3 years ago
Admissions Advice

Should I apply through Questbridge or go through the Common App

Hello, so there are multiple colleges I am interested in that are partners with Questbridge. I have a 4.0, 5 APs by the end of senior year, and numerous awards, something that you might see in a typical Questbridge Applicant. However, I recognize that Questbridge is a wonderful opportunity but I am not sure if I am even worthy of being a finalist or should I even apply in the first place and I feel like I would have a better chance of getting into a school through the Common App. Through Questbridge they typically award people who are first-gen and are in a family that makes less than $65,000. I am not first gen and my family makes a little over $65,000 but my parents are divorced so that is where the financial situation gets difficult. However through the Common App, they don't necessarily prioritize first-gen and low income people, they just want to see everything you have to offer. My biggest concern is financial security. Do I go with the route that could possibly give me financial security with a less chance of getting into my dream school or do with the route where I could face financial hardship but have a better chance of getting into the school.


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3 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago[edited]

Just to be clear for other readers, Questbridge, Common App, and Coalition App are 3 separate ways to apply to college. QB is for high achieving low-income students and you have to apply to the program and get picked as a QB scholar or QB Match finalist in order to participate. The first step is applying to the QB college prep scholars program as a junior, that process is over for 2021. 26% of 15000+ applicants were admitted (down from accepting 30% of 12600 last year.) The next hurdle is the QB Match finalists. Last year 18500 applied and 6775 (37%) made it. This year I'm guessing 21000 will apply and they will admit 32% into the program since the QBSP got 2500 more applicants. If you are a finalist you can rank up to 10 QB partner schools so essentially apply early decision to 10 schools. More than ever in this hyper-competitive environment that gives high-achieving low-income students a huge advantage. And it helps partner colleges get their DEI quotas done with in the early round.


It's not a perfect system because a.) it's only 45 out of the top 100 schools. 2.) if you match, you are absolutely bound to that school, 3.) the application is just a long and complicated as the common or coalition app. (you still have to fill out your FAFSA, CSS profiles etc) 4. It's not scholarship from QB. QB gets paid X $$$$ per student they place into a partner school and the college awards you the scholarship (either 4 x 1-year scholarships (IVYs) you have to re-apply for each year or a 4-year full ride) So you are planning to apply to Ivys or Elites anyway and feel you have a great shot of getting in, it might not be the best path because Harvard, Cornell, JHU, NYU, Harvey Mudd and others are not part QB. Also, YALE and STANFORD only allow you to apply ED through QB, not SCREA so if you get matched to Yale or Stanford through QB, you absolutely have to go. I imagine MIT will go that route as well this cycle.

To answer the questions.

1.) Both the common and coalition app have financial questions like will you be applying for a fee waiver so there is no way around them knowing you are low income or not. Also, all the schools require a FAFSA and or a CSS profile. So all 3 paths require you to be 100% transparent about your family income and assets.

2.) QB doesn't give you financial security because only 7.9% (2020) were matched with full rides. Full-ride doesn't mean free. You still have to do work-study and if your EFC on your FAFSA says your contribution is $5000 you pay that as well. And there is most likely a student contribution. So no matter what you are on the hook for $5-10K. Pretty much the same deal if you apply directly through the common app or coalition app. Also, many schools have a renewal policy so you have to re-apply for Financial Aid your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year as well.

3.) QB uses a holistic evaluation process so all the requirements are guidelines. If your family income is 80,000 but there are 5 kids and 2 are in college, well that will be taken into consideration. But if your family income is 65K because you live with 1 divorced parent but your dad has his new family and he makes say 110K, well you are not going to qualify because he is still on the hook to pay for your college until you are 21 in most instances whether or not he lives with you. And if you are not the first generation that's okay to 24% of successful QB finalists are not first Gen.

If you are first-gen, the 2 best paths are QB and Coalition App.

Both give you fee waivers to all the partner schools automatically.

So if you match 10 QB schools that save you like $750.00. But coalition does one better, after you fill out the fee waiver on Coalition, you get fee waivers on all 140 schools. On the common app, you have to request a fee waiver one at a time which is time-consuming.

The coalition app also has a locker feature that allows you to upload videos, PDF files, and other media, including links. So if you are applying to Harvard on Coalition you have many more tools at your disposal, not just essays and recommendations. You can give Harvard access to all your locker contents.

If you decided to apply to Questbridge and are chosen as a finalist you will be given the choice of a.) Ranking up to 10 ED colleges from the list of 45, b.) or Forgoing ranking and just applying RD later either using the Questbridge App or Common App but not the Coalition App since QB and Coalition are not integrated. If you do not wish to rank you have the option of applying to any other college like Harvard, JHU or Cornell Early Decision through the Common or Coaltion app. If you are accepted ED into a non-QB school, you must rescind your QB application. In addition, you can choose to apply to Stanford, or Yale, or MIT using their SCREA application which is different than applying through QB, since I believe all 3 will be ED status during the next application cycle.

Exceptions to the QuestBridge Early Application Policy

Students may apply to any college or university that requires an early application for eligibility to special scholarships or programs, as long as the admissions decision is non-binding.

Students may apply to their home-state public college or university with a non-binding early application option, as long as applying to QuestBridge does not violate that college's policies.

Students may apply to any college or university with a non-binding rolling admission process.

JUST TO CLARIFY, the only reason someone who is a QB finalist would use either the Common or Coalition app is for early decisions or SCREA if they are not themselves going to take advantage of the ranking opportunity.

Hope that helps.

3 years ago

Hi, thank you for asking your question. @CameronBameron has provided a detailed and thorough response that was terrific! They provided a link to clarify details as well as statistics for you to asses where you are in relation to other QuestBridge scholarship applicants.

3 years ago

First thing you have to do is to get accepted into the program and I’d encourage filling it out as if you get in great if you don’t it’s just time that’s wasted. You’d regret what you don’t do rather than what you do do. However don’t pin your hopes solely to QB and definitely fill out the CA and use it if you don’t get in and to schools that don’t accept QB.

However I do want to note taht CA or QB is better inherently as one is like Colaution v Common where it’s just different except the QB best demonstrates financial diffucultly. However if you get accepted to let’s say Harvard that meets full need you’d get that regardless of application.

Hope this helps and feel free to comment if you’s like clarification as I’d be more than happy to help!

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