Meet the 2020 QuestBridge Finalists of Bronx Science

Jane Chen ’21, Juan Flores ’21, and Radeha Haque ’21 tell their stories regarding receiving one of the most prestigious scholarship titles in the nation.

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Jaymie Paredes

Jane Chen ’21 was one of 6,885 QuestBridge Finalists this year, and one of 1,464 Finalists who matched to a college through the National College Match, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the country. Matching to Yale, Chen said, “I came into the process thinking I wouldn’t get matched because of how competitive the scholarship was, so I was quite surprised when I did match with my top choice. I am so incredibly grateful and lucky to have this opportunity, and I cannot wait to meet my future classmates and professors,” said Chen.

On Tuesday, October 21st, 2020, exactly 6,885 high school seniors were declared to be QuestBridge Finalists, out of over 18,500 applicants, for the highly competitive Questbridge National College Match. Geared toward first generation and low income students, finalists are chosen using a holistic review and involving rigorous criteria. Once finalists are chosen and once they rank up to twelve of the 42 partner schools to which they want to send their college application, they are then considered for the National College Match, where only a select few are matched to a school with full tuition covered for all four years of college. This year, 1,464 Finalists were matched to a school of their choice. 

Being a finalist is a noble feat, one that three Bronx Science seniors, Radeha Haque ’21, Jane Chen ’21, and Juan Flores ’21, accomplished. 

Radeha is a first generation Bangladeshi American from a predominantly South Asian and Hispanic neighborhood. 

Outside the classroom, she enjoys being the senior editor of the ‘Reactions’ publication. “I’ve worked really hard on my articles, and contributed so much to it despite the lack of women I’ve seen in the meetings through the years. I also am President of Starving Artists Society and work to bring people together through their artworks and create different initiatives to do that,” said Haque. 

Being chosen as a Finalist does not only mean having access to the National College Match. The prestigious title also means having access to an empowering nationwide support and resource network of thousands of first generation low income (FGLI) students. In some ways, the QuestBridge network can be seen as a family. As Haque puts it, “I am grateful to be provided a space to interact with high achieving low income students around the country. To be part of a platform where I can find common experiences and struggles of applying to college as a FGLI student is empowering. Especially at Bronx Science, where it is hard to fit in with people who come from backgrounds so different from me, and who have had different privileges from me.” 

Haque first received mail from Questbridge during her junior year of high school, and she then searched for sources on the internet in order to understand more about the process. Haque aspires to go to college and eventually graduate school after that. She is excited to do things that she initially did not believe were in the realm of possibility for her. “The course offerings at Bronx Science really make me want to take advantage of all the opportunities that are out there. My current classes really engage me, as does learning about different topics,” Haque said.

Haque was not matched during the highly competitive National College Match, but she remains optimistic and proud of how far she has come. She has high hopes for the Regular Decision phase of the college application process. “I feel proud of the contributions that I made,” said Haque.

Jane Chen ’21 is involved in scientific journalism as the Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Biology. She is also a research assistant at the Zuckerman Institute of Columbia University, and is a lead grassroots organizer and co-facilitator at a local youth-led community organization. Chen really loves exploring the outdoors and nature, and reading about and observing all the diverse plants and animals that live in a single ecosystem. On top of that, Chen has a great interest in everything about Italy and serves as the co-president of Italian Club. “I’m an Italophile; I love pasta al pesto and cappelletti and more. Pasta shapes are cool and fascinating to me. There are so many different kinds,” said Chen. 

Chen was matched with Yale, where she plans to pursue Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as Italian Studies. “I’m 100% certain that I want to dedicate my life to doing ethological and conservation research and work with wildlife. I hope that my work in the future makes a difference. I’m also potentially considering a pre-veterinary track in college, in order to become a veterinarian,” Chen said.  

