MAJOR OPPORTUNITY ALERT!
If you’ve skimmed the About page, you may have found a linking factor between the founders: we’re Questbridge- affiliated students. Now, what does that mean? Questbridge is an organization that focuses on providing opportunities for high-achieving, low-income students, which we all are. We participated in both the College Prep Scholarship and the National College Match, but the focus of this post is the College Prep Scholarship available only your JUNIOR YEAR. Pay close attention Juniors!
Here are the basic requirements for eligibility:
Why should you apply? I’ll tell you why! Questbridge opens up so many doors, and reveals many opportunities for low-income students, while also giving you an edge on the college application process. According to Questbridge’s website, here are some of the benefits of beng a College Prep Scholar:
Please, please, please, take your tests now. But make sure you are ready. Do whatever you can to study. Also, don't be frightened by their stats. They are by no means set in stone. They are very holistic about how they select Scholars. But you should still try to score as high as you can on SAT/ACT. If you are taking the March SAT test, don’t worry about when your scores will arrive. The application allows for you to state that you intend to take the test in March. The people at Questbridge will not mark you off for something you can’t control.
Here’s a video from Questbridge that gives some more information:
Is that not enough to compel you to apply? Worried about whether it’s worth it? Here is an interview with past Questbridge College Prep Scholars, in which they talk about their experiences.
How did you find out about the College Prep Scholar Award?
Ana: My Trigonometry teacher was aware of my situation as a low income student, and he’d overheard some seniors at the time talking about Questbridge. I remember him telling me that he didn’t know anything about Questbridge, but that I should research it. I did. After spending hours reading through the whole website, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I actually thought it was some sort of scam, I could not believe how great Questbridge was. But even with that small voice telling me in my head that it was a scam, I decided to apply.
Lin: I found out about Questbridge because of my dad, and honestly I'm extremely grateful for such an amazing organization-- words can't even describe it. Prior to Questbridge, I would spend hours upon hours researching scholarships and schools that'll offer international students money. Since internationals don't qualify for federal aid, most state schools shut us out, and it was incredibly disheartening and discharging for me. While researching, I would always end up on college confidential, where I would see unbelievably rude posts of how internationals should just go back to their country because of the competitiveness in America. I didn't know what to do. Those posts actually made me cry, because i felt so helpless. I was so frightened that I won't go to college.
One day (my sophomore year), my dad was browsing through a Taiwanese online news website and found an article about questbridge. He sent me the link, and I didn't really look much into it at first. However, the following day, I decided to look through the website to see what it's about. I discovered that it's actually opened to non-citizens and my heart raced excitedly. I spent that entire day looking through all the details about CPS and NCM.
Rathin: I learned about the College Prep Scholarship through mail from Questbridge.
How long did it take you to complete the application?
Ana: It took me about four weeks to complete the application. Filling out personal information, academics, etc, was easy, but I was uncertain about how to start my essays, and then I editing it. I just wanted to make sure, I wrote an essay that conveyed who I was, but that also did not had any grammatical/spelling errors. There were of course, times when I procrastinated, but I was able to submit my application with a few days to spare. College Prep Scholar was the first major program I applied to, so it took me a few days, after completing my application, to hit that submit button.
Lin: It actually didn't take too long for me to fill it out.
Rathin: I started my application the week before the deadline, and it took me about a week to finish it completely. The majority of this was spent on my essays; the demographic and financial questions were much less time consuming.
What are some benefits of filling out the application?
Ana: Filling out the application was really beneficial. I got a first taste as to what the whole college application process would be. In fact, the essay I wrote for College Prep has been the foundation for my National College Match and Common App essays. When August rolled around, I wasn’t so lost like the rest of my friends, who had not applied for College Prep.
Lin: As junior year rolled around, I applied for CPS. It was the first scholarship type application I've ever filled out, so it was an amazing opportunity not only to familiarize myself with Questbridge for NCM, but also other applications that awaited me senior year.
Rathin: The CPS gave me an early taste of what college applications are like. I didn’t know anything about the application process before it, and I’m glad I chose to apply for the CPS. Without it, I definitely would not have been as prepared as I was during applications.
What are some benefits of being a College Prep Scholar?
Ana: As a College Prep Scholar, I was invited to attend a conference at Princeton University. I felt like I was a kid opening a present for Christmas. The present was filled with so many things, a network of students across the nation who share the same passion for an education, students with whom I could connect. It included numerous colleges I did not even know existed. I gained so much knowledge that helped me in my college search, information that even my counselor was not aware of, such as fly-in programs. Being a College Prep Scholar opened so many, but so many doors for me.
Lin: Being a CPS, I really started to believe in myself and that, maybe, getting into a top school isn't just merely a dream anymore. I was also invited to the CPS conference at Stanford University; however, due to financial concerns, I was not able to attend.
