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Program gives OHS senior full-ride to Ivy League college

June 09, 2010 - Dreams can and do come true just ask Oxford High School senior Lindsay Stairs.

Although she certainly has the brains and the academic record to attend any college or university she wishes, her choices were limited by her family's income.

But thanks to a program called QuestBridge, Stairs will be attending the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League college, on a full four-year scholarship.

"I always thought I'd be going to a small state school," she said. "Now, I get to actually go to one of the best universities in the world with a full ride."

QuestBridge's National College Match program connects high-achieving low-income students with admission and full scholarships to 27 of the nation's most selective colleges. The program's been around since 1994.

Last year, QuestBridge's partner colleges offered admission and more than $100 million in financial aid to over 1,000 students who applied to the National College Match program. Of those, 260 received full four-year scholarships.

Stairs had never heard of QuestBridge until she received an e-mail from the nonprofit program last August.

"I had no idea who they were," she said. "I thought it was like some kind of scam at first."

Once she determined it was a legitimate program, Stairs, who scored a 31 on the ACT test and has a GPA of 3.937, wasted no time working on the "really intense" application that required her to write numerous essays and obtain recommendations from teachers and counselors.

It took her about a month to complete the application.

According to the program's website, the application "is designed to help high-achieving students turn their low-income status into an advantage in the college admissions process.

"The application includes numerous questions and essay prompts that aid students in presenting a full picture of their intellectual promise and personal qualities in light of the obstacles they have overcome."

Applying to the National College Match is completely free of charge. QuestBridge charges no fees to students for any of its programs.

For her efforts, Stairs was rewarded with a four-year scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, which covers the $55,000 annual cost of tuition, room and board.

Thanks to QuestBridge, she'll also receive money for books and supplies, travel expenses and health insurance plus a work-study package to help her cover personal and other expenses.

Stairs has already toured Penn's campus and can't wait to begin her studies this fall at the College of Arts and Sciences.

"It's beautiful. It's really old and has amazing architecture," she said. "It looks like a fun city. There's so much stuff to do. I'm looking forward to it a lot."

Stairs plans to major in astrophysics with the hopes of later obtaining her doctorate and one day working for NASA.

She's extremely grateful to QuestBridge for providing her with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"It's a really great program," Stairs said. "More people should know about it."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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