Finding Your College Fit: Q&A with QuestBridge Scholar Daniel Espino

Daniel Espino, QuestBridge Scholar, Vassar ’18
Daniel Espino, QuestBridge Scholar, Vassar ’18

Ranking up to 12 colleges is what makes the National College Match unique from other college application processes. But with 39 college partners to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start your research and how to narrow down your list.

Daniel Espino (Vassar ’18) ranked colleges for the National College Match, and learned a valuable lesson that he’s passing along to this year’s applicants:

How did you choose schools to rank? Based on your experience, do you have any advice for students on deciding which schools to rank?

In the 17 years prior to having to apply to college, 99.999% of my life had been spent in the Southwest. My first time ever being on the East Coast was actually during the fall semester of my senior year, when I applied to a fly-in program and was flown to D.C. for a night (that was also my first time ever flying). Because of this, I didn’t know if I wanted to leave the comfort of familiarity that I had on the West Coast. This prompted me to make the decision to only rank the four schools that didn’t require me to make the commitment of attending if I was matched.

Looking back, I realize that this cut my chances of getting a guaranteed scholarship by half, and knowing that now you can apply to up to 12 schools, I would recommend to take advantage of this opportunity you have been given and apply to as many schools as you can.  Continue reading

Advice from an Applicant: Q&A with QuestBridge Scholar Whitney Beamer

Having been a National College Match Scholarship Recipient and a QuestBridge intern, Whitney Beamer (UChicago ’20) knows the ins and outs of applying to QuestBridge. Now a Computer Science major at the University of Chicago, Whitney is sharing her advice with this year’s applicants in hopes that it will put them on the same path to success.

Why did you decide to apply to college through the National College Match?

Leaving Florida and getting to live in and explore a new city was always my dream, but I never really thought that it could be a reality. Coming from a high school where most students ended up at our state universities, I thought that I was destined for that path of normalcy as well. But applying to the National College Match allowed me to dream bigger than that and create a new normal, one where I had the chance of attending a top college for little to no cost and one where I could live out my once “unattainable” dream.
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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

It Takes a Community to Build a Home

Leslie Luqueno, QuestBridge Scholar, Haverford College ’20

A bit over a year ago, I was accepted through Early Decision to my top-choice school, Haverford College. But first-quarter-high-school-senior me would have never imagined myself attending a small liberal arts college across the country. I was set on attending well-known, large research universities, but after attending Haverford’s fly-in in October, I knew that it was the place that felt most like home. Abandoning my original dream institutions was not easy and there were many factors I had to take into account to see if it was worth going across the country, leaving my beloved golden state behind. 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

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

Summer Service Grant | A Community-Based Approach to Breast Cancer Prevention

In summer 2016, Nathaniel Tran (Tufts ’17) explored his interest in public health by researching the barriers preventing women from receiving a basic screening mammogram, particularly in the Boston area. Through Nathaniel’s hard work and many collaborations, the project was able to bring mobile technology to patients, create a sense of community in healthcare, and empower women through health education.


I had just finished speaking with an appointment coordinator at one of the nearby medical centers. She was calling to let me know that a patient had missed her mammography screening appointment, making that the 4th patient to miss so far this week … and it was only Wednesday. What was causing so many women to “no-show” for their mammograms? I work in Boston, Massachusetts, which is home to three academic medical centers, and there is no shortage of medical providers.

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Attending and presenting at a health fair at a new potential partner site.

This summer, I made it my goal to better understand the nature of these missed appointments by conducting interviews with community health center patients. Through demographic data, I found that the center serves primarily low-income, underinsured women of color. From the interviews, common themes in our conversations suggested that a combination of a language barrier, poor public transportation, fear of cancer, and loss of potential income prevented these women from following through with their mammography screening appointments. Continue reading

A Look Back on 2016 Match Stories…

As 2016 comes to a close, we want to take a look back on some of the great moments from the 2016 National College Match. This year, 5,338 high school seniors were selected Finalists, and 767 students were matched to our college partners — both record numbers that are definitely worth celebrating! But the individual stories of each student are truly what make 2016 a great year for us. Check out some of the reactions from our recently matched students:

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“When I was matched I was speechless. I felt as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders for the next four years of my academic career. I stared at my phone in disbelief, but also in confidence because I knew that this was my prize for all the hard work and dedication I put in during these four years of high school.”

Mazie A., Williams College, Class of 2021 Continue reading

Summer Service Grant: Cultivating Tension and Conflict on the Irish Stage​

This summer Irina Gavrilova (Yale ’17) spent time in Dublin, Ireland, studying the role of Irish theatre in shaping the country’s conception of nationhood. With the #WakingTheFeminists movement for gender equality in Irish theatre as her case study, Irina spent a month in Dublin researching and interviewing students, artists, managers, and designers to learn more about this unique intersection between art and politics.


As a theatre director with a keen interest in politics, I am fascinated by the connection between the two, which I set out to investigate this summer. With a focus on the #WakingTheFeminists movement for gender equality in Irish theatre, the goal of my project was to make a case that knowledge and skills acquired through theatre can and do produce an impact on the political stage. The material I gathered during this project will serve as research for an original play I plan to present at Yale next spring.

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The All Performing Arts Conference in Galway where many members of #WakingTheFeminists participated as panel speakers

Irish theatre and nationalism have gone hand in hand since before the country’s independence from Britain; the electrifying synergy between the theatre and its public inspired people to interrogate their national identity, initiating a struggle for independence. It has always been the place where, as scholar Martin Esslin puts it, the nation “thinks in front of itself”— a statement that rings especially true this year. Continue reading

Summer Service Grant | Teaching in West Bengal

As an aspiring physician with an interest in health disparities, Mariely Garcia (Bowdoin ’17) cares deeply about making quality healthcare services and knowledge available to all people. This summer, Mariely received a Summer Service Grant from QuestBridge to work with a grassroots organization in the small Indian town of Gorubathan to put her passions into practice.


mariely-garcia4When I said the final goodbye to my mother before heading to the airport, I will admit that I started to panic. It was the kind of panic that sent my heart into total pandemonium, made me exceptionally fidgety, and brought a million doubts to mind. Sitting in the taxi, watching the familiar New York City skyline zoom past in the distance brought me to the realization that the next time I was on land, I would be on the other side of the world. Continue reading