Student Success: Rosa Hernandez Lands a Full Ride to Princeton


Nikki Iyer

Rosa Hernandez (12) applied to Princeton University through Questbridge, a program for high achieving, low income students. Hernandez recently received her acceptance to Princeton and earned a full ride to attend.

Nikki Iyer, Co Editor-in-Chief

Theater rehearsal. BRIDGES and DIRHA meetings. AP classes. Working on the weekends. 

“When I did have free time I’d always try to relax, because that was kind of rare for me,” said senior Rosa Hernandez.

Hard work paid off when Hernandez received the acceptance email. Princeton University partnered with Questbridge, an extremely selective program that offers low income and high-achieving students financial college assistance, had offered her a full ride scholarship to attend the university. 

Princeton’s acceptance rate is 3.98% as of 2022, and Questbridge’s odds are even slimmer. Hernandez applied through Questbridge despite the chances, not expecting much.

“[I thought] ‘you know it’s worth a shot. I know it’s hard to get into, but it’s worth a shot to at least put it down in my college options,’” said Hernandez. “[After applying] I was just like, ‘I’m so scared I don’t think I’m going to get in, and I know I applied to a lot of schools, but it is such a longshot that I don’t know.’”

Hernandez’s parents immigrated to the US from Mexico as teenagers. Neither graduated from college, but together they share a family business that Hernandez helps out with. 

“My parents own a business, and they’ve always wanted help with that, so I’d go on a lot of weekends to help them, which kind of took time out of my education, because I wanted to help them build their income,” said Hernandez.

The senior never had private tutoring or college counseling to aid her in the application process. However, she attributes much of her success to the AVID program on campus, and teachers Fernanda Villalba and Janey Gideon, who helped her navigate Questbridge.

“Even though it may seem like a basic question, Ms. Villalba and Ms. Gideon were always very accepting and helped in any way they could because they knew it was a stressful process that I might not know about,” said Hernandez.

I’m very happy that I was able to do this. It feels surreal at certain times that it’s actually going to happen.

— Rosa Hernandez

According to the NY Times, 72% of Princeton students come from families of the top 20% economically. Hernandez feels slightly wary about fitting in on the Princeton campus, considering her family comes from a different bracket.

“I wonder how it’s going to be over there, because it’s literally across the country, and I don’t know anybody. I know there’s other Questbridge people who got in and they say we build our own community too, so that’s good. But also with the rest of the school I’m a little scared for that,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez took advantage of many advanced academic programs at SJHHS. Just this year, the student is enrolled in AP Calculus BC, AP English Literature, AP Spanish Literature, AP Environmental Science and a dual AP course in Government and Macroeconomics. Though she is undecided on her career goals, the dual AP class inspired her to apply to Princeton as an economics major. 

“So far, what I’ve seen in economics, it’s a combination of math and English, with the writing, but also you get to do calculations, and that’s what I really like about it. You get to explore both sides of it, and that really interests me,” said Hernandez.

Though the senior only told two friends about her acceptance and scholarship, she often finds friends and teachers congratulating her. She remains humble in her success, and excitedly looks to the future to attend the university.

“I’m very happy that I was able to do this. It feels surreal at certain times that it’s actually going to happen,” said Hernandez.