UVA’s QuestBridge Scholars Offer Advice to Incoming and Prospective Students

UVA’s QuestBridge Scholars Offer Advice to Incoming and Prospective Students

With the words “Dream Big” on their T-shirts, a select group of University of Virginia students proudly celebrated one of their greatest accomplishments: being a QuestBridge Scholar.

Wednesday was “National Quest Day,” which highlighted the students involved in QuestBridge, a national nonprofit that connects high-achieving, low-income students to universities around the country.

In 2010, UVA joined the group of universities who partner with QuestBridge and welcomed its first cohort of scholars. Since then, the program has grown to bring more than 200 QuestBridge Scholars – or “Questies” – to UVA, including many students who are the first in their families to attend college, or come from low-income backgrounds, or both.

“UVA’s commitment [to QuestBridge] is a powerful reason as to why there are so many resilient and diverse voices on Grounds,” said third-year student Alara Bedir, who is president of The Quest Scholars at UVA, a student organization that provides resources for students through social and community service events, a mentorship program and more.

“We are a part of this community, where our individual passions may vary, but our motivation to succeed is rooted deep in our value to persist,” she said.

Wanting to help others succeed, UVA’s QuestBridge scholars took a moment to look back on how they made their transition to Grounds and offer advice to prospective and incoming students.

Related Story

Alara Bedir

Major: Systems engineering
Hometown: Charlottesville

“I grew up just outside of Charlottesville, but I was surprised by how unfamiliar UVA felt for me during my first year. My first year was a major transition, where I was learning to adapt to new aspects of college life every single day.

“I wish I knew just how much peers and professors would be happy to listen and to help. I realize now just how important a mentor can be and today, as an upperclassman, I greatly value the opportunities I have to connect with first-years. I wish I knew that I would meet so many inspiring and encouraging people through QuestBridge that ultimately made UVA feel like home!” 


Ashli Sterling

Major: Spanish and American studies
Hometown: Queens, New York

“Before attending UVA, I wish I was able to part with certain aspects of my high school mindset in order to fully prepare for the whirlwind that is college. Looking back, I feel that I was completely unprepared not only for the rigor of college, but also the mental strain. AP and IB classes are nothing in comparison to the realities of actual college classes, which give a lot of students false expectations before transitioning.

“At the start, I was used to handling things on my own, rarely reaching out for help or just bottling up my struggles. However, college is a learning process and I wish I truly understood this beforehand. Over time here, I slowly began to understand that it’s OK to reach out to people, whether that’s a friend, a dean, a professor, etc. Oftentimes these individuals are fully invested in helping you and can assist with choosing classes, finding information, talking about issues and more.

“In addition, a lot of these people, especially your peers, are 100 percent going through – or have gone through – similar things that you may be dealing with. There are so many resources available to help students, but oftentimes it’s up to you to take the initiative and reach out. To be honest, college and UVA in general are not easy or as simple as I anticipated, but certain decisions have slowly made my time here less stressful and more enjoyable in the long run.”


Brandon Thompson

Major: Economics
Hometown: Pittsburgh

“Looking back, there are honestly so many things I wish I would’ve known about UVA throughout this whole process. I think the main thing I would have wanted to know is how massive of a difference it was transitioning from high school to college, and from where I came from to Charlottesville.

“There were so many massive changes that happened in such a short time. It took many weeks and months to even catch up and recover from that wave, but I was able to find the communities and people within QuestBridge and the Career Center who gave me the strength and confidence that I belonged here. Without them, I wouldn’t be writing this today.”


Ara Lee

Major: Art History
Hometown: South Riding

“I wish I knew just how many opportunities UVA was providing. I’ve always felt that I’ve had identities that reduce me to a single defining factor and hinder my successes.

“Whether it’s being female, low-income or Asian-American, there have been many isolating social barriers I found myself unable to come to terms with. Yet, coming to UVA, I’ve come to realize that the community is open to all and so much more. I’ve been able to delve deeper and explore the complexities of all the attributes that I can choose to define myself. With programs such as Questbridge, which are all-inclusive and meant to represent first-generation, low-income students, I wish I knew that there would be such an open, loving community waiting for me!”

Media Contact

Kelly Kauffman

Social Media Associate University Communications