As high school seniors across the nation plan their adult lives, many are considering colleges and universities. Invariably, these questions are guided by a single factor: how to pay for it.
While scholarships are an option, these are often competitive and come with a host of application requirements.
The Questbridge scholarship is perhaps one of the most onerous of these, coming with myriad essays and detailed descriptions of school and extracurricular activities.
Indeed, out of 20,800 students who applied this year, just 2,242 nationwide received “full-ride” scholarships that include tuition, housing and food, books and supplies, as well as travel expenses.
And six of these are from Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
Pajaro Valley High students Andrea Roman-Fernandez, Ruby Romero-Maya and Marcos Gonzalez-Florez will be going to Stanford University, Brown University and Colby College in Maine, respectively.
All have weighted GPAs hovering above 4.0.
Brisa Becerra-Cornejo from Aptos High will attend Yale, and Watsonville High students Eli Romero Ortiguza and America Lopez will attend Stanford and Boston College, respectively.
Palo Alto-based Questbridge is a nonprofit that connects high-performing students from low-income backgrounds with colleges and universities.
Gonzalez says he plans to study either engineering or computer science, which he says he chose for the guaranteed employment opportunities.
He says he’ll miss his 3-year-old sister when he makes the 3,600-mile trip to Waterville, Maine, and says the scholarship, which was announced Dec. 1, still comes as a shock.
“It definitely feels surreal,” he said. “Sometimes I log back into the portal to check, because I can’t believe I won it.”
He says his academic success comes from the dedication he put into his studies.
“It just comes down to, find a passion and really dedicate your time to it,” he said.
Romero-Maya said her desire to study environmental science began when she was part of the Green Team at Calabasas Elementary School.
“With that I started getting into what it means to help out my community,” she said.
She says her educational philosophy includes being organized, which she noted is evidenced by a packed, color-coded planner.
But that should be coupled with a willingness to take a chance.
“Go for it, and take a risk,” she said, when asked her advice for younger students.
Also, one should be willing to seek assistance when needed.
“Always, always ask for help, because there will be people there to support you no matter what,” she said. “It’s just about reaching out.”
Roman-Fernandez was inspired to become a pediatrician after seeing doctors and other medical professionals in action after her mother was in a car crash.
She credits her older sister—who was the first in her family to go to college—for her inspiration to succeed.
Before that, she wasn’t sure if Stanford—where she has wanted to attend for years—was a realistic goal.
“Never let doubt make anything impossible,” she said of the personal philosophy she hopes to impart to younger students. “Leave those fears behind.”