The QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program: A Comprehensive Guide

06/05/202414 minute read
The QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program: A Comprehensive Guide

The QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program helps academically motivated low-income high school juniors embark early on a successful transition to a great university. Each spring thousands of qualifying applicants who get accepted into the program enjoy unique support, including access to summer study programs, higher education mentors, college application resources, awards programs, and more. The program also elevates participants' visibility across a wide network of top-notch colleges and universities while helping to demystify the complexities of applying to college.

If your family is low income but you have an exceptional academic record and dreams of getting into a top school, keep reading to learn more about QuestBridge, the College Prep Scholars program, who's eligible, how to apply, and more.


What Is QuestBridge?

QuestBridge is a US nonprofit, founded in 1994, that partners with a network of member schools, all with the goal of helping low-income students — and often first-generation college students — successfully navigate the college application landscape.

  • A vision for greater equity in top colleges and universities. A higher education nonprofit, the Questbridge mission is to “recruit, develop, and support motivated low-income students to be successful at America’s best colleges, graduate schools, and companies.”
  • A powerful platform and network. To amplify its impact, QuestBridge actively partners with more than fifty well respected US colleges and universities, including Amherst, Claremont McKenna, Columbia, Dartmouth, MIT, Rice, Stanford, USC, Vanderbilt, and more — making it an exceptionally powerful partner for your quest to get into a highly selective school!
  • A web of programs, people, and resources. True to its core mission of helping low-income and first-generation students navigate the college admissions process, QuestBridge offers participating students a kind of backdoor ticket to their dream college through its National CollegeMatch + Match Scholarship college recruitment program. In addition, QuestBridge has various academic award programs and provides informational resources and coaching support to help under-resourced students prepare for college, apply for college, and pay for college!
  • Unfortunately, the program is not open to international students residing outside the US.

Given the quality of the partnering schools and today's competitive admissions landscape, QuestBridge offers a unique model, empowering motivated students who are striving to earn their way to a top school despite financial and generational challenges.

Keep reading for a deep dive into the College Prep Scholars Program, QuestBridge's early entry college pathway for qualifying high school juniors.

“For first-generation or low-income students, the process of applying to college can feel like putting the puzzle together without the picture on the box for reference. That's why many students seek out free resources for college admissions assistance.”

- Josh Moody, Higher Education Reporter, US News & World Report

What Is the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program?

If you’re a qualifying high school junior — more on that in a moment — the College Prep Scholars Program is an ideal way to get connected to QuestBridge services, resources, and university networks.

Key Features:

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Who Can Apply?

The QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program is designed for high school juniors with outstanding academics who come from low-income backgrounds (families earning less than $65,000 a year for a household of four).

General Eligibility

  • Grade Level: You must be a high school junior planning to apply to college in the following year.
  • Residency: Open to all students attending high school in the U.S., including U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents living abroad. International students outside the U.S. are not eligible.

Academic Achievement

  • Grades: Primarily A’s in challenging courses (Honors, AP, IB, summer bridge).

- Class Rank: Top 5-10% of the graduating class.

- Standardized Test Scores: Optional, but recommended if you have them. Typical scores for past Scholars:

- SAT: 1290 - 1460 (middle 50%)

- ACT: 26 - 31 (middle 50%)

Financial Qualifications

To qualify students based on income, QuestBridge looks at both family income, family size, and important family resources or assets.

  • Income: Typically less than $65,000 annually for a family of four, with consideration given to higher incomes in cases of significant hardship.
  • Assets: Includes all significant family assets (home, business ownership, savings, etc.).

Personal Circumstances

  • Family Background: Many Scholars are first-generation college students, but it’s not required.
  • Responsibilities: Involvement in extracurricular activities or significant family or home responsibilities.
  • Personal Traits: Demonstrated strength in character and motivation.

“We are looking for high school juniors who have shown outstanding academic ability despite financial challenges. We take a holistic approach to reviewing applications, and we do not have absolute criteria or cut-offs for GPA, standardized test scores, income, or other factors.”

- QuestBridge

How to Apply

To apply, you’ll need to submit the College Prep Scholars Program application using the online portal.

It’s free to apply, and you’ll find links to application support resources and application instructions here.

Application Components

  • Information on your academics, activities, household, and financial background
  • Writing section
  • A recommendation from a teacher in a core academic subject
  • Current high school transcript (unofficial transcripts are accepted)
  • Any standardized test score reports to date (if taken). You can submit PSAT, Pre-ACT, SAT, ACT, or AP test scores (unofficial test score reports are accepted).
  • School Profile (optional, but recommended)

Why the College Prep Scholars Program Is So Powerful

Academic Distinction and Visibility

The most game-changing benefit of being a College Prep Scholar can simply be the visibility it provides you within the organization’s network of partner colleges. In essence, the distinction itself pre-qualifies you for great future opportunities.

Your status as a College Prep Scholar distinguishes you academically.

Your income-based eligibility can help you qualify for enhanced financial and academic support, as well as application resources and mentoring, across a network of excellent colleges and universities.

Exceptional University Summer Programs

During the summer between junior and senior years, QuestBridge College Prep Scholars may get selected to take college-level courses on a world-class campus, preparing for college and college life.

