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

Admissions Officer Insight: Top Three Reasons to Attend a National College Admissions Conference!

Jazzmin Estebane, Pomona College, Admissions Officer
Jazzmin Estebane, Pomona College, Admissions Officer

Every summer QuestBridge hosts their National College Admissions Conferences for College Prep Scholars, giving students and parents a chance to learn more about the QuestBridge National College Match process and college applications. Here are the top 3 reasons (and one bonus!) I think you should attend a National College Admissions Conference in-person.

1. Visit a college campus.

Whether it’s during high school visits in the fall, at college fairs, or in our office, one of the most frequent topics of conversation I have with students is college fit. During the National College Admissions Conference, you’ll not only have a chance to sit down with real admissions officers and discuss college fit, you’ll get to see how questions of fit work while you visit a college campus in-person. Continue reading

Paty’s Quest for Excellence in the Bahamas

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

When Paty Calderon applied to the College Prep Scholars Program last year, she received a full scholarship to a summer program through the Quest for Excellence STEM Award that took her on an amazing journey of discovery and learning in the Bahamas. Read Paty’s story below!


Upon researching the QuestBridge summer programs awarded to College Prep Scholars, I was amazed by the opportunity of researching with the Island School in the Bahamas. I have always been very passionate about the environment and how marine life is affected by human actions, so the Island School was the perfect place for me to engage and learn with my surroundings through important research I really cared about. Continue reading

Why should I apply to be a 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:

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“Being a College Prep Scholar prepared me for the college application process like no other prep program could. It also gave me the confidence that I could really make it through the Match and one day call one of the nation’s top schools ‘my school.'”

Evan L., 2016 College Prep Scholar, Duke University ’21
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How Telementoring Helped Karli Get Into College

Karli Cecil YaleOne of the unique awards offered through the College Prep Scholars Program is telementoring with Amherst College students. But what is it exactly? And how can it help you get into college?

To give you a better idea of what telementoring looks like, we spoke with Karli Cecil, a 2015 College Prep Scholar and telementoring award recipient:
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The Three Things You Want Your Recommender to Know

RecommenderAsking a teacher for a recommendation is an important step on your path to college, and (as always!) we’re here to help. But before we go any further, register your recommender in your College Prep Scholars Program application, if you haven’t already. We strongly recommend that you ask a teacher who has taught you in a core subject area (e.g., math, science, history/social studies, English, foreign language). The earlier you ask for a recommendation, the better. You don’t want your teacher to feel rushed!
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Explore, Challenge, Strengthen: Summer Programs in a Nutshell

Close your eyes and picture yourself on the college campus of your dreams. What do you see? Ivy covered buildings? Late night study sessions in the library? Hang outs with a roommate in your dorm? Laboratories filled with cutting edge equipment?

What if you could see it for yourself the summer before your senior year of high school? The College Prep Scholars Program offers full scholarships to college summer programs so you can experience life beyond high school and to gain first-hand experience attending a selective college. As you get into the rhythms of college life, a summer program also gives you the opportunity to:
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Dear QB: Why should I apply to be a College Prep Scholar?

It’s your junior year of high school, and the reality of applying to college has started to hit. 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. We chatted with Marilyn, Arriana, and Romeo to find out how the College Prep Scholars Program helped them get to where they are today:
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Interview with a College Prep Scholar & College Match Scholarship Recipient – Ricky Canton

CantonRichardWalesSummerInstitueRicky Canton
College Prep Scholar
College Match Scholarship Recipient
Current Quest Scholar at Pomona College
Home state: New Jersey

What advice would you give to students who are starting to write their personal statement?
The best advice I heard was “Really be honest with yourself.” It helped me because I hadn’t ever really thought about being a low-income student of color. It wasn’t even something I wanted to discuss, to be honest, because it was still something I was trying to figure out.
I would suggest working collaboratively, especially in brainstorming ideas. One of the best ways to figure out what you want to do is to see what everyone else is doing. One of my friends was writing about how one of her favorite things was doing laundry. And I started thinking, “what do I like to do?” I realized I really like languages, how they work, and their structure. I wanted to explore what that meant in the context of my identity and my prospects for the future.
Also, be critical about yourself. Obviously you shouldn’t defame yourself, but ask if your topic and experiences are really worth talking about. Is it an experience that has really shaped who you are today?
Finally, find your own space to work on your essay. I vividly remember working in this corner of a Starbucks with my notebook. Find your quiet space to think about who you are and, cliché as it sounds, who you want to be. It helped me not only in the college admissions process, but also as I personally figured out who I was.


On a different note, what advice do you have for students who are just starting to research colleges?

One of the things that helped me was getting input from the people who I hold dear to. It wasn’t really an option to get advice from my mom, but my sister and my friends knew what my interests were and had some knowledge about what schools might be best. If those aren’t possibilities, my best advice would be to use Quest Scholars. Everyone’s super friendly and wants to help you figure out what you want and where you want to go. I remember a student from Pomona answered a ton of questions for me and was a huge resource. The Facebook groups are great resources where you can get insight from students who come from similar backgrounds.
How early should students start looking at colleges?
Start as early as possible because once you figure out where you want to go, there’s still the rest of the process to do. I really don’t think you can start too early. Even if that just means going on the college’s website and exploring, using virtual tours, and the FAQ sections. Use those as starting points to see if you’re interested. Also, make sure you look at all of your options: Quest schools, state schools, etc. You want to have all these options open to you.

So you applied for the College Prep Scholarship the day it was due. Based on that experience, do you have any advice for students heading into the National College Match?
I definitely recommend doing all your applications early. Start an application the day it’s released. Always get recommendations as early as possible.

What advice do you have for students who are uncomfortable telling potential recommenders that QuestBridge works with low-income students?
Talk about your aspirations first and how you’ve found this organization that links high achieving students with top-tier colleges. Then say that you’re hoping to get a recommendation for this program. I actually asked my teachers to have individual meetings with me, during their prep period. We went through the QuestBridge website together so they could understand the program. They didn’t even realize organizations like this existed so by letting them know, it was a way to pay it forward.

What would you tell College Prep Scholars who are starting the National College Match application process?
The only thing that can hold you back is yourself. You know, speaking to other College Prep Scholars, I realized that we were all so different but that we shared these commonalities. It helped reassure me that my story and my experiences were valid and that I was a competitive student. So my advice would be to just go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose!