For most high school students, the college process begins in the fall of their senior year — but for some high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds, the admissions cycle begins a year earlier when they apply to QuestBridge, a program that seeks to connect these students with selective partner colleges.
Since Yale first partnered with QuestBridge in 2007, the University has been increasing its commitment to the program. This year, the University began publicizing the exact number of QuestBridge students admitted to Yale in its admissions press releases — 24 QuestBridge scholars were admitted early action in December. Two weeks ago, when University President Salovey also arrived at the White House with other university leaders for a summit to promote increased accessibility to college, Salovey pledged that Yale would increase the number of QuestBridge scholars at Yale from 50 to 60 students per grade to around 75 to 80 in the near future.
According to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan, about 200 QuestBridge scholars are currently enrolled at the University. Since the program began about six years ago, the University has admitted 500 QuestBridge scholars, he said, adding that these numbers are a testament to the program’s outstanding ability to reach the type of students Yale is seeking.
As the QuestBridge applicant pool has grown stronger each year, Quinlan said he wants to deepen the University’s relationship with the program. He added that he is in the midst of ongoing discussions with QuestBridge officials about the possibility of organizing a summit in June, at which he and other admissions deans from QuestBridge’s partner schools could discuss more opportunities for admitting QuestBridge scholars.
One such opportunity could be the creation of a process to help students transfer from other colleges to QuestBridge’s partner institutions, Quinlan said.
All 11 current QuestBridge scholars interviewed said they were appreciative of Salovey’s recent pledge to increase the number of QuestBridge scholars accepted each year. Although most said Yale is becoming a more progressive and diverse community, they added that the University still could accept more high-achieving, low-income students and create more programs on campus to facilitate these students’ transitions.
“I really am glad that [Salovey] made that commitment,” said Ellie Dupler ’16, the vice president of the Yale chapter of the QuestScholars network. “But I hope those spots don’t come from other low-income students who for whatever reason didn’t apply through a program such as QuestBride,” she added.
QuestBridge scholars interviewed also said the program played a significant role in helping them get to Yale.
Adrian Gutierrez ’16 said it was only when he was accepted as a QuestBridge scholar in the spring of his junior year that he began seeing an Ivy League school as a possibility.
“I didn’t even look at the price tag of a place like Yale, I just thought these schools were so out of my reach,” he said. “[QuestBridge] made me realize that a school like Yale was possible and without their encouragement, I don’t think I would have even applied.”
Molly Michaels ’15 echoed Gutierrez’ sentiments, adding that without the support of QuestBridge she would have attended a state school in her home state, Michigan.
Dupler said the presence of a QuestBridge program at Yale persuaded her to attend the University over some of its peer schools.
“QuestBridge is a community that I have at Yale where I know there are people like me,” she said. “I can talk to other QuestScholars about issues that other students might not understand.”
Michaels said the QuestBridge application process is very different than the Common Application process, as the QuestBridge process encourages applicants to write about the challenges they have faced and their experiences as high-achieving, low-income students.
The QuestBridge application also removes crucial barriers of entry by providing fee waivers for QuestBridge scholars and finalists, Michaels said.
“I didn’t feel as if there was anything to lose by applying as a QuestScholar,” Michaels said.
Still, Quinlan said that QuestBridge and its partner schools, including Yale, need to do a better job of emphasizing that the QuestBridge application process is a different and often a more convenient route for high-achieving, low-income students to apply to selective colleges.
Jeffrey Brenzel, who served as dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale at the outset of the QuestBridge partnership, said in an email that he was partly interested in establishing connections with QuestBridge because the program “was doing a good job reaching high-achieving, low-income students whom we knew from checking our records were not entering our applicant pool.”
Working with QuestBridge also brings Yale into a broader coalition of selective schools, Quinlan said, allowing these schools to collectively articulate a joint message to high school students across the nation that many private universities are accessible to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Christopher Avery, a public policy professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said one major challenge for selective universities is finding and recruiting high-achieving students who come from diverse communities. Avery’s research — which has been cited by Quinlan as an important justification for programs such as QuestBridge — made national news when it asserted that most high-achieving students from low-income families do not even apply to selective colleges, even when their scores and grades would make them competitive applicants.
Avery said that one important advantage of programs such as QuestBridge is that it is not geographically limited. Unlike some programs that specifically target students from a select few large cities such as Los Angeles or New York, QuestBridge is a program that any qualifying student can access, regardless of where they live in America, he said.
Avery said accessibility to students living outside large cities is especially important because his research shows that low-income students who live in rural areas are traditionally less likely to apply to schools commensurate with their test scores.
QuestBridge currently has 35 partner schools. Cornell and Harvard are the only two Ivy League schools that have not partnered with the program.