QuestBridge grew from a core belief that all students deserve to reach their full potential, regardless of their financial background. This belief sparked an idea that turned a local summer program for a handful of high school juniors into a national nonprofit that has served over 100,000 high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds. The generosity and commitment of many individuals throughout the organization’s history has made this growth possible.

The origins of QuestBridge

Co-founded in 1994 by Ana Rowena Mallari and Dr. Michael McCullough while they attended Stanford University, QuestBridge began as a five-week residential summer program for high-achieving high school juniors from low-income backgrounds. While being immersed in the day-to-day life at a top college, students were encouraged to think critically about complex, real-world problems. The intellectual curiosity that was sparked by the rigorous academic environment was complemented by an intentional focus on internal growth. Ana and Michael built in daily reflection time for students to engage with what they were experiencing in a way that felt authentic to each individual.

The focus on internal growth – rather than academic outcomes – helped students thrive as they explored the abundant opportunities available at a top college. At the end of the five weeks, students were well-prepared to begin the college application process as seniors.


Five weeks is not long enough to end a journey, but it is long enough to begin one.

Dr. Michael McCullough, QuestBridge Co-Founder

Expanding our reach

Through the five-week residential summer program, Ana and Michael saw the immense, untapped potential in bright, motivated students from low-income backgrounds. They realized that most of high school juniors in the program matriculated to top colleges. Knowing that the vast majority of students from low-income backgrounds do not apply to even one selective college*, Ana and Michael decided to scale QuestBridge to make a greater impact.

In 2004, QuestBridge brought on Amherst College, Grinnell College, and Rice University as its first college partners, admitting students with full four-year scholarships through the National College Match. This unique model for college admissions was built on the lessons learned from Ana and Michael’s experiences with high school juniors. Having witnessed how students thrived when they were in a community of people from a similar background, Ana and Michael knew that low-income students needed more than a path to college – they also needed support through and beyond college. The QuestBridge Scholars Network and Alumni Association were formed to provide this ongoing support.

As more students gain admission through the National College Match each year, the QuestBridge Scholars Network and Alumni Association expand as well. National Quest Day became an annual tradition to celebrate the entire QuestBridge community. Opportunities like QB Convene, the Graduate School Match, and the Summer Professional Experience Program were created in response to feedback from the QuestBridge community about their desire for lifelong learning and growth. As an innovative and entrepreneurial nonprofit, QuestBridge continues to develop programs that equip the QuestBridge community to create a life they love.

In 2019, QuestBridge celebrated its 25th anniversary by inviting all QuestBridge Scholars and Alumni to San Francisco for a two-day summit honoring the entire community. Over 1,200 Scholars attended the celebration, including many Alumni who participated in the original five-week residential program 25 years prior.

When asked how QuestBridge has changed their lives, Scholars said that it has given them hope, opportunity, and possibilities. These words also describe the future that Scholars are shaping for themselves, their families, and their communities.

*Source: “The Missing ‘One-Offs’: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students,” by Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery; National Bureau of Economic Research