NEW BEDFORD — A Global Learning Charter Public School senior is going to Princeton University. On a full scholarship. And she didn’t even apply.
Rather, Princeton chose her from a pool of 5,000 finalists who applied through a program called QuestBridge. This year, the colleges associated with the QuestBridge scholarship program offered spots to 918 high school seniors across the country.
That’s 918 of 5,000 finalists from some 15,000 students who applied last year for a coveted QuestBridge scholarship, according to GLCPS officials who shared the good news about Sabrina in a news release.
Sabrina found out through an email from QuestBridge that Princeton University wanted her.
“I closed my eyes before pushing the ‘view’ update on my computer,” said Sabrina. “I thought ’wouldn’t it be cool to be accepted? I pictured myself on the campuses of some of my top choices.”
At the same time, she recalls, she said she braced herself for bad news and mentally prepared herself to find another way to get to college had she not been chosen by any of the Questbridge-affiliated colleges
“I knew I would be very sad, and eating a lot of chocolate,” the 18-year-old said. “Then I opened the email, and was surprised, and thought, is this really me?”
QuestBridge is a non-profit organization that links low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities at some of the country’s top colleges and universities, Global Charter officials said in the news release. Sabrina applied to the organization’s National College Match program. Students who apply and are selected as finalists may then be selected for admission to one of their partner schools with four-year scholarships.
For Sabrina, the road to Princeton was demanding and nerve-wracking. “Once I found out I was a finalist (in October), I had 11 days to complete the application process.”
That process included ranking her top 12 schools, sending a video supplement to some of them, submitting financial documents to others, writing essays, and checking online to make sure they had received everything.
During that time, she was also interviewed by an alumnus from both of her top choices: Princeton and Yale University.
When Sabrina received official word from Princeton on Dec. 1, one of the first people she told was GLCPS College and Career Counselor Ashley McPherson, who had reviewed the application with Sabrina and had written her a letter of recommendation.
Sabrina is the daughter of Thomas and Michelle Fay, of New Bedford. She has two brothers, Christopher, an 11th grade student at GLCPS, and an older brother, Brady.
Word quickly spread throughout the GLCPS halls and, eventually, beyond.
Jean Fox, GLCPS Board of Trustees chair, learned about it from executive director Stephen Furtado. Fox is a Freetown-Lakeville School Committee member and the South Coast Rail project manager. She told state Rep. Chris Markey, D-Dartmouth, who visited the school, bringing a citation for Sabrina.
“This is such great news,” said Fox. “The hard work and commitment of this remarkable student, who has been nurtured and encouraged by Global faculty and staff, deserve to be acknowledged, and I’m grateful to Representative Markey for recognizing her achievement and celebrating with her.”
For his part, Markey said, “I am incredibly proud that a young woman who has worked so hard academically and is so aware of the needs for our community has been rewarded by one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
“Sabrina will be a great student and great citizen in the years to come. I am so happy for her and her family,” Markey said in a statement.
“We have had a historically high number of students who applied early to college in the last three years. This year, several students have already been accepted to their top choices,” said McPherson. “Almost every day brings good news and celebrations for every one of our hardworking and committed students.”
So far, 79 percent of students in the senior class have received acceptance notices from colleges and universities.
McPherson attributes the number of early acceptances to the school’s commitment to guiding each individual student, beginning in middle school, through the college application process and giving them the tools and resources to help them make informed decisions about their clearest path to college.
School officials said those tools include grade level college/career planning seminars and monthly advising meetings with each senior. The high school also offers students the opportunity to join the high school mentoring program pairing high school seniors with college-educated community members who commit to mentoring the student during the student’s senior year and their first year of college.
She also points to the various programs that high school students are offered at GLCPS, such as dual enrollment, internship opportunities, and enrollment in the Brown University Summer Leadership program. It was while participating in that program at Brown that Sabrina said she first learned about the Questbridge program.
“One of my counselors in the Brown program mentioned that she was a Questbridge scholar. I approached her and asked her what that was,” said Sabrina. “She encouraged me to look into it, so I did. It seemed like a good fit for me so I contacted them.”
It turned out it was a perfect fit.
Sabrina hasn’t settled on a college major. In fact, she is determined to keep her options — and interests — open.
“I’m leaning toward the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs because that’s the kind of stuff I’m interested in. I realize, though, I have a lot of areas of interest. I learned about global engagement when I attended the program at Brown University. I also enjoy the sciences. I really love writing, too. I’ll probably take courses in environmental science and creative writing.”
As for what career path she might follow, Sabrina said, “That’s what I’m going to college to find out.”