The Student News Site of Rockville High School


The Student News Site of Rockville High School


The Student News Site of Rockville High School


Two Rockville Seniors Awarded Full-Ride QuestBridge Scholarships

Two Rockville Seniors Awarded Full-Ride QuestBridge Scholarships
Stephy Zhang holds her QuestBridge certificate and Princeton banner.
Isaac Padilla points to his Northwestern apparel.

Two Rockville seniors received full-ride QuestBridge scholarships to attend globally ranked universities this fall. Isaac Padilla will attend Northwestern University as a mechanical engineering major and Stephy Zhang will attend Princeton University as a computer science major. 

QuestBridge is a national organization that grants low-income and high-achieving students admission to nearly 50 of the top liberal arts and research universities in the country. Recipients receive a full scholarship of over $200,000 which covers tuition, fees, housing, food, books, supplies, and travel expenses. 

“When I clicked the view status on the portal and there was confetti coming down, it was a huge congratulations,” Zhang said. “I just screamed, ‘What the heck?!’”

Padilla and Zhang are two out of 13 MCPS seniors who received full-ride QuestBridge scholarships this year. Nationally, the QuestBridge program matched 2,242 finalists to their college partners. 

“Mostly I was just relieved [to win], I didn’t want to put in all that work to get nothing,” Padilla said. “Seeing that the hard work did pay off was a weight off my shoulders.”

QuestBridge uses a match system to connect students to a university. After submitting a preliminary application in September, participants must rank their top college choices in a binding list. By late October, QuestBridge releases their selected finalists who are then able to complete additional Match Requirement supplements for each of the universities on their list. 

“When [my mom] heard my screams she thought there was a bug, but I ran down and told her I got into Princeton,” Zhang said.

Both Padilla and Zhang completed previous experiences with the QuestBridge organization to learn about the program and boost their chances of becoming a finalist. Padilla was admitted into QuestBridge’s College Prep Scholars Program and attended a college program at Emory University. Zhang attended the same program in her junior year and attended QuestBridge’s National College Admissions Conference virtually.

“Going into it you hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” Padilla said. “I wouldn’t be unhappy with any of the schools I ranked, if I got into any of them I’d be happy. ”

Any high school senior looking to pursue higher education is eligible to apply for the QuestBridge scholarship. However, the program is mainly targeted towards low-income minority students, though many factors such as household circumstances are also considered. Competitive finalists often receive high grades in rigorous courses and show extracurricular engagement.

The QuestBridge scholarship was minorly advertised at Rockville High School. Both Padilla and Zhang learned about and applied to the scholarship program on their own.

“The school didn’t really tell me anything about [the scholarship],” Padilla said. “I saw something on the MoCo Show about some seniors who got a full-ride scholarship last year, and I was like, ‘wow cool.’”

While Princeton wasn’t Zhang’s first ranked school and Northwestern wasn’t Padilla’s first ranked school, both students are thankful and excited to attend their future universities. Zhang most looks forward to Princeton’s numerous extracurricular groups and making new friends, and Padilla most looks forward to making new connections with future peers. 

“It is a long shot but I think it’s worth doing,” Padilla said. “It’s a go big or go home and this is really big, it covers everything, so I think it’s definitely worth it for most people to try and get the scholarship.”

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