Applying to QuestBridge 2018

A step by step break down of how to apply to the 2018 QuestBridge application

Applying to QuestBridge 2018

September has come, you’re a senior, and you’re thinking of applying to college. You want to do your best, and jump on the best resources? Then QuestBridge should be near the top of your list. But what is QuestBridge you ask?

QuestBridge is a national program providing full scholarships to low-income high school seniors to some of the nation’s most selective colleges. The QuestBridge College Match Scholarship covers everything, yes, you read that right: full cost of tuition, room and board. No loans, no parental contribution. Sound amazing? It is! And if you fit the qualifications, you should absolutely apply.

And to make things just a little bit easier, we offer free essay feedback, editing, and review, to make your stories stand out. And because the deadline is so close, we’ll make sure to get your essay back in less than 24hrs. Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to the scholarship details.

First things first, deadline

September 27th, 2018 | 11:59pm PST


Yes, that’s this Thursday, so if you’re almost done, let’s hope this can give you more peace of mind!

Now, onto Eligibility:

  • U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents or attending high school in the United States.

A special note for non-U.S. citizens/permanent residents attending high school in the U.S., only some colleges are eligible for your application. You can read more about this here:

Now, while there are no GPA/SAT/ACT requirements, QuestBridge emphasizes having good grades. They recommend GPA’s in the A range, SAT/PSAT scores over 1310, and ACT Composite scores over 28. This is not a strict cutoff, but a word of caution from what they’ve seen from their past finalists.

The application is broken into 6 key sections.

Household Income, Recommendations, Academic, Writing, Review, Submit.

Most of these are straightforward data entry. For household income, and academic you’ll simply be entering information that you get from your guardians or school. There’s not too much to finesse here, so we’ll be focusing on two things in particular. Recommendations and Writing.


Now, the application is due this Friday so getting new recommenders is going to be difficult. Hopefully, you’ve already made it this far, but if you haven’t we still have your back! You should have three total recommenders; two from teachers and one from your counselor.

The QuestBridge app makes a strong point that the teachers should be from core academic subjects, so try to stick closely to that! You want to put your best foot forward, and teachers best suited to talk about where you currently stand are probably your most recent ones. Focus on teachers who’ve taught your junior year so that you can get your freshest, and strongest experiences put forward.

Now, let’s say you haven’t asked anyone, have three days until submission, and you’re worried? We’ve developed a recommendation package that focuses on who to ask, and how to ask. It includes nearly everything you need to start the conversation, and hopefully seal the deal. Now, we can’t guarantee they’ll say yes, but it’ll be better than asking without guidance.

In addition to the steps in the recommendation package, do yourself and your recommenders a favor by filling out the Recommender Information Sheet. It’ll help you both articulate where you are, and how strong of an application you have.

And you can find them both here:
Recommendation Package:
Recommender Information Sheet:


Writing these essays is going to come down to two things; telling your story, and standing out. You already knew that, so what we’ll get into is how exactly to do this. Below we outline five techniques we use to turn our experiences into powerful stories.

1. Plan. Plan. Plan.

Make sure you have a rough idea or outline of what you want to write about before you get going. You can list everything, draw a map, use a bubble map, or do whatever it is you do to get your ideas down. Just do something!

In this section of your process, you should have a list of things that make up your life. There may be many things, and while we love your entire life, you only have room to focus in and deeply engage in one, maybe two experiences. Here we recommend that you pick one experience, and focus intensely on how this answers two questions; who you are, and why you do what you do.

From this moment you’ll need to connect how this experience has shaped and impacted your goals for the future.

Ultimately, most of these questions are interested in connecting with you at a deeply personal level and revealing who you are, and who you will be. To do this, we need to be authentic in what we pick, and how we want our reader to feel. When narrowing down, think about what brings out the most profound emotion; happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion. And compare that to which experience best connects with who you want to be. The experience with the highest connection to your future and deepest emotional response is the one you should choose to write about.

2. Write with your heart, edit with your mind.

Once you know where you’re going just start writing. One of the keys to success lies in inertia. The ability to keep going once you’ve started. Take ten uninterrupted minutes and write before you do any editing. Once you do this, you can begin to clump and organize ideas into a more refined structure. But please, don’t start by trying to make every sentence perfect.

When sculpting your statue, it is essential to begin carving with a chisel and not a needle. After you get a general idea and flow done, then you should start digging into the editing.

