Applying to college comes with certain difficulties every high school student can expect. Application essays, recommendations and SAT scores are all part of a process which can come with roadblocks and obstacles students grapple with senior year. While all of these can prove worrisome, none are as threatening to a student’s future success as financial troubles.
QuestBridge, a program which aims to help low-income, high-achieving students get into the highly-selective colleges of their choice, and Vassar have been working together since 2007.
Through the QuestBridge program, high school students choose from 33 prestigious schools and apply to their top seven. Some students opt to simply have their application fee waived, while other students take full advantage of the opportunity to apply using the QuestBridge application in addition to their respective college’s form. Students rank their schools and are matched with the college of their highest choice that has accepted them and are awarded full four-year scholarships from QuestBridge.
Because these students currently make up about ten percent of Vassar’s student body, the organization is seeking to develop QuestScholars, an on-campus branch of QuestBridge looking to create a community for Vassar students accepted through this process through garnering official VSA org status.
“As a Quest Scholar myself, I seem to think our presence on campus is simply needed. Quest Scholars are a distinctive feature of the humanly and realistic quality of a college/university. Quest Scholars make up the diversity trait of the dynamic of the college,” wrote Rudi Williams ‘16 in an emailed statement.
VSA Vice President Dallas Robinson ‘13 agreed certifying Quest Scholars would be a positive thing for Vassar’s campus as a whole.
“Supporting QuestBridge/Scholars is supporting opportunity. I think our school exists for that reason exactly, Vassar was created to give women opportunities they didn’t have in most places; although the school was initially created for white women only, it has accepted numerous types of people over time. Vassar must continue to open its arms and resources to new programs that bring new people,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
Though for Quest Scholars,having a difficult financial situation can be isolating. QuestBridge liaison Jeremiah Bernau ‘13 said their scholars program has the potential to make the transition to Vassar life smoother.
“I think for a lot of people it’s just the differences in backgrounds. For me it was more of a social difference just because I’m from rural Minnesota. I haven’t noticed this as much, but for some people finances can be a difficult thing to navigate,” he said.
Though this concern is already recognized by Vassar’s Transitions program, Bernau said QuestScholars would seek to be more inclusive, as Transitions can only admit a finite number of students for logistical reasons.
“The Transitions program is great, we have a lot of students who did it. It just doesn’t cover everyone, and [QuestScholars is] going to provide a great network for those students right away,” he said.
Already, QuestScholars has developed the beginnings of a mentoring program, allowing for freshmen to be matched up with upperclassmen who can offer guidance and support during this time and fostering a tight-knit community among its members.As well as individual attention, the QuestScholars organization would give students a space to communicate any difficulties they might be having.
However, Williams emphasized its purpose is not merely to air grievances.
“It’s not a place to just bicker and complain about how other students have rich people problems; it’s a place to realize the importance of a varying community and the need to be back to reality,” she wrote.
In fact, it is one of QuestScholar’s central missions to bring awareness to the QuestBridge program its benefits, which are more widespread than even its current members know about. QuestBridge’s support does not stop after students get admitted to the college of their choice: They also provide students with scholarships, internship opportunities during their college experience and help them secure jobs after graduation, details of which Bernau said he would like to see more students take advantage. “Scholarship opportunities like this aren’t very common, so I think it’s important to give back and make students aware of this,” he said. Bringing information to both current and prospective Vassar QuestBridge students would be made easier by becoming a VSA organization.
“When students are looking at orgs at Vassar, they can see that there’s a club for low-income students and they can see that on the VSA website and get in contact with us if they need it,” Bernau said.
Most recently, QuestScholars has been reaching out to Poughkeepsie High School, but hopes to expand their influence once they are approved by the VSA and can get transportation to other high schools beyond the Poughkeepsie and Arlington communities.
“[We] are making QuestBridge presentations at local high schools to to help connect bright, motivated low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities at some of the best colleges and universities at the nations. Also, to help advise them to apply to this wonderful opportunity to make a college education more possible for a student who really cannot afford the expensive price tag of a higher education such as a $60,000 college like Vassar. QuestBridge is an organization that makes the impossible more reachable to the aspiring student.”
Bernau expressed his gratitude for QuestBridge helping him realize his college aspirations.
“I know I wouldn’t have ended up at a school like Vassar otherwise—it’s a great opportunity, and some people just don’t know about it,” he said.
He concluded, “When I found out about QuestBridge, I thought it was too good to be true, fortunately, it’s not.”