When I got out of class last Thursday and saw that my friend had sent me an article about Boston College, I immediately expected the worst. But to my surprise, it was telling me something that I had been hoping to hear for years—BC had partnered with Questbridge!
Questbridge is a non-profit organization that connects high school students from lower-income backgrounds to top elite universities. Students apply directly through Questbridge, filling out their application and essay questions and ranking their top 12 universities (out of the organization’s over 40 college partners). If chosen as a finalist, they submit further documentation and may get matched with one of the colleges that they ranked. Matching means a full four-year scholarship, covering tuition, room and board, and books. If they don’t match with any college, they can still apply to the same schools through Regular Decision and may be able to receive higher financial aid as a result of their status as a finalist.
All of this is to say, Questbridge is an incredible organization. It works to bridge the gap between these underrepresented groups and elite universities, making higher education more accessible. Particularly for those from lower-income backgrounds, the idea of graduating without student loan debt is unbelievable without the help of Questbridge. This allows these students to have the freedom to truly enjoy their college experience, being able to dedicate themselves to their studies and extracurriculars without worrying about finances, just as their wealthier student counterparts are able to do. The program recipients are able to form a cohort at their respective universities, leaning on each other as they navigate this new and unknown world. Feeling comfortable and as if you belong is one of the most important parts of your college experience, and those who don’t fit the stereotype of an elite college student often feel different from and inferior to their peers. Questbridge can work to support each other and prevent this.
I am so glad that BC has made the decision to partner with this organization. It is truly a step towards an increase in diversity, both racially and socioeconomically, at this very white and wealthy institution. The Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Grant Gosselin, said that the decision to move to an Early Decision policy was motivated in part by a desire to partner with Questbridge, as they require their college partners to have this model. This almost makes this policy more palatable for me (keyword: almost).
Although I am still worried about the types of students that the Early Decision model is going to bring to BC, I am excited at the prospect of Questbridge students coming here. I personally applied to Questbridge when I was a senior in high school. It was advertised greatly by my guidance counselors because it was one of the only ways to make these elite universities accessible to students from my school. To be honest, I had never even heard of most of the college partners until I was doing research as I filled out my application, nor did I believe that they would actually give me enough financial aid, and so I never would have considered them options for me without this organization. Despite not getting accepted into the program, it widened my view of the college process. This is common for students of lower-income/first-generation backgrounds—who often do not even think of applying to elite universities because they assume that they will not get in or will not be able to afford it.
I think that Questbridge is a great first step for BC in working towards combating this stigma and appealing to a typically underrepresented student demographic. However, I don’t think this is enough, nor does it make up for the switch to Early Decision. Financial aid needs to be expanded because even though the school meets, “demonstrated financial need,” that is still often not enough and can put families in tough positions. Lower-income and minority students have to be recruited either at their high schools or more directly, as they will not apply if they do not even consider the school as an option.
This is easier said than done, and BC is taking clear steps towards making the university more accessible and affordable. That being said, more people should be made aware of this new partnership with Questbridge, as I think that it is one of the best decisions this school has made in recent months and I am excited for the first class to be admitted through this organization.