers. Out of the hundreds of responses, three questions appeared over and over again. Check out the answers below, provided by admissions officers at a few of our college partners!

Question 1: How would being a National College Match Finalist be viewed by an admissions officer, and how does it benefit the student?

patricia-grinnellPatricia Amador-Lacson, Grinnell College, Senior Assistant Director of Admission

“Involvement with QuestBridge in any way shows your commitment to being part of a highly selective and diverse college or university. Additionally, it signals a commitment to responsible financing of a college education, which will open up post-graduation options. My colleagues and I enjoy reading the applications of National College Match Finalists during any admission round. We recognize that achieving the National College Match Finalist designation is an involved process that takes time, dedication, and organization. Finalists are impressive scholars and citizens who have demonstrated success both inside and outside the classroom. So, when we see that a student is a National College Match Finalist, we know we’re looking at someone who will impress us and shine—not just on paper, but also as part of any campus community.”
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Admissions Officer Insight: How High School Juniors Can Get a Head Start

Jennifer Gargano
Jenni Gargano, Dartmouth College, Assistant Director of Admissions

In your junior year of high school, it’s probably hard to escape the reality that you’ll be applying to college in the coming months. You’re probably already thinking about all the different parts of your application, from crafting your story through the personal statements to keeping your grades up in your challenging classes, on top of trying to enjoy your final year and a half as a high school student with your family and friends.

As an admissions officer at Dartmouth, I know we ask you to do a lot throughout the college application process – that’s why I want to share how the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program can help you on your journey. When I was a junior in high school (a long, long time ago, I know), I was a College Prep Scholar myself and attended the National College Admissions Conference at Stanford. Please believe me when I say that this opportunity was one of the most formative in my college search journey. My hope is that you could gain as much or even more than I did when I was in your shoes – and so I encourage you to give the application a shot to see what might happen.

Here, I’ve listed the top three ways the College Prep Scholars Program and application could give you a head start in applying to colleges in your senior year:
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Finally Finding My Niche at a National College Admissions Conference

20160109_125602If someone ever looked at my notebooks from school, it was easy to tell that I wanted to go to college. Stickers ranging from “I love UC Berkeley” to “Future Harvard Student” were plastered on the covers, and my extensive college list was on at least one page of each of my notebooks. However, the closer I got to the end of my junior year, the smaller the list would get, until the point where I did not find anywhere I wanted to go. Sure, some of these schools looked great on paper, but I could not find a place I could call “home.” Was I being too pessimistic? Why didn’t I like the schools everyone wanted to go to? With only a summer left to finalize my college list, I pondered on millions of these questions, wondering if I would ever find “the one.” It wasn’t until I attended the National College Admissions Conference at Stanford that I discovered the place I would fit in.
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Q&A with Summer Program Scholarship Recipient Josiah Gouker

Josiah-PrincetonLast year, Josiah Gouker applied to the College Prep Scholars Program and received a full scholarship to a summer program at the University of Chicago. Over the course of his summer, Josiah got a feel for what it would be like to attend a top-tier university. The program affirmed his interest in public policy, which he will be pursuing at Princeton University next year as a National College Match Scholarship Recipient. We spoke with Josiah to learn more!

Why did you decide to apply to the College Prep Scholars Program?

I first heard about the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program from the high school counseling secretary, who constantly updates other students and me with the latest academic opportunities. At first, I was not sure of the purpose of the program, but after more research into how QuestBridge would be able to help me and how the College Prep Scholars Program would prepare me for the National College Match process, I decided to apply.

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Why should I apply to be a 2018 College Prep Scholar?

If you’re a junior in high school, the reality of applying to college may be starting to sink in. Standardized tests. Teacher recommendations. Essays. Transcripts. The list goes on! But instead of feeling overwhelmed by those things, what if you had a head start? The College Prep Scholars Program can give you just that.

We could go on about the program’s many awards and opportunities (all-expense-paid campus visits, anyone?), but we thought you should hear straight from College Prep Scholars themselves:

Emmanual-Dartmouth“Getting accepted to the College Prep Scholars Program boosted my confidence because I realized that someone else believes that I am a competitive applicant. As a College Prep Scholar, I learned tips on how to improve my writing skills and how I can use my story to strengthen my college application.

Emmanuel S., 2017 College Prep Scholar, Dartmouth ’22

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Dear QB: What are application readers looking for?

We recently asked applicants what topic they most wanted to read about on The Bridge Blog. The unanimous answer was: What are application readers looking for in a strong application? Today, we’re diving into that topic!

Before we begin, it’s important to remember that we review applications holistically. There is no single part of an application that is “make or break.” We are looking for students who are both academically high-achieving and come from low-income backgrounds. With that in mind, let’s dive in… Continue reading

Light Beyond Darkness: From College Prep Scholar to Group Leader

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Cesar Rufino leading students at the 2015 National College Admissions Conference at Yale.

It took me a while to realize how fortunate I am. I don’t say this because I never appreciated my parents’ hard work or because I complained about materialistic things I never obtained during my childhood; I have always been happy about my life, but I never understood the context.

I still remember the day I attended QuestBridge’s National College Admissions Conference at Northwestern University. I was wearing new dress shoes, new khakis, and a crisp picnic-like shirt that my mom had purchased with her Tupperware earnings. I was so excited to learn more about colleges and continue pursuing my long-term ambitions. Continue reading

Admissions Officer Insight: Now is the Time to Brag

Meghan Grandolfo, Colby College,
Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for Access and Inclusion

You may have seen or heard the term “holistic” while exploring the admissions policies for many colleges and universities. And you may know institutions that practice a holistic review consider not only your grade point average and standardized test scores, but the entirety of who you are, the broader context of where you’ve come from and the opportunities you’ve been presented with, and the ways you’ve contributed to your family and community. As admissions counselors, we want to learn more from your application about the passions and interests that inspire you and the stories and experiences you’d bring to our institution. Each and every applicant has a unique background and perspective to share, and each has the opportunity to highlight their diverse talents and involvements in a distinct and meaningful way.

It may feel awkward to be boastful as you approach the college admissions process, but if there was ever a time to boast, this is it. Sharing who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what matters most to you can help distinguish you from many other students and can provide admissions counselors with invaluable information as they consider your application. Continue reading

Q&A with Quest for Excellence Arts Winner Sisam Bhandari

Paty Calderon, 2016 College Prep Scholar and Quest for Excellence Award Winner
Sisam Bhandari, 2016 College Prep Scholar and Quest for Excellence Award Winner

Last year, Sisam Bhandari applied to the College Prep Scholars Program and received a full scholarship to a summer program through the Quest for Excellence Arts Award. During her summer at the Rhode Island School of Design, Sisam was challenged to think of both her art and her interests in exciting new ways. We spoke with Sisam to learn more!


How did you initially learn about the Quest for Excellence Arts Award, and why did you decide to apply?

I was a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar and heard about the Quest for Excellence Arts Award through the QuestBridge application, QuestBridge emails, and also through other students in a Facebook group.

Leading up to the program, what were you most excited about?

I was most excited to experience the “college experience”—  living with a roommate, making new friends, and working tirelessly to learn about something I was very passionate about. Continue reading