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John Sexton / Gavel Media

Highlighting BC’s QuestBridge Program and its Students

In recent years, Boston College has noticeably been increasing its efforts to diversify its student body, consistently bringing in higher numbers of AHANA+, low-income, and first-generation enrollment every year. These attempts have spawned several in-house programs to better support underrepresented students with the college transition process, including Learning to Learn, BC F1RST, and the Division of Mission and Ministry’s Montserrat. However, one new and extremely important program that has helped BC enroll more underrepresented students is a nationwide, independent entity called QuestBridge. BC became a Questbridge Partner in 2021 and has had a fairly inconspicuous presence on campus so far, despite hundreds of current students being QuestBridge Scholars. 

As a QuestBridge student myself, most people have no clue what I’m talking about when I tell them that I applied and was accepted to BC through QuestBridge. The application and acceptance process are very different from the traditional route, and because the program serves first-generation and low-income students, it is widely unknown among (traditionally privileged) college applicants. Students apply to be a QuestBridge Finalist in the fall of their senior year of high school, and along with submitting a ranking of which 15 QuestBridge Partner schools they would like to attend the most. There are 48 Partners, including six Ivy Leagues and dozens of the nation’s top universities and liberal arts colleges. Colleges review applications of all accepted Scholars who ranked their school and decide which to accept. Students are then matched with the highest ranked school on their list that accepts them. The Match is essentially a binding Early Decision acceptance, and students are required to attend the college that they match with. Students also have the option to apply for Early or Regular Decisions to universities with their QuestBridge Application instead of CommonApp, which provides a bit more flexibility. 

All of the QuestBridge Partner Schools agree to meet 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need with their aid packages. For some, this means a substantial university grant on top of federal and state loans, and for others, this money is given fully in the form of scholarships with no loans included. This guarantee presents a massive opportunity for high-achieving students who would typically struggle to afford tuition at any given college with aid that is typically limited to only a percent of the total cost of attendance. 

At BC (along with the nation’s other highly selective colleges), enrollment is highly skewed toward students from the nation’s wealthiest families. Students who attend “good” high schools are more likely to take AP classes, have competitive extracurriculars, and have access to SAT and ACT tutoring. Students who attend average and largely underfunded public schools don’t have access to the same educational resources  that wealthier students do, resulting in an obvious disparity. QuestBridge gives underprivileged students who, while they may have an impressive resume for their area, may not be as competitive at these highly-selective schools using the traditional application metrics. QuestBridge students oftentimes have balanced a job, cared for siblings or grandparents, and maintained household duties on top of their schoolwork and extracurriculars throughout high school. 

I spoke with the president of BC’s branch of the QuestBridge on-campus club, Jaleigha Dunlap, MCAS ‘25, about the impact that QuestBridge has had on her college journey. She preferred applying with QuestBridge because it better highlighted her unique background: “I really think applying through QuestBridge was better because I was able to show myself more as an applicant than just another test score.” Dunlap also loves the QuestBridge community she’s been able to create at BC in her short time here. 

However, there’s been some disconnect between the QuestBridge promise and BC’s actual aid to some of the QuestBridge students who they’ve accepted. Students come from all over the country, and flights are a significant expense for college students who likely already self-finance books and necessities. 

Dunlap said, “I work two jobs, and while I enjoy them, being a full-time student with many extracurriculars at the same time is exhausting. And I'm definitely not the only one. Students are working long hours around the university just to scrape by.” While it is great that the university is taking strides to make campus a more diverse space, students who come to BC in an economically vulnerable situation should not have to worry about problems that they were promised wouldn’t exist with Questbridge. Helping to cover travel expenses, textbooks, and having greater resources for students who are receiving little or no financial help from their parents would elevate BC’s efforts to a new level.

At the end of the day, QuestBridge students are a remarkable example of what can be achieved when resources are dedicated to furthering equity and inclusion. They are hard workers, motivated, and an amazing asset to any college campus—not just numbers to pad diversity ratings. 

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