Rathin: After I learned that I was a College Prep Scholar, I was invited to the College Prep Conference at Stanford. The conference was really eye-opening for me. It showed me that there were good schools beyond the big universities. I had never heard of Liberal Arts Colleges before the conference, but I fell in love with them right after it. The opportunity to speak with admissions counselors was also invaluable. They made going to a selective school seem like an actual possibility and gave me insight about their schools that weighed heavily in my mind as I applied to schools.
How has being affiliated with Questbridge changed your life?
Ana: A few weeks ago I was accepted to Carleton College via Early Decision 2, with an amazing financial aid package. I had previously visited Carleton for the Taste of Carleton Fly-In (which I found out about through Questbridge), and after falling in love with the college, I knew that that was the place I hoped to spend my next four years. I was accepted! This would not had been possible without Questbridge. To this day, I still cannot believe I am the first one in my family to attend college, if this is not life changing, then I don’t know what is.
Lin: Being a CPS undoubtedly boosted up my self confident that helped me apply to 40 colleges senior year.
Rathin: Questbridge gave me ambition. Before Questbridge, I thought I would end up having to go to my state university because it seemed like the cheapest option. Questbridge showed me that this wasn’t the case. Through Questbridge, I learned that many private schools offered large financial aid packages to low income students like myself and didn’t take my low-income status into consideration during the admissions process. This encouraged me to apply to high-end schools regardless of their low acceptance rates with a degree confidence.
How was your application process different due to your citizenship?
Ana: I don’t think the process of applying to College Prep Scholar as an international student is any different. I find this great, because as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student, I’d often found programs I could not apply to because of my undocumented status, and Questbridge felt so welcoming!
Lin: Being an international? It sucks. Other than the 7 need blind schools (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Pomona, Amherst, MIT), internationals applying for financial aid are placed in a different and far more competitive pool. It's separate... And unequal. It gets indescribably frustrating knowing that maybe something out of your control and something so superficial (citizenship status) will affect your college decisions so much. Because of this, I applied to 40 schools (36 reaches. 4 safeties). It was hard. Staying up all night writing essays and perfecting supplements, my winter break composed of applications after applications. It's difficult, yes, but I found myself being more organized and working more diligently. Being a low income international student is without a doubt a challenge in the college application process; however, it's not impossible. I've grown so much as a person due to this circumstance, and now, I'm more grateful than ever before.
Rathin: I’m an undocumented student, so my application process is slightly different easier than the process for international students. However, the process for international and undocumented students alike is still incredibly difficult. Many schools that are need-blind to US citizens and permanent residents are not need-blind for us. This makes the admissions process extremely selective because we need aid to attend these schools. With this in mind, I applied to a large number of schools (25) in the hope that I would be accepted to at least one. This is the major difference when comparing a domestic low-income student and an international low-income student, and I have spent the majority of my senior year worrying about my applications because of the disadvantage of asking for financial aid as an international.
As far as specific differences go, I have had to fill out a multitude of financial aid forms because of my undocumented status. I have also had to contact several schools directly about my status, as many schools don’t list their policies on accepting undocumented students on their websites.
What's some advice you'd like to give the juniors applying for CPS this year?
Ana: Revise! Revise! Revise! You can ask teachers, counselor, or students in the Class of 2016 Questbridge Facebook group to help you edit your essays. It’s always good to get a second pair of eyes to read over your essay for more ideas, grammar corrections, etc. But do not let their suggestions change your voice, or what you’re trying to convey.
Do not procrastinate. Really, you do not want to be rushing last minute to submit your application, give yourself plenty of time to finish.
Ask for your letter of recommendation if you still haven’t, make sure to provide your teacher a resume or a brag sheet so he/she can talk about your accomplishments, and involvement in and out of school. Make sure you choose your teacher well.
If you have extenuating circumstances, there’s space for you to explain, use it! But know how to differentiate an excuse with a reason.
Always save your essays, even your short responses. Technical glitches can happen, so there’s a chance you could lose your info.
If you don’t get chosen, don’t be discouraged. Cry, scream, buy frozen yogurt, but move on. Think of this as a learning experience. The fact that you completed the Questbridge application is an accomplishment in itself, which will help you tons as August nears.
Lin: One piece of advice I would give to juniors now is to ask other Questies to proofread and edit your essay. For CPS, I was deathly afraid of being judged because my essay included some personal stuff, so I only let my English teacher edit it. But for NCM, I actually asked over a dozen Questies to edit it, and it's awfully amazing how much support and help I've received from them. Not only do they see things I don't see in my essays and provide me with awesome ideas, Questies and I can easily form connections since we've all faced similar adversities. After application season, I even posted my essay in the Questbridge support group, and they're not lying when they say it's a support group. I received almost a hundred likes on my essay, dozens of comments, and my inbox was flooded by people who were able to connect with my stories. I loved it, and at that moment, I knew I wasn't alone, and never was I alone.
Rathin: Stay positive. If you put your all into your applications, something good will happen. This is especially important for international applicants.
