Senior Kimberly “Kim” Olea had been obsessively opening and closing her laptop all Wednesday morning. Sitting at lunch with her left fist balled up, she clicked with her right hand.
“I could feel my heart in my throat,” Olea said.
With another click, a new page opened. Congratulations, it read. You’re a finalist.
Olea screamed and jumped up and down twice before falling on the floor. She stood up with tears in her eyes and informed her friends of the news.
Questbridge is a non-profit program that matches high-achieving low-income high school students with the nation’s top rated colleges and universities.
The applicants choose from over thirty-five partner colleges and rank their top choices and similarly the colleges rank the applicants. From there the students are matched to the colleges, which is a binding match and a full-ride with all tuition paid for. However to be matched, the applicants must first be selected as National College Match Finalists. This is a rigorous process and a prestigious award. In 2012, data indicated that less than 4% of original applicants were matched with a college.
However, students at the Ann Richards School have had good luck with Questbridge in the past. Class of 2015 alum, Amanda Campos, was a Questbridge National College Match Finalist and is currently attending the University of Virginia through the program.
This year, Questbridge has named three ARS seniors as National College Match Finalists: Kimberly Olea, Helen Onuorah, and Reyna Ostos.
“I did something last year as a junior with Questbridge called the College Prep Scholarship and during the summer they [Questbridge] emailed me about the National College Match,” explained Onuorah. “It seemed like a good opportunity so I was like hey, why not?”
Despite Onuorah’s soft voice and humble demeanor, she has big aspirations. Her top three college choices are Yale, Columbia, and the University of Notre Dame, all of which she is applying to through Questbridge.
“I was researching the schools, and I found that these ones had really good sciences, especially neuroscience and biology, so things I’m interested in,” Onuorah said, referring to her top choices. “And also I really wanted to travel far and go somewhere colder. I want to experience a different environment. Even though they may have a more difficult curriculum, the student life seems engaging.”
On the other hand, Reyna Ostos, the third ARS Class of 2016 Questbridge National College Match finalist, has her sights set on (mostly) California.
“Rice, Stanford, USC, Pomona, Scripps are my top choices,” said Ostos, counting off the five schools on her fingers.
Ostos decided to apply to Questbridge after talking to Mr. Heineman and hearing about ARS Class of 2015 alum, Amanda Campos. However, although Ostos was doubtful about getting selected as a finalist, she dealt with the experience with a positive mindset.
“Even if I didn’t get it, I told myself I’d be okay. Mr. Heineman seemed very positive which helped me feel better,” Ostos said.
With incredibly low acceptance rates, Ostos wasn’t the only one with doubts about being selected as a finalist. All three finalists shared Ostos’ uncertainty, and Onuorah even began to write off the opportunity fearing that she had not met some of the Questbridge requirements and standards.
“I wasn’t really sure. I wasn’t expecting too much,” said Onuorah. “And so it [being a Questbridge Finalist] kind of took me a second to process. Like it was so weird and crazy but then I felt really happy.”
The National College Match Finalists will find out if they’ve been matched and with which schools on December 1st. Until then it’s all a waiting game and it looks like Olea will be obsessively checking her laptop once more in a little over a month.