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Students who came to Penn through QuestBridge — an organization that links low-income students with colleges for full scholarships — say that despite Penn’s rigorous workload, their first semester of college has been a success both academically and socially.

“The classes have been more challenging than in high school,” Engineering freshman Alen Kubati, a QuestBridge scholar, wrote in e-mail.

“Even though I have to work more, I find most of the work enjoyable,” he added.

Another QuestBridge scholar, College freshman Hernando Sevilla, agreed. Even though he said the workload is “unexpected” and “intense,” he has enjoyed both his studies and his activities at Penn so far.

“The semester has been an overwhelming yet amazing time,” he wrote in an e-mail.

QuestBridge, which partnered with Penn for the first time last year, accepted 26 students from the program for the academic year 2009-10.

These students received full scholarships, including room and board, tuition, books, fees, incidental expenses, personal expenses and travel expenses.

Despite the intensive guidance QuestBridge provides during the admissions process, current scholars say the organization has been less involved in the transition process.

“Questbridge pretty much leaves it up to the individual to make a smooth transition into college,” Sevilla said.

Since his arrival at Penn, Kubati said, the program’s biggest impact on his life is the financial help it provides.

“QuestBridge helped with my transition to college by taking away all the worry about the financial issues,” he added.

As a result, “I could concentrate on my studies and on the overall transition to college.”

QuestBridge also stays in contact with the students through events designed to facilitate interaction with other Penn QuestBridge students.

These events, College freshman Amy Aw wrote in an e-mail, include a welcome gathering at the beginning of the semester, as well as other ongoing events.

Since then, she said, she has maintained contact with a few of her QuestBridge scholars and even lives on the same hall as one of her QuestBridge peers.

The program also extends this networking from Penn to other schools, linking QuestBridge students across the nation.

“There will be conferences in the summer held at places like Stanford and Yale to better help us in meeting other scholars,” Sevilla said.

In addition to networking with other current QuestBridge scholars, the students are helping high school students from their hometowns learn about QuestBridge opportunities.

Sevilla is one such ambassador.

“I helped three kids from my school apply this year,” he added.

Kubati, Sevilla and Aw were all enthusiastic about the program. Aw said QuestBridge is a “wonderful gift,” and Sevilla said it was an “amazing opportunity.”

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