Since 2007, the University of Notre Dame has partnered with QuestBridge National College Match, a college admission and scholarship process that allows high-achieving, low-income students to be admitted with full four-year scholarships to college partners.
Notre Dame is one of 48 college partners. Over the last five years, the number of students annually matched through QuestBridge to Notre Dame has grown from 23 to 90.
Christy Pratt, director of admissions, explains that navigating college admissions can be hard, especially for families doing it for the first time. “Admissions is basically a second language,” Pratt said.
The application process through QuestBridge is unique. The National College Match application focuses on the achievements and academic success of students facing economic challenges, and QuestBridge helps guide applicants through the college admissions process.
During the match process, students rank up to 12 colleges in order of preference. Students can then be “matched” — or admitted with a guaranteed full four-year Match Scholarship meeting the full cost of attendance — to the college that appears highest on their list that is also interested in matching with them.
“I think QuestBridge truly demonstrates the mission of Notre Dame. When Notre Dame says we are a force for good, that is truly what QuestBridge is,” Pratt said. “So it’s just a great mission alignment with Notre Dame.”
Eric Kim, admissions counselor and a 2020 QuestBridge alumnus, said he had not considered Notre Dame for undergraduate studies before going through the National College Match process.
“QuestBridge gave me the confidence and assurance that regardless of my financial background, I should dream big and apply to highly selective universities,” Kim said. “I am truly grateful for QuestBridge and all the opportunities and resources that the organization has provided me to become a Notre Dame alum.”
Ultimately, Kim’s experience with QuestBridge led him to his career in college admissions.
“I know that there are many high school students who are in similar situations where they are unaware of the many resources that higher education institutions, like Notre Dame, provide for high-achieving, first-generation and/or low-income students,” he said. “I hope that, by working in admissions, I can bridge this gap by communicating with these students that a Notre Dame education is possible for them.”
Pratt added, “I am grateful that Eric is a member of my staff and can share his experience as a QuestBridge scholar with prospective students and their families. QuestBridge holds a very dear part of his heart too.”
Senior Axell Komlan, a science preprofessional studies major and theology minor from Phoenix, was accepted into the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program as a high school junior. The program equipped him with the knowledge, confidence and resources needed to apply to top colleges. “Going through that process kind of helped to increase my confidence going into the QuestBridge College Match application,” Komlan said.
Once it was time for Komlan to rank his top universities, he put Notre Dame at the top of his list because of his interest in an academically rigorous institution and the University’s Catholic mission.
“I liked the way Notre Dame integrated intellectual formation and Christian spirituality in a way to be a force for good in the modern world,” he said. “Notre Dame really encourages you to use your gifts, use your talents, use your knowledge to learn about systems and structures of injustice, and tackle them head-on.”
Komlan said he found some of his most meaningful connections on campus through the Notre Dame QuestBridge Scholars Network (QSN). The Notre Dame QSN offers a mentorship program and hosts a variety of social events.
As past president of the Notre Dame QSN, Komlan focused his efforts on coordinating events for the community and advocating for more resources for first-generation, low-income students. Due to the pandemic, most events were virtual while Komlan was president.
“We kind of had to be creative in some ways,” Komlan said. “My favorite thing as president was coordinating with the (University) president’s office to put on the president’s reception.”
Komlan emceed the event, which featured remarks from University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and former provost Marie Lynn Miranda.
“The goal of it was to put on an event that shows that the Notre Dame community officially recognizes the presence of its first-generation, low-income students on campus, and not only limited to QuestBridge, but also AnBryce, Fighting Irish Scholars, Hesburgh Scholars, Galvin Scholars,” he said.
Komlan hopes that the University continues to expand its resources and support for these students on campus. “Even though I’m not president this year, my biggest concern still has been trying to advocate for increasing the scope of tutoring on campus,” he said.
In addition to the Notre Dame QSN, in 2021 Notre Dame launched the Transformational Leaders pilot program. This is an “evolution of the University’s commitment to the QuestBridge scholars program,” said Maria McKenna, director of the Transformational Leaders Program and associate professor of the practice in the Department of Africana Studies and the Education, Schooling and Society Program. “It provides an academic piece of support for students in a way that helps them build community and build an academic community to connect pathways to opportunities at Notre Dame.”
Komlan said that the creation of the Transformational Leaders Program is “definitely a step in the right direction.”
For information on QuestBridge, visit www.questbridge.org.