In the Schools: QuestBridge, Milika Scholars connect students to college opportunities

QuestBridge is a scholarship program aimed at helping juniors and seniors of low-income backgrounds apply to and attend one of 40 elite institutions across the country.

The program consists of two parts: the College Prep Scholars program and the National College Match.

Juniors can apply to the College Prep Scholars program, and from about 12,000 applicants, 3,000 to 4,000 are chosen. As a College Prep Scholar, summer program opportunities are available and a student’s chances of being selected for the National College Match are increased.

The National College Match is for seniors. If selected as a finalist, one gets to apply early decision to up to 12 of the 40 elite partner schools, with a chance to be accepted and receive a full ride to that school.

For students not matched, their QuestBridge journey continues on through QuestBridge regular decision, which often makes it easier to receive admission from one of the 40 partner schools. Some of these schools include Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, Williams College, MIT, CalTech, Pomona and Wesleyan.

In the recent year, two Waterford students, Jannatul Anika and Milan Patel, have participated in the QuestBridge scholarship program. While Anika was not selected as a finalist for the National College Match, she finds that having been a College Prep Scholar “allowed me to gain opportunities and services that at first weren’t feasible, and I was able to connect with people that go through similar adversities but persevere through them.”

Anika was able to attend a national QuestBridge Conference at Yale last summer, where she met fellow College Prep Scholars and was able to interact with partner school admissions teams, learn how to write college essays more efficiently and discuss strategies for a strong college application.

Anika continues to be a part of the QuestBridge community, even as she is not attending a QuestBridge partner school. Anika finds that the opportunities and community that QuestBridge provides in itself is a great benefit.

Beyond Waterford, about 20% of 2018 finalists were from the Northeast. One such student is Caroline Useda from Waterbury, who will be attending Amherst College. Useda feels that the largest positive about QuestBridge is “probably the opportunities and resources that QB gives not just applying to college, but during college as well.”

Moreover, Useda states that “I personally hadn’t even heard of the school where I’ll be attending outside of (QuestBridge), and the program exposed me to many other great schools I had the opportunity to learn about and apply to.”

In comparison to the Common Application and Coalition Application, QuestBridge offers an arguably more complete evaluation of an applicant through its thorough, specific and free application.

Additionally, QuestBridge stays with the student throughout the application process as well as during and after college. Finalists who attends a QuestBridge school join the QuestBridge Scholars network, which helps with college life as well as career development.

In doing so, QuestBridge can make large changes in one’s life. Information about QuestBridge can be found on its website.

But QuestBridge isn’t the only option for Waterford High students. Understanding the overload on guidance counselors, Anika and Patel have created Milika Scholars, a program designed to help students get into the college of their choice.

The program will help juniors with monthly reminders of things to get done. For example, for the month of March, a focus was placed on AP test preparation, SAT studying and starting the Common Application. Furthermore, Milika Scholars has compiled a list of scholarships to apply to for both juniors and seniors, so that they are easier to find.

As the year progresses, each scholar will start to receive more personalized guidance and help with college research. During the application season, the program will also provide mentorship for essay writing and other components of applying to college.

Milika is a free service compared to $200 an hour sometimes charged by college consultants.

“Milika Scholars is a service we provide purely to help juniors and make applying to and getting into college a bit easier,” Anika said.

Milika Scholars is open to any local students; email scholars.milika@gmail.com.

This story is part of the Times' young journalists program. To participate, email times@theday.com.

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