A sophomore at Paulson High School will be heading to Evanston, Illinois next fall to further her education having recently received a full scholarship to attend Northwestern University.
Brookelyn Slonaker received the scholarship through QuestBridge National College Match, a national non-profit organization that connects low-income and potential first-generation college students with 45 prestigious partner universities including Brown, Stanford, and Yale.
“Sometimes you hear about full scholarships, or you see people go to college without debt, but you like that it would never happen to me, how can I put myself in this situation,” Slonaker said. “But it’s real, it’s happening, and it’s happening across the country.”
Slonaker was one of the 16,500 high school students who applied for the match scholarship, which has been scaled down to 6,312 finalists. In the end, just over 1,650 were recognized as Match scholarship recipients, the highest number to date for QuestBridge. There were winners from 49 states, as well as the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.
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Slonaker competes for the top student from her class and has a 4.0 GPA.
She said, “I saw QuestBridge and looked through it and knew I wanted to do it. I knew I could do good things and do big things and that I could leave Montana if I wanted to and I thought maybe that way I wouldn’t be in crippling debt. So for me that mix From just knowing that learning is what I want to do, the support from my parents and all my previous experience with working hard I felt like I could do it and it was manageable.”
She toured several universities with her mother, including the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia, after passing the first few rounds of the application process. But when she stepped foot on the Northwestern campus with her mom, it was love at first sight for both of them.
“We both looked at each other when we got back to the car after the guided tour we went on and we were like ‘This is the one, this is the one, I have to go here,'” Slonaker said. I look back.”
Slonker considers Northwestern University her dream school and plans to pursue a degree in speech pathology.
Slonaker, one of seven children, always knew she wanted to work with the younger kids. At first she thought of being a teacher, but as she got older that vision changed. In high school her love for sciences, including biology and anatomy, grew. One day, her mother suggested speech pathology because it can be applied in a variety of professional settings such as schools, laboratories, hospitals or nursing homes.
Eventually, I started following speech pathologists at a local elementary school for a semester, and later called speech pathologists at a local hospital to pick their brains.
“Every step I took to look at it, I fell in love with the idea of it,” Slonaker said.
Slonaker would be one of the first members of her family to attend college, but her parents preached the importance of education and instilled in her a strong work ethic from a young age.
“They always told my brothers and sisters, ‘Go to college, get your education, and make things easy on yourselves’,” said Slonaker. “Since I was in second grade, when I started public school, I just knew academics meant a lot — that having a base Your own knowledge was really important.”
“This stuck me all the way through high school and I was able to seize opportunities that I knew would be the best for me, even if they seemed like a lot of work,” she continued.
Her parents and siblings were among her biggest fans throughout the tedious application process with QuestBridge.
“December 1, when I found out, it was at the beginning of my lunch period and I went out and opened the letter and found that I had been accepted and spent the next hour running around the school screaming telling people.
The Slonaker family stops in their tracks and heads off to high school to surprise her with flowers and balloons.
Until then, the idea of going to Northwestern seemed like a dream.
“Suddenly it seemed like the time had come,” Slonaker said.
Match scholarship recipients, including Slonaker, have a GPA of 3.93, and 92% of them are in the top 10% of their graduating class, according to QuestBridge. Financially, 95% of beneficiaries come from a household with an annual income of less than $65,000.
“These achievements by Match scholarship recipients are the culmination of their hard work and perseverance,” said Anna McCullough, Co-Founder and CEO of QuestBridge. “Thanks to the commitment of our college partners, these deserving students can reach their full potential without worrying about the cost of a great education.”
Students interested in applying to the program can first start with the Student Preparatory Program before moving on to QuestBridge Match. From there, students progress to the partner schools of their choice. If selected as finalists, they will be paired with a full school and scholarship. In all, the process takes nearly a year, with many essays, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.