Aside from pursuing her career interests, Chen also hopes to learn several languages in college. “I want to become fluent in Italian and learn and become fluent in other languages. I also want to continue to serve my community and uplift the narratives of the marginalized. I especially want to continue empowering young people and allow them to fully recognize and utilize their voice in order to make an impact on the world around them.”

“Growing up, my parents came home once a week from their restaurant in the Bronx and sometimes once every two weeks. Neither had a college education. I was raised by my grandma, who didn’t know how to speak or write in English and only knew to push my siblings and I to work hard in school. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own, and I became responsible for doing things that adults were supposed to do, like filling out paperwork, or forms for myself and my siblings, and reading and responding to letters in the mail. I learned to become very independent early on and carry on a lot of adult responsibilities for me and my siblings, and it was quite frustrating and difficult,” said Chen. 

As the daughter of Chinese immigrants from Elmhurst, Queens, Chen admits that the path to get to where she is came with a lot of struggles. But above all, she is grateful to have received the QuestBridge Match. “Being a QuestBridge finalist and Quest Scholar has made me proud of overcoming personal struggles such as these and has validated all my educational and personal accomplishments. Also I’m super grateful for all the support that I’ve received from my teachers and friends and guidance counselors throughout my Bronx Science career,” Chen said. 

At Yale, Chen hopes to continue making an impact. “I look forward to taking advantage of all the incredible resources and opportunities that Yale has to offer and continue to pursue my passions and bridge them all together in some way and use my experiences and voice to make a positive impact on my campus.”

Coming from a first-generation background, Juan Flores ’21 was matched with MIT, where he plans to study engineering. 

“I didn’t really understand what Questbridge was at first, until I received a mailed letter from them. I remember mentioning it to one of my friends, who told me it was a great chance for receiving a full scholarship to college. While completing my application, my guidance counselor was a huge support and really helped me to bring everything together,” said Flores. 

“Being matched to MIT offers the opportunity to pursue my career with the support of one of the greatest networks. Questbridge knows the difficulties that minorities face regarding college, and I’m thankful to how they have supported me through this process and how they will continue to help me in the future,” said Flores. 

After finding successes in his physics and calculus classes during his junior year, Flores hopes to pursue engineering in greater depth at MIT next fall. “I still can’t believe I was matched. Given that only 10 out of 6,885 students are matched to MIT, I always considered it a dream come true. Putting almost three stressful months of work into essays and the college process, I’m eager to maximize this incredible opportunity,” Flores said.

“My most important inspiration has been my family; they have always pushed me to achieve greatness, ever since I started at Bronx Science. Academically, I am always looking forward to surpassing my expectations and those of others, which is something I know I’ll bring with me to college.”

As for any advice for underclassmen who will soon go through the college admissions process, Flores said, “Maximizing your junior year is very important, and I think that this year really helped make my application stand out. Specifically, I took the most challenging courses available, and I participated in various college prep programs. I also recommend maximizing the Bronx Science resources, from your guidance counselor to the essay help from alumni to the college fairs, as these were all really helpful when choosing and applying to schools.”

Chen suggested, “I Definitely recommend applying to QuestBridge if you qualify and that you pursue whatever you’re passionate about to the fullest extent possible. And ask for help when you need it! The College process is not something that you should navigate alone. For me, asking for help from my guidance counselor and from upperclassmen with whom I was really close significantly aided me in my college application process.”

Haque’s advice for her peers is as follows. “Keep working hard and don’t let anyone make you feel less for your accomplishments, despite how little they may seem. Being a first generation student has its own unique experiences that others who aren’t first generation will not understand,” Haque said.

Chen and Flores are done with the college admissions process, and Haque remains hopeful about her prospects during the Regular Decision period. But no matter what happens, it is sure that Haque, Chen, and Flores will achieve great success in their future academic and professional careers. 

Her advice for her peers is as follows. “Keep working hard and don’t let anyone make you feel less for your accomplishments, despite how little they may seem. Being a first generation student has its own unique experiences that others who aren’t first generation will not understand,” said Radeha Haque ’21.

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