This is just an opportunity. You can choose to take it or not. It's up to you. But if you do, know that we’ll be here to answer any questions you have and help you through the process. (Just comment below, or e-mail us). There is also a group dedicated to help out future applicants. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1410288575899977/
Interested now? Go apply: http://www.questbridge.org/for-students/cps-college-prep-scholarship
If you’re applying, I wish you the best of luck!
Contributions made by Lin Huang, Ana Yanes and Rathin Kacham
Written by Elizabeth Aguilar
More information can be provided by Elizabeth Aguilar, Odalis Flores, and Ana Yanes
Published: 12 March 2015
Last Updated: 12 March 2015
The college process can be extremely demanding and expensive, especially if you apply to a lot of colleges. Besides the tears of frustration you will shed (okay, I may be exaggerating… or not) as you try to craft your college essays, you will also have to spend some money to have those essays-- and the rest of your applications read by college admissions. Nothing in this life is free, but fortunately for you, there are ways to avoid those hefty fees.
I applied to 22 colleges, yet I spent $0. I am expert at avoiding fees, if I do say so myself.
Before I let you know on my secrets-- well, they’re not really secrets since other students know about them them-- it is important you know what components of your applications need payment. Drum roll: College Application, SAT/ACT Official Score reports, CSS Profile and Art Supplements. You probably have an idea of what the first one is; a college application is pretty self explanatory. What about the rest of the list? What are SAT/ACT Official Score Reports and CSS Profile? Don’t worry, I got you covered.
College Application Fees
Each school will require an application, that can be completed online through the Common App, Universal College Application or a college-specific application. College application fees can vary from around $0 to $100. The cost of applying can quickly accumulate, but those fees can be reduced through various ways.
Note: Make sure to remind your counselor to sign the fee waivers!
SAT/ACT Score Reports
By now, you probably have taken or are thinking about taking the dreaded SAT or ACT. (May the odds be ever in your favor, really). In addition to the mental pain it will cause you, you will have to pay to send official score reports to the colleges you will be applying to. Official scores are just your scores sent by the company that administer whichever test you're taking to the college you apply. They may include college and career planning, and predictions about your future college performance. In short, it’s just a way for those companies to earn more money.
It costs $12.00 to send ACT scores to one school, and $11.25 to send SAT scores to one school.
How do you avoid those fees?
Dear (school name or admissions officer name)
Hello, my name is (your name). I am a senior at (Name of High School, District, State). I am a Questbridge Finalist (only write if you are a finalist), and I am planning to apply to (Name of College). However, I feel as though sending an official score report places an undue financial burden on me; consequently, I was wondering if there was any kind of alternative where (Name of College) will accept my SAT/ACT scores? (Naviance, screenshots, score report signed by counselor, etc)?
The majority of the schools I emailed allowed me to send unofficial scores, as long as they were on my transcript or were sent by my counselor. It saved me so much money! I do recommend however, to start emailing them ahead of time, don’t leave this for the last minute, because it will give you an idea of how much you will end up having to pay.
Note: Remember to send them small email thanking them, whether they let you sent unofficial scores or not. It shows courtesy!
According to the College Board, the CSS Profile is “an online application that collects information used by almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award financial aid from sources outside of the federal government.” Many private institutions will ask you to submit the CSS Profile to determine your financial award package. It costs $25 to send the first CSS Profile, and $16 for additional reports. Without this, or an alternate method provided by the institution, you will not receive any institutional aid.
To whom it may concern,
My name is (your name). I am a senior at (Name of High School, District, State). I am a Questbridge Finalist (only write if you are a finalist), and I applied to (Name of College College). I have a question. Sending the CSS Profile poses a financial burden to me, so I was wondering if (Name of College) offers CSS Profile fee waiver codes or if there are other ways I could apply for financial aid.
Note: Again, it’s imperative you email your schools with time. Do not wait until a day before the deadline submit the CSS to start asking for codes or other alternatives.
If you’re looking to major in art, or you have an exceptional talent in art, you may want to (or be required) to submit Arts Supplements. Some schools will not charge you to submit them but others will indirectly. The cost for submitting through the Common App’s Slide Room is $10. If your college application is waived, however, it is very likely your college will waive the Slide Room’s fee as well.
If that is not the case, or if the college you’re applying to does not use Slide Room, then you can always email the college asking if the fee can be waived.
To give you an idea of how much you would be required to pay, Olivia Bogan, and Lin Huang, two current high schools seniors who applied to 9 and 40 schools respectively have kindly provided us with the breakdown of how much money they would had spent vs. how money they actually spent using any of the above money-saving methods.
Wow! Talk about expensive!
See the difference! All it takes is some planning and organizing to save you money! While college is worth the investment, you should try to find alternative ways to pay for the components whenever possible.
P.S. If you’re wondering why Lin applied to so many schools, stay tuned to learn why on our following series: How to create your college list!
Contributions made by the following people: Olivia Bogan and Lin Huang
Written by Ana Yanes
More information can be given by Ana Yanes
Published: 8 March 2015
Last Updated: 8 March 2015