As a student at San Mateo High School, Jennifer Vara put her summers to good use. She attended summer session at College of San Mateo through the College Connection - Concurrent Enrollment Program. Over the course of two summers, Jennifer completed classes in U.S. history, ethnic studies, psychology and yoga. In addition to receiving credit toward high school graduation, she earned 13 units of college credit and gained a big jump on her college education. “Attending CSM when I was still in high school was a good experience all the way around. I liked the classes, the professors and campus, and I completed several college requirements,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer’s experience as a concurrent enrollment student influenced her decision to attend CSM for her first two years of college. She explains,“I was familiar with the college and I knew the courses at CSM were equivalent to those I would have taken had I gone straight to the university as a freshman. I also knew that I could transfer to an excellent university. Another consideration was my future: I didn’t want to spend my life working to pay off student loans. By attending CSM, I was able to graduate without owing any money, and all that I saved while living at home has helped to pay for my education at UC Santa Barbara.”
She entered her first semester as a college freshman at CSM with confidence and a sense of accomplishment. “I knew what professors expected of me, so I had a smooth transition.” Because she had already completed a full semester of college work while she was in high school, she had flexibility in choosing courses and exploring different majors. “In addition to completing all my general education requirements, I completed the pre-requisites for a double major in sociology and psychology for UC Santa Barbara.”
Jennifer was familiar with CSM’s campus and knew where to go when she needed assistance. “Before college, math wasn’t my favorite subject, but once I found the Math Resource Center where I received one-on-one tutoring in statistics and calculus, I actually started to enjoy math. I also went to the Learning Center whenever I needed a quiet place to study or work on assignments, and I spent time in the Integrated Science Center meeting with classmates and studying.“
“As it turned out, CSM was a great place for me to begin my college education.” says Jennifer. “I had some really good professors at CSM whose classes I looked forward to because they were engaging and passionate about their subjects and they were caring about the students. Each professor I had at CSM influenced me to become a better student. Professor Gaines, my ethnic studies teacher, was always encouraging us to strive to be the best in working toward our personal goals.”
Looking back, Jennifer credits her experience in the Concurrent Enrollment Program for giving her a solid foundation for college. “The classes I took while in high school really helped me get ahead. In addition to the academics, CSM helped me to improve my work ethic and develop skills that made me a stronger student.”
In 2014, Jennifer earned associate degrees from CSM in psychology and sociology and transferred to UC Santa Barbara where she is currently pursuing a double major in the same disciplines. She plans to attend graduate school to become a therapist or psychologist.