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The Scarlet & Black

Questbridge bridges the gap

Carlos Ortiz Campo ’17 competes in the video game tournament hosted by Questbridge last Saturday. Photo contributed

Chances are at some point, all Grinnellians have crossed paths with a Questbridge scholar. Questbridge is a scholarship program that enables students from low-income families to attend the nation’s top colleges, and for three years, Grinnell has partnered with the program. In the past few years, Questbridge scholars were admittedly not very active as a group. This year, a cadre of scholars has decided to build a sense of community and service by planning a variety of events and fundraisers.

The Questbridge selection process begins during the student’s senior year of high school. The process is highly competitive, not unlike the admissions process at elite colleges and universities. While applying, students are able to choose and rank up to eight schools that have partnered with the program, and as of 2012, Grinnell has been one of them. In December, a select number of applicants are designated “Scholars” and given a full ride to a college or university on their list. Other students are designated “finalists,” and while not guaranteed a full ride, many receive comparable aid at a school of their choosing.

Unlike other scholarship programs, however, after the initial acceptance, there is not a lot of support for scholars once they arrive on campus.

“Unlike Posse, where you come in with the group, and you know everyone in the group, and it’s almost mandatory to stick with the group … Questbridge kind of just allows you to come in, they don’t tell you who is a finalist, not even who is a scholar, they’re just like, ‘There you go, you are at college!’” explained Questbridge scholar Dan Davis ’16.

While the Questbridge organization has programs at the national level aimed at helping scholars, during their time on campus, the students are largely left to organize themselves. This year, under the leadership of Amanda Hinchman ’17, the group has attempted to do just that.

“Questbridge scholars are starting to embrace their identity more on campus. … We didn’t have as much of a community before, and now we’re trying to activate and get that community together,” Hinchman said. 

Many of the goals that the Questbridge scholars are striving for center on supporting new students coming into the college. The group is currently attempting to revive a mentorship program for first-year scholars, as well as partnering with the CLS to put together information sessions on topics like financial aid and internships.

“For a lot of us, we’re the first ones going to college, and we were never really handed those resources in life. One of the things we’re trying to focus on, especially this year, is providing those resources,” Hinchman said.

Part of the mission of Questbridge is to give back to the community, and scholars are required to donate a portion of their income after graduation. Many scholars this year, however, decided to start their service early, and the group has already conducted two fundraisers for Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA). The most recent fundraiser, a video game tournament, was held last weekend, and raised around $100 for the organization.

“It was really awesome,” Hinchman said about the tournament. “A lot more people came out then we expected … it looked like everyone was having a good time.”

Next year, the scholars want to fundraise and volunteer through programs at the Meskwaki Nation reservation, and are going to start the process this summer. The group hopes to continue volunteering in the area and at the College to further build a Questbridge community.

“It’s very interesting to see how far the reach of Questbridge has gotten. Because I think that a lot of people are Questbridge students who people don’t necessarily recognize as Questbridge students. Seeing the reach that we have is very impressive for such a small group on campus,” Davis said.

Carlos Ortiz Campo ’17 competes in the video game tournament hosted by Questbridge last Saturday. Photo contributed
Carlos Ortiz Campo ’17 competes in the video game tournament hosted by Questbridge last Saturday. Photo contributed
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