Dark haired woman with orange backpack walking away into train tunnel on tracks

QuestBridge: Big Opportunities for Low-Income Students

One College Prep Scholar outlines QuestBridge, a program that offers application resources and scholarship opportunities to low-income students.

Once junior year hits, you’ll find college is mentioned at every corner, whether it’s your mom hinting at your (considerably average) SAT score or your AP Calculus teacher screaming about it in your face. You’ll start asking yourself the same old questions: Which college am I going to? Do I want to leave the state or stay near home? What should I study? And, most importantly: How will I pay for it? For some lower-income students, thinking big is not really an option. We (myself included) often think locally, enrolling in state universities and community colleges if we’re really serious about pursuing a collegiate degree—because local is cheaper, no? But what do we do when we know we deserve to go to the top, deserve to go to those prestigious universities, but can’t due to cost? Well, never fear: QuestBridge is here.

What is QuestBridge?

According to the their website, QuestBridge (QB) is “a nonprofit program that links high-achieving and deserving students with educational and scholarship opportunities at leading US colleges and universities.” To break it down, QuestBridge basically provides their College Prep Scholars and National College Match finalists with resources and guidance that allow these high-achieving, low-income students to eventually attend prestigious, expensive colleges and universities at little to no cost to them. QuestBridge is partnered with 45 universities (among them six of the eight Ivies), and receiving application help and a scholarship through QB to one of these schools means going to a world-class university for practically no money! But what are “College Prep Scholars” and “National College Match Finalists”?

Related: Should You Apply to QuestBridge? 3 Reasons Why It's Worth It

How does QB work?

There are two different applications and programs for QB: the College Prep Scholars Program and the National College Match.

College Prep Scholarship Program

You start with the College Prep Scholars Program first, halfway through your junior year. Around February and March, the application period for this program will open. While it’s true you don’t necessarily win anything by becoming a College Prep Scholar (CPS), you do gain the distinction of being a QB-recognized applicant going into the college application process and, ultimately, the National College Match. However, you can be selected for various $1,000 scholarships as well as QB fly-ins (where they’ll cover your travel costs) to learn more about the program itself, which is nice.

Most importantly, however, is that by being a CPS, one gains the guidance of the QB staff. They will help you through essays and any conundrums you may face during the college application process, often holding group webinars and online sessions for CPS discussions, which is priceless in itself. Regarding the CPS program, the QB website states: “The QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program gives outstanding low-income high school juniors an early advantage in college admissions…Being selected as a College Prep Scholars is a notable distinction that celebrates your achievements and gives you an early start in applying to college.”

National College Match

To put it simply, the National College Match (NCM) is designed to allow a competitive pool of applicants to receive a full ride to one of the QB partner schools. Full ride, as in a full four-year scholarship to a school like Yale University. Imaginably, this program is extremely competitive, but it can be said that being named a CPS in your junior year helps in that the majority of NCM finalists were also College Prep Scholars—so it definitely pays to start junior year!

You apply for the NCM the start of your senior year. However, should one be named a CPS, that person receives early access to the NCM application. The application (for both the CPS and NCM programs) are styled the way any college application would be, and after writing the essays, receiving recommendations, and inputting your transcript, you send your application in. In mid-October, you find out if you are an NCM finalist. If you are, you can select up to 12 schools to apply to (early!) through the NCM. And after sending in all the required materials for those colleges by the given deadline, you find out if you match in early December. Match, as in, go to that college for free! It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. So, while it may be competitive, it is certainly worth it to apply.

Is applying worth it?

The only criterion that's mandatory for the Match is that one’s family should make less than $65,000 a year. That’s it. All other determinants are one’s academics, essays, and character. It should be said that even if you do not make it into the CPS program, you still have a chance for the NCM. Personally, I was a CPS, and eventually an NCM finalist, but one of my friends (who was the salutatorian of my class) applied for the CPS program and didn’t make it. However, he did make it as a NCM finalist! Likewise, if you apply to the NCM and don’t match with any of the schools you selected for the Match, you can still apply to those schools through Regular Decision and even Early Decision should the university or college allow it. So it’s really no loss! My previously mentioned friend didn’t match, but he got into the University of Notre Dame through Early Action. So obviously, QB is not a waste of time and effort.

Related: Early Action vs. Regular Decision: Pros and Cons

Well, there’s nothing left other than to go for it! And if you decide to apply, I’d hop to it—the deadline for the College Prep Scholars program is Marche each year. If QB isn’t your cup of tea, then tell somebody else who’s sure to benefit from it. Because though college may be expensive, the knowledge it gives us is priceless.

Need a break from reading articles? Check out the helpful video advice on the CollegeXpress YouTube channel.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

financial aid low-income students National College Match QuestBridge scholarships

About Lydia Abedeen

Lydia Abedeen is a (stark-raving SANE) writer based in Orlando. She writes because, in the end, it's all she has. It's the one gift that she's always willing to share, and the one thing that people truly appreciate when she gives it to them. Thus, she makes it her job to never stop gifting the world with a little bit more of her wisdom. And so, she shares some of it with you today.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

High School Class of 2021

As a UK student moving to California due to my dad's job in the military, when I first signed up for CollegeXpress a few months ago, the college process ahead seemed daunting and incredibly stressful. That all changed after I started to explore what this website had to offer. Not only was I helped by the vast array of resources available to me, but through being a CollegeXpress member, there have been so many more benefits. There have been emails with college tips—all of which I found incredibly helpful—as well as invitations to events and notifications of scholarships that'll make college possible for me. Overall, I'm very grateful to CollegeXpress for all of these things and more. Not only have they helped me grow my understanding of the college process, but they've also helped me to grow as a person, giving me new skills that I can take with me through life.

Jessica Rinker

Jessica Rinker

Student, Fairhaven High School; CollegeXpress Student Writer

My high school counselor introduced me to CollegeXpress freshman year. It has made such a difference in high school, and I plan to continue relying on it in college. CollegeXpress is my go-to because it addresses each aspect of being a student. There are the articles you’d expect regarding college applications and financial aid, but you will also find advice on things like de-stressing and maintaining relationships while balancing a heavy course load. CollegeXpress will also keep you updated on current scholarships through e-mails each Saturday. (They don’t harass you with any product promotion like so many other sites do.) CollegeXpress is a lot like an older sibling who has already conquered the challenges you are facing. Now, they are reaching out a helpful hand. I say take it.

Casey Kammeyer

Casey Kammeyer

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

I love the site CollegeXpress; it has been very helpful finding colleges and getting them to send me information. It has also been very, very helpful with finding tons of scholarships. Also, I told many of my friends about it and they love it as well!

Rose Kearsley

Rose Kearsley

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has seriously helped me out a lot, especially when it comes to scholarships and studying for tests like the ACT. I also really love the financial help. It’s a little harder to pay because I live with a family of eight, so any help is appreciated. Thanks for this opportunity!

Emilie Delgado

Emilie Delgado

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2013

CollegeXpress has tremendously helped me in my search for financial aid opportunities as I enter my college career. It is easy to navigate and quickly narrowed down scholarships that I could apply for. Being awarded the scholarship will greatly help me in my finances regarding books and tuition. Thank you for this opportunity. Without CollegeXpress, it would have been more difficult to apply. I would recommend this site to everyone!

College Matches