Emory Report
October 27, 2008
Volume 61, Number 9



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October 27
, 2008
QuestBridge paves way for bright applicants

By Beverly Clark

Freshman Dennis Nguyen remembers the day late last fall when he found out he was going to Emory University — and with a full ride.

“My mom was crying and my dad couldn’t have had a prouder expression on his face,” says Nguyen, one of Emory’s first QuestBridge Scholars.

Emory joined a select coalition of schools last year to partner with QuestBridge, a national nonprofit that links highly qualified, low-income students with full four-year scholarships and support at some of the nation’s best colleges. The campus welcomed its first group of QuestBridge Scholars this fall — 10 for Emory College of Arts and Sciences and one at Oxford College. Hailing from around the country, from Los Angeles to Charleston, S.C., many in the group say the program has offered them extraordinary access to a college education.

The youngest of four (with a sister who went to Emory as well), Nguyen says his parents have always stressed education, and becoming a QuestBridge Scholar has removed major hurdles to getting a degree.
Kelly Ann Gracia, a scholar from Brownsville, Texas, is the first in her family to attend college. Her path to Emory began during her junior year in high school when she was introduced to QuestBridge.

“This program has meant the world for me and my family, and gave us hope to find ways to achieve what was thought to be impossible,” Gracia says. “I come from a family with a very weak financial background, and so going to a major university like Emory was out of the picture, but QuestBridge helped me to reach my very ambitious goals.”

Like most students, the QuestBridge scholars were attracted to Emory for its standing as one of the best universities in the country and strong liberal arts education, along with opportunities for research, service and study abroad.

And like all freshmen, they’re learning how to adapt to their new environs.

“The transition has been extreme — I have had to learn to be completely independent. I’m no longer surrounded by my family and friends — I am now solely responsible for myself academically and financially,” says Gracia, who works in Woodruff Library part-time to cover expenses not included in her scholarship. But since arriving here, she has formed several new goals, including going to medical school, taking part in study abroad and to continue the “gratifying work” of community service.

“The inaugural class has already had a tremendous impact on Emory College…I know many of these students personally, and already find them deeply engaged throughout the fabric of our community,” says Santa Ono, senior vice provost for undergraduate education. To further their development as members of the Emory community, a reception for the scholars is in the works for later this fall, and the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services held a retreat over fall break for QuestBridge Scholars and others, he said.

Through QuestBridge’s college match program, high school seniors chosen as finalists have their names and applications submitted by QuestBridge to college “partners” during the early admissions cycle in lieu of submitting their applications directly to schools. The colleges then rank the students they are interested in, and the students rank their top-choice colleges. If there is a match, the student receives a scholarship package that includes full cost of tuition, books and room and board.

Students who do not find a match during the early admissions cycle may apply to their top choices during regular decision. Including the “match” scholars, more than 50 students from the QuestBridge program are on campus this year. Many have received financial support through Emory Advantage loan replacement grants.
“The QuestBridge program is important to Emory as it helps us find high ability students from under-represented groups who might not otherwise consider us,” Ono says. “This helps diversify the student body and enrich the undergraduate experience for all.”