This noteworthy benefit is a chance to experience life beyond high school while also exploring university-level academics before applying to college in your senior year.

Summer learning awards may cover the full cost of travel, tuition, housing and meals, and supplies.

According to QuestBridge, students who participate in a summer program will:

  • Learn, study, and write at the college level with students from around the country.
  • Attend classes and experience university-level coursework.
  • Develop connections with and get to know faculty.
  • Learn more about college life and the extensive resources top colleges offer to support students from low-income backgrounds.

Resources to Boost Your College Journey

As a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, you’ll be in the running for a range of other awards and opportunities, including:

  • Quest for Excellence Awards, such as a $1,000 award for a new laptop, or other resources to help you enhance your college applications
  • Exclusive access to a QuestBridge National College Admissions Conference — an invitation-only event featuring workshops and a college fair with partner colleges and universities
  • Access to one or more exclusive college essay workshops
  • Campus visits with sponsorship from QuestBridge college partners
  • Specialized guidance and resources for the college application process
  • Peer-to-peer support in an online community

A Pathway to the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, and Other Great Schools

Whether you gain the distinction of being a College Prep Scholar or not, simply applying is a great way to signal your interest in QuestBridge programs and learn more about all they offer.

If you fit the eligibility criteria and you’re motivated to achieve academically in high school and college, QuestBridge can help you chart a course to any number of truly exceptional colleges and universities across a higher education network that includes seven Ivies, Stanford, MIT, and many more great schools. (As of this writing, Harvard was the only Ivy not partnering with QuestBridge.)

In addition to the visibility you get within their network of school partners,  the opportunities for one-on-one admissions advising, essay coaching, peer and educator networks, and other resources can provide you access to a level of guidance you don’t often see for students, especially students whose families can’t afford private admissions counselors.

Empowering Students to Achieve Their Dreams

I've watched College Prep Scholars gain confidence in themselves and their college potential. Many go on to attend schools like Yale, UPenn, and Stanford on full scholarships through QuestBridge.

As a Questbridge College Prep Scholar you're not just being helped through the college application process, you're being actively encouraged and empowered every step of the way, until you cross the graduation stage.

If you have what it takes to be a College Prep Scholar, you're likely ready to succeed at the nation's best colleges. This program helps you make that dream a reality.

The power of the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program is hard to over estimate. It can be truly life changing for the students who participate.

If you're academically talented and committed and a high school junior from a low-income household, our Strategists at Crimson Education urge you to apply — it could be the single most important stepping stone to your future success!

Getting Accepted… Expert Tips and Insights

Here are a few tips to get you on track if you want to apply for the College Prep Scholars.

Just to highlight the size and scope of the opportunity, 3,911 high school juniors — about 23% of those who applied — got selected to be College Prep Scholars in the last scholarship cycle, based on their academic achievement, financial qualifications, and personal character!

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What Other Programs Help with College Admissions Planning?

While Questbridge is an exceptional program, and one that stands apart from most others, you'll find other organizations out there that are also eager to help you access support for your college journey.

College Possible

  • Advantages: College Possible offers extended academic mentoring and support, beginning as early as middle school, with the goal of helping under-represented students chart a successful path to and through college.
  • Limitations: Most services are site based and only operating in a small number of states and locales.
  • Tip: If you can’t connect with the program where you live, be sure to check out their nation-wide digital platform called CoPilot.

Get Schooled

  • Advantages: Get Schooled offers access to resource banks and some real-time advising support; designed to help students with college applications, college success, job searches, and resumes. Programs and resources are advertised as being free, safe to access, and buffered from advertising.
  • Limitations: While the program offers a way to text questions to advisors, there’s no comprehensive advising and mentoring programs.
  • Tip: This platform might be a good resource to supplement the kinds of support you’d get from a college and career counselor at your high school.

Crimson Access Opportunity (CAO)

  • Advantages: CAO has global reach and offers students from moderate-to-low-income families an opportunity to access financial support and admissions advising support and insights from Crimson Education, a global leader in the College Admissions Advising space.
  • Limitations: CAO’s support is mostly for rising seniors navigating the college application process and transfer students are not eligible.
  • TiP: You can also apply if you’re aiming to apply to college during a gap year, after high school, and CAO supports students from every country and nationality.

Final Thoughts

The Questbridge College Prep Scholars Program is more than just a scholarship program; it's a lifeline for high-achieving, low-income students who dare to dream big. As Crimson Education Strategists, we've seen the impact QuestBridge support can have on students’ lives, offering them the resources, guidance, and confidence to pursue their college dreams. We strongly encourage eligible students to seize this opportunity and embark on a journey that could transform their future.

Remember, the future is bright for those who are brave enough to pursue their dreams, and the Questbridge College Prep Scholars Program is a formidable ally in that pursuit.

If you’re excited about exploring more opportunities and resources, with insights from Crimson Education, we’d be happy to explore your college dreams with you. You can schedule a free consultation here. Our world-leading team of admissions counselors will be excited to hear where you’re at on your journey!

What Makes Crimson Different

Crimson students are 7x more likely to gain acceptance to their dream college!

Remember, you don't have to navigate this journey alone. Crimson provides a comprehensive suite of services, from academic mentoring and test prep to essay assistance, extracurricular guidance, and career mentoring, ensuring a holistic approach to your college preparation journey.

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