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QuestBridge logo.png
Founded 1994
Founder Dr. Michael McCullough, Ana Rowena McCullough
Method Links high-achieving, deserving students with educational and scholarship opportunities at some of the nation's best colleges and universities.

QuestBridge is a non-profit program that links high-achieving, deserving students with educational and scholarship opportunities at leading U.S. colleges and universities. QuestBridge provides the College Prep Scholarship for high school juniors and the National College Match program for high school seniors.


Questbridge started in 1987 as the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program (SMYSP). It evolved into the Questbridge Program in 2004 after the founder of Questbridge, Michael McCullough, realized that the Internet was a great tool to recruit promising low-income students.[1] Amherst College, Rice University, Grinnell College, Wheaton College, and Trinity College joined as the first Questbridge partner schools.[1] Twelve years later, the pool of partner schools has increased to 38 of the nation's leading universities and liberal art colleges. In the last seven years, over 7500 low-income students have been admitted and offered financial aid to these partner schools.[2]

College Prep Scholarship[edit]

The College Prep Scholarship is a pre-college scholarship program offered by QuestBridge for qualifying high school juniors. The application is a condensed version of the National College Match application, and also asks students to list their interest in each of the partner schools.

The awards offered by the College Prep Scholarship include:[3]

  • 40 full scholarships to the Brandeis University High School Summer College Program for Fein Fellows, Emory University Pre-College Program, Harvard University Secondary School Program, University of Notre Dame Pre-College Programs, University of Pennsylvania: Leadership in the Business World Summer Program, University of Pennsylvania: Management & Technology Summer Institute, University of Pennsylvania: Summer Academy in Applied Science & Technology, University of Pennsylvania: Wharton Sports Business Academy, Stanford University High School Summer College Program, and Yale University Summer Session.
  • 60 individualized college admissions counseling awards, in which a current Questbridge staff member or college student mentors a student through all stages of the college admission process
  • 2000 invitations to QuestBridge's College Admissions Conferences, which in 2013 will be held at Northwestern University, Stanford University, and Yale University.
  • All expense paid trips to visit Questbridge partner colleges
  • 300 telementoring awards with Amherst College, which will pair low-income and first-generation Amherst students to the award winners. The students will answer questions about the college process and provide support and encouragement
  • Quest For Excellence Awards, offered in a variety of categories, which offer promising students laptops, iPads, or all expense paid trips to the partner colleges

In 2012, 3,098 students were named College Prep Scholars for winning one or more of the above awards. 74% of these students were among the first generation in their family to attend college, and 85% ranked in the top 10% of their class.[4]

National College Match[edit]

The National College Match is an alternative, generally binding, and free application process for high-school seniors. It helps students apply to and be selected for admission at partner colleges with full four-year scholarships.[5][6][7] Students may also use the program's application materials to apply for admission through partner colleges' regular decision processes.


The National College Match application generally opens up in August. Students fill out the QuestBridge application, which is a counterpart to the Common Application and includes several 30 word short-answers and three full length essays. The application is catered towards highlighting the specific needs and backgrounds of low-income, first generation students. The application is due late September.[8]

Students have until October 13 to rank their school preferences if they want to continue with the National College Match process. They can rank up to twelve colleges. Questbridge also recommends students to begin preparing additional requirements for each of the partner colleges around this time. Each partner school asks for different materials, such as the Common Application, particular financial aid documents, or college supplements. On October 20, students find out if they were named QuestBridge Finalists. This means whether or not they are eligible for the National College Match process. November 1 marks the deadline for specific partner college requirements.[8]

Through the month of November, each partner college receives the application of every student who ranked them for the National College Match and was named a QuestBridge Finalist. They do not know in which order the students ranked them. The partner schools choose among their applicants and send a list of desired students to QuestBridge. QuestBridge matches the colleges' rankings with the students' rankings, hence the name. Students are matched to the top school on their list that also matched them. Around late November to early December, QuestBridge announces whether or not the students receive a College Match Scholarship, which covers at the minimum the full cost of tuition, room and board, and student fees.[9] If the student receives a College Match Scholarship to a binding school, he or she is prohibited from applying to any other college.

Students who do not receive the College Match Scholarship usually move onto QuestBridge Regular Decision, though some also utilize Early Decision II or Early Action offered at various schools.

Students who were not named QuestBridge Finalists can still receive free applications from a variety of the partner colleges, and they are eligible to forward their National Match Application to schools which will accept it for QuestBridge Regular Decision.

The National College Match is a restrictive early process; students may not apply to any other early decision or action program until Match results come out.[10] As a result, students can choose to not rank any schools at all. They can still be named QuestBridge Finalists, which means eligibility for Questbridge Regular Decision, and they can apply to any early process they desire.

