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The Growth of Questbridge


If you read some of the press releases that colleges put out earlier this year about the selection of their classes, especially in the early rounds, you might have noticed a reference to a group of students called “Questbridge Scholars.” These are predominantly low-income, often underserved minority students who have been matched with highly selective schools via the Questbridge organization. When Questbridge students get matched with a college, the college provides nearly a full ride for them. It’s a benefit for students, but it’s also a benefit for colleges, who get academically qualified, but underrepresented kids, by using Questbridge as the middle-man.

Questbridge has grown substantially in the last five years

For those who don’t know how this all works, here’s a primer:

- High school students apply to Questbridge prior to their senior year. Last year, over 16,000 students applied for just 6,300 spots. The competition is fierce because the prize can be big - a full ride to college.

- Those 6,300 finalists then apply to the 45 schools that Questbridge partners with. The finalists rank up to 10 schools, and if there is a match between school and student, that student receives the scholarship. Last year, almost 1,700 students matched in the early round.

- If you don’t match in the early round, then finalists can apply in the regular round without any application fees. Last year, 2,000 of the remaining finalists were accepted by Questbridge partner schools, and all were provided with 100% of their financial need. That’s not necessarily a full ride, but it might be.

Questbridge, which collects a fee from colleges for its services, has grown substantially in the last five years. As colleges demand more diversity in their incoming classes, Questbridge provides an efficient way of finding it. Back in 2016, Questbridge placed 767 students across 38 colleges. In 2021, the organization placed 1,674 students across 45 college partners. That is a 118% increase in placements over five years. And the growth has come not just from signing new schools, but by gaining greater penetration at individual schools. The number of students taken varies by college, but on average, colleges went from taking 20 students per year to taking 37 students per year. This year, Yale matched with 81 Questbridge scholars, representing about 5% of its incoming class.

Expect organizations like Questbridge and others, like the Posse Foundation (which places of clusters of low-income students from similar backgrounds together at the same college to help them adapt), to continue to grow in importance. As highly selective colleges struggle with an influx of applications, Questbridge acts like a national clearinghouse for a certain type of sought-out student that have already been vetted.This is hugely valuable to colleges looking to meet institutional priorities that their own admissions infrastructures may not be able to accommodate.

Tim Brennan
April 29, 2022
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