Westerville South High School senior Tyler Zwick saw college as an opportunity to break cycles and create a future filled with promise and hope.
As a first-generation college student, he worried about the cost of tuition, how he was going to get to school and whether he’d be good enough to get in.
Zwick is now college-bound after receiving a full four-year scholarship through QuestBridge’s National College Match, a program that connects high-achieving high school seniors from low-income backgrounds with scholarships to the country’s top universities.
“People always tell you to reach for the stars, you’re only going to go so far but when you come from the kind of background I do, you don’t think it’s always possible,” he said.
“So being to do that with Questbridge and match with Columbia University for a full-ride scholarship still hasn’t settled in. It still doesn’t feel real but I’m just so excited about it.”
QuestBridge partners with 45 colleges and universities in the U.S. to offer the National College Match scholarship. The scholarship covers the full cost of attendance for each college — including tuition, room and board, travel expenses, and books and supplies — with no student loans. Some scholarships require some type of student contribution in the form of work-study or student savings.
In 2020, there were 6,312 students selected as National College Match Finalists out of more than 16,500 applications.
Zwick was one of 1,674 finalists who matched with a college or university. (He was one of 79 seniors selected by Columbia.)
Zwick started his QuestBridge journey as a junior through the College Prep Scholars program, which equipped him with resources and connected him with peers across the country going through the National College Match’s application process.
When it came to identifying colleges to match with, Zwick looked at places where he could pursue his interest in the sciences and ophthalmology. When he won a statewide QuestBridge essay contest, he used his winnings of $1,000 to take a tour of Columbia University in New York City with his sister. Columbia had been a dream school but after the visit, it was his top choice where he could take a pre-med track and dive into majors such as neuroscience, environmental biology or biology.
“I really fell in love with biology in the seventh grade,” he said. “We learned about ecosystems and environments and I just thought it was so interesting. When I got to high school, I took honors biology and I just loved it.”
At WSHS, Zwick has been Involved with theatre and currently serves as the theatre troupe president. He is a senior class officer, vice president of the school’s National Honor Society, a Hope Squad student leader and a member of the school’s social justice and advocacy group, Our Voices Matter. He has been a member of the marching band and represented the high school at Buckeye Boys State last summer.
Zwick said he is focused on finishing the rest of his senior year strong with class tests and International Baccalaureate exams as well as upcoming theatre productions. And he is excited at what the future holds.
“Being able to go to an institution like Columbia with the opportunity that I have feels like a dream,” he said. “It feels like I can go and get that education that I know is my ticket to breaking cycles. I get to create this new opportunity for myself and it’s really exciting.”