Questbridge: Ha’s Journey to Duke University

This fall, Ha Nguyen (12) will be attending Duke University as a spirited Blue Devil, ready to take on the undergraduate college lifestyle in North Carolina. For her, this opportunity would not have been possible without the help of the nonprofit program Questbridge.

So, what is Questbridge? Some of us may have received an email from them at some point and probably brushed it aside as another one of those college promotion emails or a program that seemed too good to be true. Ha sure did, at first. “I thought Questbridge was a scam!” However, after receiving emails from them and eventually becoming a Finalist in the National College Match program, Ha knows the mission and vision of Questbridge inside out. “Questbridge is a nonprofit designed to ‘bridge’ the gap between the nation’s top colleges and low income students. The truth is: a lot of us are actually super qualified to apply to many of the most competitive schools out there; we just don’t think we are. Questbridge helps students both in the financial aspect, through the Match Scholarship and Quest of Excellence Awards, as well as in other indirect ways to help us realize our potential and make attending top colleges a real and highly attainable possibility.”

Ha gained many benefits through the Questbridge program, one of them being the National College Match, through which she matched with Duke University. She briefly explains the NCM process to us: “You rank up to 12 schools [that are Questbridge partners] that you really want to attend, provided they give you a scholarship. If the schools on your list also want you, then they can choose you for Match. You only Match to one school — whichever is the highest on your list that also picks you. But also keep in mind, not matching doesn’t mean that you’ll not be accepted to these schools; it just means they aren’t quite willing to give you that Match scholarship just yet; you are still VERY qualified to be admitted.” Ha is ultimately content with her Match to Duke. “My #1 choice at the time I did the ranking was Stanford, but knowing what I know now and with the opportunities that presented themselves at Duke for me, I wouldn’t trade my place there for the world.”

Another benefit of Questbridge is the connections you gain by becoming a College Prep Scholar (a program for juniors) or an NCM Finalist. In a sense, by being accepted into Questbridge, you become a part of the Questbridge family. “When I became a Finalist, I suddenly gained access to Quest Scholars at top-tier schools who could readily answer questions and guide me in the application process — being a first generation applicant soon seemed much less of a daunting task,” says Ha. “Now that I’m in the Questbridge Chapter at Duke, I’ve learned that Questbridge extends far beyond the scholarship in your senior year as well. Each school’s chapter works a bit differently, but in general, they provide a super tight-knit community for you to start off with when you’re going to a college far away, knowing no one. Plus, Questbridge Chapters also put together mentoring programs that pair you with upperclassman Quest Scholars who can really help guide you while you’re in college!”

To the high-achieving, low-income students who have dreams of attending private universities but are unsure of how they’ll ever be able to afford the tuition, Questbridge is for you. Class of 2018, the National College Match application open this summer, so check out questbridge.org to submit a free online application for the process soon. Ha suggests that you start researching some potential colleges to apply to once senior year starts. “The #1 college for YOU in terms of YOUR opportunities and future success may not be the #1 Nationally Ranked school overall,” she says, “So look at published rankings as reference, but don’t make them a huge factor in your decision — instead, look into specific programs that you can see yourself participating in, ask current students about the school culture and student life, compare all the different ways in which schools approach their academics and curriculum style to find the one that best fits how you like to learn.”

Juniors, sophomores, and freshmen– keep working hard in school and don’t lose heart because of personal financial problems. Through Questbridge, your dream to attend the top private universities in the nation can come a long way.