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Opportunity for high-achieving American Indian students

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Have you dreamed of going to a top-ranking university like Stanford or Yale? You’re in luck, this might be the perfect opportunity for you.

QuestBridge, a nonprofit organization, has been working with high-achieving, low-income students since 1994. This year, they are reaching out to the American Indian community to identify and encourage more students to apply for their programs.

“QuestBridge strives to reach smart, poor, motivated kids,” said QuestBridge CEO David Hunter. “We have helped a lot of kids in the past but we think there is a way to reach more qualified students.”

According to its Web site, the organization’s goal is to serve “as an intermediary between the nation’s brightest, under-served youth and leading institutions of higher education.” QuestBridge began as the Quest Scholars Program in 1994, consisting of a five-week college preparation course for high school juniors held at Stanford University. In 2004, the QuestBridge Project was launched in an effort to increase the number of applicants, utilizing the Internet to increase its outreach.

Today, the nonprofit offers opportunities for qualified applicants to apply for college admission and full four-year scholarships. The QuestBridge National College Match works with 25 partner colleges actively seeking high-achieving students who have shown academic success despite financial status. These selective and top-ranked colleges offer generous financial aid packages that cover 100 percent of demonstrated financial need, making them affordable (sometimes even free) for students from low-income backgrounds.

Last year, more than 1,000 QuestBridge applicants were admitted to partner colleges with financial aid packages totaling more than $100 million; 260 of those students received College Match scholarships covering the full cost of tuition (up to $40,000 per year) and full cost of room and board (up to $15,000 per year). Many partner colleges also include the cost of books and travel in scholarship packages and automatically renew the scholarship for all four years of college. All College Match scholarships are loan free.

QuestBridge’s 25 partner schools include many of the nation’s top-ranked universities and liberal arts colleges, like Yale, MIT, Caltech, Stanford and Vassar.

“Our partner colleges have expressed an interest in finding qualified Native applicants,” said QuestBridge Director of Student Recruitment John Embree. “We are looking for students who have overcome obstacles and who can flourish academically at our partner colleges.”

Some of the key benefits of the National College Match program include: full four-year scholarships with no loans, access to top-ranked colleges, and a national Quest Scholars Network that offers assistance in the college application process. There are also Quest for Excellence Awards that provide laptop computers, all-expense paid visits to partner colleges and career mentoring.

College Match is designed for high school seniors who have shown outstanding academic ability despite facing economic challenges. While GPA, standardized test scores and income are factors in determining admission to the program, QuestBridge does not have fixed criteria or minimum requirements for applicants.

“We are interested in diversifying our pool of applicants,” said Taylor Altman, program associate working in Native American recruitment. “The application is very detailed, but it gives the students the opportunity to give a full picture of their lives and their experiences.”

For the past two years, about two percent of students who received full scholarships were American Indian/Alaska Native; this translates to about five Native students per year. QuestBridge is interested in increasing the number of American Indian students applying for their programs.

The application is now available on the QuestBridge Web site and is due Sept. 30.

In the spring, QuestBridge offers another program for juniors called the College Prep Scholarship, which provides more than 1,000 awards that equip outstanding, low-income high school juniors with the necessary knowledge and skills to compete for admission to top-ranked colleges; the application will be due in spring 2010.

Natasha Dixon and her son Jordan Phillips, a high school junior and QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship student, attended the QuestBridge College Admission Conference held this summer at Yale. “I was struck by how genuine the people were at the conference,” Dixon said. “They really wanted to help my son and the other students with the application process. I was really impressed with the people and their desire to help.”

“Be sure to know your talents and your strengths when filling out the application,” said Michael McCullough, QuestBridge president and co-founder. “The online application can open the doors for other opportunities with QuestBridge including internships, mentorships and job placement.”