Senior will attend Columbia University in the fall.

Diving into summer college research before her senior year, Kayla Russell ’23 and her mother waded through an online sea of schools, scholarships and programs before landing on one that caught their eye. After zeroing in on the opportunity and receiving encouragement to apply from her college counselor, Katie Bell, and advisor, Sarah Koshi, Kayla took the plunge and sent an application to QuestBridge.

QuestBridge is a non-profit whose mission, in its words, “is to connect the nation’s most exceptional low-income youth with leading institutions of higher education and further life opportunities.” It partners with many of the most prominent universities and schools in the nation, making its scholarship program extremely competitive: last year alone, almost 18,000 high-school students applied from across the United States. Previous-year winners garnered an average 3.92 GPA, and 87% were in the top 10% of their high-school class, making Kayla’s competition among the best and brightest in the country.

After previously visiting Columbia University—one of QuestBridge’s partner schools—and falling in love with New York City and the school campus, Kayla felt determined to matriculate there. “I loved their psychology program and all of the research opportunities they offered, and the beautiful campus wasn’t so bad either.”

When asked what inspired confidence in her QuestBridge candidacy, she wove together the writing, communication, and leadership skills she honed at Stevenson—and the foundation of core values instilled by her close family bond—into a firm belief that she was the right person for the program. “I am happy that the admissions committee was able to see all of my accomplishments and take a chance on me. When you work towards something, sometimes the road feels long and futile, but eventually, when you come to that finish line, it’s just so amazing to get what you worked so hard for.”

Now off to Columbia in the fall, she is already focused on her future studying psychology and education, saying she wants to pursue a masters in its graduate program, and eventually, a professorship in the Columbia psychology department. “I’ve always been a very empathetic and sympathetic person and want to help people, and I love teaching, so I want to be able to educate others on a topic that I love.” For Kayla, achieving her dreams of attending Columbia appears to be just the first in a long list of accomplishments to come.