ASMSA student receives QuestBridge match for Northwestern University

11 months ago

Joanne Lee was sitting in biology class when she received notification that she had received an email from the QuestBridge organization.

QuestBridge is a nonprofit organization that connects exceptional low-income youth with leading colleges and opportunities. QuestBridge works with top universities across the country to offer full scholarships to deserving students who may otherwise be unable to afford to attend those institutions.

Lee, a senior at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts from Gosnell,  applied for the program earlier this year. The email she received would tell her if she had been matched with an institution, and if so, which school. The problem was that there was about a half hour left in the class, and she didn’t want to interrupt the lecture to look at the email.

“I told my friend, and she took my phone so that I wouldn’t worry about it,” Lee said. “Once she took the phone, I didn’t think about it too much. But then the teacher went over a few minutes. I was getting a little anxious.”

As soon as the class ended, she took her phone and went to the restroom in the hallway. She couldn’t muster the courage to open the email at first.

“I kept telling my friends that ‘I can’t open it.’ I thought about going to my room and isolating myself, but they persuaded me that I should open it. I was just shaking the whole time. It was crazy,” Lee said.

When she finally opened it, she saw she had been matched with Northwestern University, a private research university located in Evanston, Ill. She plans to likely study some type of biological science, she said.

After reading the email, she ran back to her room in the residential hall and called her parents.

“They were really happy. There was a lot of screaming,” Lee said.

To apply for the program, Lee filled out the Common Application, which is used by many educational institutions for admission. As part of her application, she wrote an essay about her parents’ immigration from South Korea to the United States. She discussed their support for her and her siblings.

This past summer, Lee spent six weeks in Seoul, South Korea, studying Korean through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program. NSLI-Y is part of a U.S. Department of State initiative that prepares American citizens to be leaders in a global world by exposing them to a nation’s language and culture in an immersive environment.

Lee said that before she left for Korea she couldn’t really read or write the language. She had some understanding of Korean as that was the only language her grandparents, all of whom still live in Korea, speak.

“Going to Korea really allowed me to reconnect with my ancestral roots,” she said. “Being in a rural town in Arkansas, I don’t have the opportunity to meet many Korean people or to experience the traditions. Going to Seoul was a great experience.”

Lee said she plans to visit the Northwestern campus during spring break. It will be her first tour of the campus. She’s excited to have the opportunity to visit the campus before she beings attending this fall.

QuestBridge partners with 39 selective colleges and universities across the nation to offer access to high-achieving students regardless of background. To learn more about the organization, visit

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