A few months ago, when Ian Falcon began his final year at Lufkin High School, little did he know that within a year he would be within walking distance of Central Park and going to college at an Ivy League school.

Ian began the process of applying to college through QuestBridge during the spring semester of his junior year.

“I did most of it myself. It was time-consuming and so complicated,” Ian said.

QuestBridge is a program that connects high-achieving high school seniors from low-income backgrounds with full four-year scholarships to 50 of the nation’s best colleges. Out of over 20,800 applicants, QuestBridge selected 6,683 Finalists to be considered for the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship (Match Scholarship). This year, QuestBridge’s 50 college partners matched with 2,242 Finalists, who are recognized as Match Scholarship Recipients.

Earlier this month, Ian was sitting in his 4th-period class when he got the email from QuestBridge announcing whether he matched with an Ivy League university and if so, where we would spend his next four years in college.

“When I opened the email, I had the “You didn’t get matched” mindset,” Ian said. “When I saw that I matched with Columbia, an Ivy — it felt surreal!”

“We are thrilled to welcome this historic number of QuestBridge Scholars,” said Ana Rowena Mallari, Co-Founder and CEO of QuestBridge. “These Scholars will bring a depth of thought and range of experiences to our college partner campuses that will surely enrich their new communities.”

Ian, who has never been to Columbia University campus, let alone New York City for that matter, is excited about living close to Central Park.“It’s a 20-minute walk to Central Park,” Ian said. “What I’m looking forward to the most is the culture, the food, the new places to see, new people to meet, a beautiful campus. It just doesn’t feel real that I’ll be there.”

Match Scholarship Recipients are admitted early to QuestBridge college partners with full four-year scholarships provided by the colleges and universities, ensuring for these students and their families that an education at a top college is affordable. The Match Scholarship is made up of a generous financial aid package provided by the college that covers the full cost of attendance, including tuition, housing and food, books and supplies, and travel expenses.

“The first person I called was my mom and she was at work,” Ian said. “She said ‘What?’ She seemed proud and a little sad. I know she’s proud but will be sad I’ll be going away for four years.

My grandparents asked a lot of questions like how to pay. I told them it was a full ride. It’s all paid for! They had so many questions and then they seemed kind of sad that I would be leaving, but I know they’re proud of me.”

Ian will be majoring in Chemical Engineering and says he feels confident that Lufkin ISD has prepared him for an Ivy League experience.

“Lufkin ISD has prepared me,” Ian said. “I feel like the STEM academy really helped me out the most. They gave me a laptop my freshman year. I used it all four years. Without it, I don’t know what I would do. My experiences prepared me like UIL and BPA. I wrote about my BPA experience which I loved and my amazing teachers.”

Last year Ian went to Anaheim, California to compete in the National Business Professionals of America (BPA) competition, an experience he says that was like none other.  Ian credits his teachers with his success. One particular teacher who meant a lot to him was Dayna Kerr.

Ian’s family is important to him, too. He says his grandfather is his hero and that he just wants Ian to have a job one day that has air conditioning.

Even though Ian admits that he is nervous about being on his own in New York; he has already made connections with other QuestBridge students going to Columbia as well as LHS alumni and QuestBridge student A.J. Sabani who is going to Princeton.

9/11 Memorial in New York City

These pictures from the 9/11 Memorial in New York serve as a somber reminder of that tragic day in 2001

Gallery Credit: Danny Merrell


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