Not Matched?

The VaseYou spent your day in anticipation (and possibly starvation, if you’re of an ultra-nervous disposition like me) only to find yourself drenched in utter disappointment. I regret to inform you…. This is the moment when you want to let go—all the late-late nights with your not-so-favorite textbooks have gone to waste, the pains on sporting fields were endured in vain. Solace from your friends or parents flies out one ear as soon as it enters the other. A braid of doubts, regrets, and panic refuses to untangle even late into the night as you ponder what has gone wrong, what steps to take next, what awaits on the other side.

Let me preface the following spiel by telling you that I was not matched. Nonetheless, through QuestBridge Regular Decision, I was admitted to three of my top choices (Princeton, Stanford, and Dartmouth) and was offered generous financial aid packages.

One thing you must understand about college admissions is its unpredictability. As my counselor once put it, applying to top tier universities is like buying a lottery ticket. According to QuestBridge statistics, only 440 out of 4,773 Finalists received College Match Scholarships last year. Nonetheless, more than 1,500 Finalists were admitted to a partner school through Regular Decision. The fact is clear—whether you were admitted early is not at all an indicator of how your merits compare to other applicants. The colleges you ranked may still be very interested in you. On the bright side, not being matched also renders you freedom to explore a fascinating array of colleges. Truth be told, most of my Questie peers at Princeton and at other institutions were not match recipients (in fact, I’ve yet to meet one).

This leads me to my quintessential advice: DO NOT let not getting matched be an excuse to stop working hard. There’s still a long way to go before the final decisions are released. If you want to gage the attention of a college you’ve ranked, try drafting update letters or emails detailing your academic and extracurricular accomplishments in the past few weeks. Depending on individual school policies, you can seek supplemental recommendations to add to your portfolio. For schools you didn’t rank, reflect on your experiences from writing the first set of essays and start preparing applications right away. Piling up everything to plow through during winter break is a terrible idea, and you should never wait until the clock ticks down to January 1st. Remember, colleges are looking for applicants who are genuinely excited to attend their institution. Prove your passion with your actions.

There’s nothing pleasant about opening a disappointing e-letter on a cold, brisk December day. However, remember that there are thousands of Quest Scholars who had to bear through the same grim couple of hours yet ultimately ended up in the school of their dreams. In Chinese, the character for crisis is identical to the one for opportunity. Let the match decision be a motivator to push your limits. Patience brews strength, and it surely will make the fruits of spring sweeter.

Jessica Li, Quest Scholar, Princeton ’18

Admissions Officer Insight: If You Don’t Match…


Admissions Officer Corner is a series of posts written by college admissions officers at QuestBridge partner colleges

College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won. While I can’t be sure who was the first to coin that phrase, I emphatically agree each time I hear it. You may not have been matched on December 1, but I’m confident that this will be the beginning of a fantastic journey that will open the doors to a world of opportunities. Continue reading

Not Matching is Not the End of Your Story—It’s the Beginning

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Jessica at the QuestBridge National College Admissions Conference at Yale University — where it all began!

When I first heard of QuestBridge, I thought it was too good to be true. I was largely alone in figuring out the college application process, not because I didn’t have teachers or guidance counselors who would have been willing to answer my questions, but because I didn’t even know what kind of questions to ask. The QuestBridge flier seemed like it was written specifically for me, to help me escape from the life I was living into a better one. My mother spent more money than she could spare to drive me thirteen hours to a QuestBridge National Admissions Conference at Yale the summer after my junior year, where we heard for the first time about need-blind admission and began to believe that I could go to a top-tier school.

All that following fall I worked tirelessly on my applications, filled with both hope and desperation. When filling out the financial information, however, I ran into a serious complication—they asked for my father’s financial information. My father was an engineer who had been badly injured in a car accident when I was thirteen, causing a stroke that left him paralyzed on the left side of his body. He had been unable to work for several years, but had recently returned to work and was making money again—a lot more than my mother, even with his setbacks. The problem was that none of that money was coming to me. He was in a lot of debt from the time when he had been out of work, and I had recently turned eighteen—he didn’t feel that he had to pay for anything for me anymore. It had long been a spot of contention between him and my mother, one that I didn’t even begin to know how to navigate. But because I still had contact with him, I was required to list his income.

I’m sure I don’t have to linger on the effect this had on me. It seemed like everything I had only recently begun to believe was possible was slipping out of my hands. But I was able to navigate my way through it, and so will you. In the end, even though I didn’t match, I was still given a fairly generous financial aid package to Wesleyan, although I had to work and take out some loans to cover what my father wasn’t going to pay. Still, I made it, and so will you—don’t for a second doubt it. At this point in your life, you’ve been through an impossible amount already, and not Matching isn’t going to stop you from changing your future.

Now that you haven’t matched, you are going to have to think extremely carefully about your options. The first thing to remember is that you can still be offered a totally do-able financial aid package from schools you didn’t match with. Don’t panic! Not matching just means that you’re going to have to wait a little longer to know what you’re doing next year, and I know you’re tough enough for that. When your acceptance letters start coming in, that’s when you’ll have to make some choices. Besides hearing back from your QuestBridge schools, you may be offered strong financial aid to other schools. If you truly believe that you will thrive there, and will be able to use that education to reach whatever goals you have set forward for yourself in life, then don’t discount that offer just because other schools you’ve been accepted to have bigger names. Don’t let anyone tell you what the right path to higher education is for you.

Being a part of QuestBridge means that you already have something a lot of people don’t: belief that your mind, your hard work, and your perseverance, will better your life. That doesn’t change just because you don’t match. As I often remind myself while I’m filling out graduate school applications, you’ve already done the hard work. Keeping up your grades and excelling at academics while poor? That was the hard part. Applying, waiting, deciding—that’s the easy part, so try and enjoy the ride, even if there are a few bumps along the way.

Jessica Jordan, Quest Scholar Alum, Wesleyan ’13