International students and undocumented students are welcome to apply to the National Match, but they are not considered by every partner college. As of 2013, international students are eligible to apply to Brown, Carleton, Grinnell, Pomona, Princeton, Tufts, Swarthmore, the University of Chicago, Washington and Lee, and Yale, while undocumented students are eligible to apply to Brown, Grinnell, Pomona, Princeton, Swarthmore, University of Chicago, Washington and Lee, Williams, and Yale.[11]

Partner colleges[edit]

As of 2016, the National College Match officially has 38 partner colleges, each of which is either a leading research university or liberal arts college: Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Brown University, California Institute of Technology, Carleton College, Claremont McKenna College, Colorado College, Colby College, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Davidson College, Duke University, Emory University, Grinnell College, Haverford College, Macalester College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, Pomona College, Princeton University, Rice University, Scripps College, Stanford University, Swarthmore College, Tufts University, University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, Vassar College, Washington and Lee University, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, Williams College, and Yale University.[12]

QuestBridge Regular Decision[edit]

Finalists who applied to the National College Match, but did not rank schools, and finalists who ranked schools, but did not receive a binding College Match Scholarship, are eligible to apply through QuestBridge Regular Decision. The biggest benefit of the process is free applications to all 38 partner colleges and the opportunity to forward the Questbridge Application in lieu of the Common Application for some schools.[13]

Students have until mid December to check off all the schools they would like QuestBridge to forward their applications to.[9] They must submit all particular application requirements for the colleges they are interested in (listed on QuestBridge's website) by the colleges' regular decision deadline.

Several partner colleges allow students to apply to their binding Early Decision processes; these include Amherst, Bowdoin, Carleton, Davidson, Emory, Grinnell, Northwestern, Oberlin, Pomona, Rice, Scripps, Swarthmore, Trinity, Tufts, Vassar, Washington and Lee, Wesleyan, and Williams. Students who ranked the University of Chicago, University of Virginia, or MIT, and were not matched to a binding school, will receive a non-binding Early Action admissions decision.[14]

Acceptance rates[edit]

The number of students applying for the National College Match Application has increased each year, from 6,647 students in 2010 to 7,821 students in 2011 to 9,577 students in 2012 and to 13,264 in 2015.[15] For the Class of 2015, 4,895 (37%) of the applicants were named QuestBridge finalists, and 657 (13%) received a College Match Scholarship. In addition, 2,257 finalists (46.1%) were offered acceptance and financial aid to a partner college, either through the National Match or through Regular Decision.

Of the 4,895 QuestBridge Finalists, 71% were first generation to attend college and 89% were in the top 10% of their class. 92% came from families with an income of $65,000 or less. The median income was $33,177 and 79% were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch.[16]

Of the 383 students who received a College Match Scholarship in 2012, 76% were first generation to attend college, 29% were valedictorians, and 84% were in the top 5% of their class. 96% came from families with an income of $60,000 or less.[17]

Quest for Excellence Awards[edit]

QuestBridge began offering individuals and organizations the chance to create personalized awards where students would complete some of their college application process at the same time as applying for an award, scholarship, or prize (e.g. a laptop computer). The Quest For Excellence Program offers awards once for juniors coupled with their College Prep Scholarship and then again in the fall for seniors in conjunction with their National College Match and regular decision process.[18]

Quest Scholars Network[edit]

All QuestBridge finalists who enroll in a partner college become Quest Scholars. Quest Scholars come to represent the Quest Scholars Network (QSN), a branch of QuestBridge formed in 2009 which seeks to link Quest Scholars across the country with each other and with leadership and service opportunities.[19] Each QuestBridge partner college has a Quest Scholars Network chapter, composed of all the QuestBridge Finalists enrolled in that particular school.

The QSN nominates a liaison for each chapter every year, whose primary duty is to serve as the intermediary between the national organization and the school's chapter.[20] The QSN Liaison for each school attends training in Palo Alto, California, home to the Quest Scholars Headquarters.

Other leadership opportunities offered by the QSN include:[21]

  • Quest Ambassadors, who spread the word about opportunities like QuestBridge
  • Quest Group Leaders, who represent their schools in the QuestBridge College Conferences
  • Quest College Counselors, who guide College Prep Scholars through the college process
  • Quest Bloggers, who write monthly posts featured on the QSN website
  • Quest Mentoring, in which sophomore, junior, and senior Quest Scholars provide guidance and support for incoming Quest Scholars
  • Quest Internships, offered by both the Quest Scholars Network and QuestBridge on a variety of topics related to non-profit work
  • Quest Summer Service Grants, which provide funding for service projects undertaken by Quest Scholars
  • Quest Alumni Association, which seeks to create a network of Quest Scholar alumni from all over the country


  1. ^ a b "History". Questbridge. 
  2. ^ "Acceptance Rates". Questbridge. 
  3. ^ "Why Apply: The College Prep Scholarship Awards". QuestBridge. 
  4. ^ "2012 College Prep Scholar Profile". QuestBridge. 
  5. ^ "Program bridges applicant divide". Yale Daily News. February 11, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Matching Top Colleges, Low-Income Students". Wall Street Journal. November 15, 2007. 
  7. ^ "QuestBridge paves way for bright applicants". Emory Report. October 27, 2008. 
  8. ^ a b "Application Process: The National College Match". QuestBridge. 
  9. ^ a b "National College Match Flowchart". QuestBridge. 
  10. ^ "Early Application Policy". QuestBridge. 
  11. ^ "Who Should Apply for the National College Match?". QuestBridge. 
  12. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "Application Process: Questbridge Regular Decision". QuestBridge. 
  14. ^ "Regular Decision Requirements". QuestBridge. Archived from the original on May 1, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Acceptance Rates". QuestBridge. 
  16. ^ "2016 National College Match Finalist Profile". QuestBridge. 
  17. ^ "2012 National College Match Recipient Profile". QuestBridge. 
  18. ^ "NEA - Scholarship: Questbridge College Prep". 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  19. ^ "Quest Scholars Network: Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  20. ^ "Quest Liaisons". Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  21. ^ "Overview". Retrieved 24 May 2013. 

External links[edit]