These essays are your time to shine so use the space you have to show the reader who you are. You don’t need extra fluff and filling. This doesn’t mean you can’t add in additional details; instead, you should zoom in on moments to extract the richness of an event. On the contrary, it means don’t worry about padding or stuffing your essays to the point where you’re a pillow.

While gingerbread cookies are delicious, they’re all the same. Make sure you add in your unique details to make your story stand out.

Now, a lot of students are first-generation college students, and often this means a lot of applicants may be low-income. Your job is not only to say that you’re low income but to do so in a way that represents your unique experience. This comes from zooming in on the details that resonate deepest with you.

What about being low-income has been defining for you? Have you had to get a job to support the bills? Do your parents struggle to get you across town to be in a better school? Are you the primary person pushing yourself to higher education? Do you have to translate for your parents? These are just a few, but there are so many more elements of coming from hardship that you can dive into. Pick one to two, so you don’t spread yourself too thin and maintain a central focus on things.

Your goal should be to let the admissions team see not just what you had to go through, but who you are because of it. Now, this is important because they’re looking for who you are now. Not just that you got through it, but how have you changed, how have you grown? This should be a time to build yourself up through circumstance, not shame what you’ve gone through.

4. Be Netflix.

Think about your favorite shows. Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Grey’s Anatomy. The one thing they have in common is their compelling nature to keep viewers coming back. Now, you may have seen the same story a 1000 different places, but you keep coming back for more. Because of the writing. Because of the dialogue. Because of the storytelling. Because they hook you in from the beginning. Your favorite shows draw you in and never let go. They make you feel for the characters, and they leave you wanting more. Write your story like your favorite show and capture your reader until the end.

5. Win the talent show.

You don’t have the option of sending in a video or interviewing; this will be the best way admissions have to meet you. You are also competing against other applicants. But just like a talent show, its all about presentation. You may have the coolest talent or the most amazing story, but people won’t receive it well if you simply tell them that you’re the best. You must show them that you’re the best. Do this by describing your situation instead of merely stating it. You weren’t just anxious as you sat down, but rather that your arms began to shake as you shuffled to your seat.

This technique helps us build worlds for our audience to interact with. It allows us to bring them into our experiences, have them live our lives, feel what we feel, and build emotional truth.

Now that you have a good feel for your story, you can begin tackling the grammar and revision. Definitely proofread at least once, then submit your essays to us and we’ll take another look focusing on content, storytelling, how well you answer the questions, overall power, and grammar.

Important Note:

We’ll help you tell these stories. We provide free essay editing, revision, and feedback, and because the deadline is so close, we’ll make sure to get your essay back in less than 24hrs.

Okay, now that we’ve detailed how to navigate the application, we’ll leave you with three tips for success!

Tips to Remember:

TIP 1:

QuestBridge is an access program, and as such is looking to uplift students. 70% of their finalist are the first in their family to go to college. They realize that life happens, and sometimes that can lead to challenging experiences. They know that some of our best and brightest are buried by juggling jobs, helping support their family, or come from broken families and they want to give you a chance by sharing your story.

TIP 2:

QuestBridge is highly interested in what you spend your time on. Are you caring for siblings? Are you involved in the community? Are you the leader of your poetry club, or an active member of the debate team? These things are ways in which you invest in yourself, and speak sincerely to who you are. They give us insight into why you do what you do, and help us better picture your contribution to the future.

Make sure to emphasize this in your essays, and to make this easy create a list of what you’ve done and how long you spent doing it. This will help you figure out what you’ve been most committed to, and identify which stories you have to tell. You can quickly build a log like the following one in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Bonus points for also keeping your activities organized!

Example activities log

TIP 3:

Use Scholarship Junkies! The essays you write SHOULD be revised; your teachers will probably help with grammar, but send it to Scholarship Junkies where you will be helped by our student editors who are passionate about making your application strong.

We also have the fortune of working with past scholars. We will provide free one-on-one essay feedback, revision, and editing, through our online portal, normally within 72hrs, but because the deadline is so close, we’ll make sure to send your edits back in less than 24hrs.

With these considerations, it makes even more sense why we focus so much on the essay. Here you can share why you’re different; you can share what your transcript doesn’t say about you. Here you can be your most authentic self, and build a personal connection through your story.

Now that you know the inner workings of this first stage application go off and do great.

Remember, you can do this, we believe in you, and you can always reach out for help.

Submit your essays for review over at