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‘A National Admissions Office’ for Low-Income Strivers

Arianna Trickey was opening a piece of mail in her bedroom during junior year of high school when a pamphlet fell out of the envelope. The pamphlet seemed to offer the impossible: the prospect of a full scholarship to several of her dream colleges.

She went running out to her father, a house painter, who was sitting on the family’s porch in Grass Valley, a California city in the Sierra Nevada foothills. “You have to see this,” she told him. “This is the scholarship that will get me to the best schools in the country.”

The pamphlet was from a nonprofit organization called QuestBridge, which has quietly become one of the biggest players in elite-college admissions. Almost 300 undergraduates at Stanford this year, or 4 percent of the student body, came through QuestBridge. The share at Amherst is 11 percent, and it’s 9 percent at Pomona. At Yale, the admissions office has changed its application to make it more like QuestBridge’s.