QuestBridge entices low-income applicants to Yale

Rebekah Stewart ’13 might not have even gone to college if it weren’t for the QuestBridge program.

As a high school senior in the small town of Alma, Ark., Stewart said her college prospects were grim; even the costs of attending her local community college looked prohibitive. Stewart’s future changed, however, when she received a pamphlet in the mail about QuestBridge, a program that matches high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds with colleges like Yale.

Stewart is one of 45 members of Yale’s freshman class who were finalists in the QuestBridge program, Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said in an interview this week. Yale began its partnership with QuestBridge when admitting the class of 2012, and the University has already renewed its partnership with QuestBridge for the upcoming year, Brenzel said.

While the number of QuestBridge students who matriculated to Yale dropped from 52 last year, he said such a change reflects standard variances in yield from year to year.

“We wouldn’t have seen a lot of these students if we hadn’t been working with QuestBridge,” Brenzel said.

Brenzel said he feels QuestBridge is a valuable tool for attracting talented low-income students, an important priority in Yale’s recruitment process.

The percentage of incoming freshmen who receive government-funded Pell grants — generally given to students with family incomes below $40,000 annually — remained level this year compared to last year’s record-high, down to 12.2 percent from 12.3 percent last year.

Brenzel declined to provide further statistics regarding the total number of QuestBridge students admitted to Yale this year. Yale admitted 17 QuestBridge students through the Early Action admissions round.

Students — usually from households earning less than $60,000 per year — apply to the QuestBridge College Match program in the fall of their senior year. If they are picked as finalists, the organization passes on their applications to “partner” institutions, which the finalist has ranked among his or her top eight college choices. Of the 4,889 students who applied to QuestBridge this past year, 2,470 were named finalists, and 1,402 ranked Yale as a top choice, Jessie Hill, Yale’s senior assistant director of admissions and co-director of the QuestBridge program for the University, said in February.

Other Ivy League Universities who partnered with QuestBridge during the last admissions cycle included Princeton and Columbia universities and the University of Pennsylvania. During the upcoming year, Brown University will also partner with the program, QuestBridge founder and co-director Michael McCullough said Wednesday.

Four freshmen interviewed who applied to Yale through Questbridge all praised the program, although — in the words of QuestBridge students Machiste Quintana ’13 and Nathan Yohannes ’13 — the Sept. 30 application deadline for the program is “brutal.”

QuestBridge student Thu Do ’13, said she felt as if there “was not too much to lose by applying,” given that students could select eight top choice schools. Do said after she was admitted to Yale in the early action round, she greatly appreciated the support and outreach from the Yale admissions office.

Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi said the QuestBridge program is highly valued by Yale because it helps spread the word about Yale’s strong financial aid program to students across the country. A record proportion of Yale’s current freshman class is receiving financial aid, up to 59.4 percent from 55.9 percent last year.

Though Yale has partnered with Questbridge for only two years, students who were finalists in the Questbridge program still found their way to Yale before the formal partnership began, by applying to Yale through the regular admissions process. Eighteen QuestBridge finalists matriculated as part of the Yale class of 2011.

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