How can I best get a sense of the 'QuestBridge story' from an applicant without seeming too intrusive?

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Answers from the QuestBridge Educator Advisory Committee: 

  • Spending time in casual conversation usually reveals a pretty detailed student story.
  • Distributing a questionnaire to all juniors, which includes one or more college application essay prompts about their background or their story is one way.  It can be optional, but encouraged, and let them know that you are asking as a way to help you get to know them and be able to direct them to college and scholarship opportunities.
  • As an educator, counselor, or administrator I feel that getting your student's story is essential as a core component of the job. Many students are proud to share their stories, especially those you have overcome some level of adversity. Putting their basic story together with academic achievement and extracurricular activities you can begin to build the puzzle and determine if the student has a 'QuestBridge' story. Some stories will catch your attention immediately and have a impact; however, other stories may be hidden a little deeper and have built up over time.
  • Try to shape your question in terms of "What makes you stand out from other students who have the same scores as you?" I often ask my students, 'How would I know you had to work hard to make these grades and test scores?" Most students in today's competitive college admissions culture probably have a sense of their "QuestBridge story" before you even ask them about it--it won't take much coaxing if they know what kind of money may be at stake.
  • Students have to feel comfortable and want to share their story with you.  Many willingly tell me their story.  Because our population is so large, our guidance department and many of the teachers refer students to me that they feel have a genuine QuestBridge story.
  • I ask students to tell me why a college education is important to them and to give me examples of how they have persevered and stayed focused despite daily challenges while excelling both in school and in their community.
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4 Comments

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    Barry Carrus

    As I engage in conversation about QuestBridge with potential applicants, it always amazes me how much they really want to tell their story. By the time our initial conversations come to an end, I have a very detailed picture of what the student's situation is all about.

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    Richard Tench

    Make it casual. Many of us that recommend students to QuestBridge have a good relationship with students and there is no need to a formal interview or background check to see if they have a 'QuestBridge story', simply talk with them. Students are more willing to share their stories than you think and if you take the time for some small talk you can learn more than you ever imagined.

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    Shelly Gorman

    Barry and Richard made very good points.  For students we know well, it is more of a follow-up conversation.  For those I don't know so well, I explain the opportunities provided by Questbridge, let the student know that I think they'd be a good candidate, and ask them to consider applying.  If they are interested, I ask them to share whatever they want about their life so far, how they have come to do so well in school, and if anything has been difficult. Some share a great deal right away; some others who have endured hardship don't want to complain,or find it hard to say the words aloud.  Because of this, I encourage them to write their essay early and share it with me so I can give them some feedback.  Showing me their essay is never required, rather it is offered as support.  More than once, I have found out something very significant through reading an essay.  Once they have shared their essay, they speak very freely, often with a great sense of relief.  This helps me to recommend them, and to be a source of ongoing support.

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    Max Jones

    I have a lot of my students fill out a form that is intended to help me write their counselor letters for common app and so on...some of the questions ask them to describe their family, their past, and memorable (not necessarily positive) moments in the last few years. I often find a "kernel" of their story in those passages and ask them to elaborate on them. Most will offer without much coaxing (as mentioned above), but even the more reluctant ones will engage in an honest discussion with you if the tarting point has already been laid out by them.

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