Frequently Asked Questions

Your questions, answered!

What is the High Potential program?

The High Potential Program (HP) is a signature retention program at Saint Mary’s College setting the standard for academic excellence and leadership development in the 21st century. Launched in 1973, HP provides comprehensive support services to a diverse group of Saint Mary’s students.

Students who apply to be part of the program take part in an array of activities and are provided a myriad of services meant to develop students’ leadership, academic, service and personal skills.

The HP program admits an average of 40 students to participate in the Summer Academic Institute for Leaders and Scholars (SAILS) and an average of 50 students for the HP First Year Advising Cohort (FYAC).  HP students receive intensive support services in the first year at Saint Mary’s College and ongoing support throughout students' sophomore, junior and senior years.

What are the benefits of being in the High Potential program?

HP students are connected to a supportive network of staff, faculty and their peers that promote student leadership and scholarship through a number of supportive services.  

All HP students receive:

Individualized coaching that is aimed to help students get the most from their educational experience, persist at Saint Mary’s College, and graduate within four years

  • Peer Mentoring for first and second year students
  • Tutoring
  • Assistance with filling out the FAFSA, advocacy with the office of financial aid, and financial literacy education
  • Exposure to graduate school options
  • Priority (early) registration for courses
  • Scholarship support for students who demonstrate financial need

Additionally students who join the program as first year college students are invited to our Summer Academic Institute for Leaders and Scholars (SAILS) and our First Year Advising Cohort (FYAC).  The two-week SAILS program includes taking college-level courses for .50 credit, workshops geared toward academic and personal skill development, and community-building events and outings. HP students also attend a .25 credit HP FYAC weekly class during the fall AND spring semesters, earning an additional .50 credits. Successful completion of the HP program in the first year will earn students a total of 1.0 credit at no cost to HP students.

Am I eligible for the High Potential program?

  • First generation college student and/or low-income individual.
    • If neither of your parents has obtained a bachelor’s degree from an institution of higher education in the United States, you qualify as first generation
  • Low-income students with a disability
  • Citizen or national of the United States or meets the residency requirements for Federal student financial assistance

Applicants for HP will need to be admitted to Saint Mary’s College through the traditional application process prior to being considered for the program.

How can I apply to the High Potential program?

Once students are admitted to Saint Mary’s, prospective HP candidates may submit the HP application for consideration. The application may be completed HERE. The application will require information regarding family income, family’s educational background, information regarding educational goals and responses to short essay questions.

When can I apply to join HP?

We accept applications to HP during all four years of students’ time on campus based on availability of space.

What is the cost of the High Potential program?

There is no cost for the High Potential Program. If you are selected to participate in SAILS, there is a fee of $300.00 that you will see on your Fall tuition bill, but it is HP will immediately cover this for you.

Do I have to attend the two-week Summer Academic Institute for Leaders and Scholars (SAILS) if I am in the High Potential program?

As a first generation college and/or low income student, you are eligible to participate in SAILS and/or the HP FYAC. If you apply and are selected to participate in SAILS,  you will be required to attend SAILS during a 2-week period from late July to early August. If you are not selected to participate in SAILS, you may start the program in the Fall HP FYAC, which begins the first week of the fall semester. All SAILS participants are automatically enrolled in HP FYAC.

What will I do during the two-weeks of SAILS?

HP students will participate in college-level courses in English, Math and Seminar, taught by Saint Mary’s faculty. Students will also attend a series of workshops tailored to meet the needs of first-generation and/or low-income students as they transition from high school into college. You will meet with HP program staff to outline your academic and personal goals. All of your classes and workshops contribute to the .50 credits you will earn during SAILS. HP students live in a campus residence hall and have the opportunity to adjust to college life within an academically challenging, yet supportive environment.  Here is a sample schedule.

Can I stay on campus after SAILS until school starts?

HP students who live out of the general Bay Area are provided the option to move into their housing assignment for the school year. There is no HP programming during this time. Advanced notification must be requested.

How is the HP FYAC different from the FYAC for all first year students?

All first year students at Saint Mary’s College are enrolled in a yearlong .25 credit course – FYAC, and receive a pass/fail grade. This course meets regularly throughout the fall and spring semester and provides instructional support from your faculty academic advisor on issues related to time management, study skills, and use of campus resources.

The HP FYAC sections are for HP students and meet every week for the fall AND spring semesters. Students will earn .25 credits for each semester for a total of .50 credits and a letter grade. Additional workshops, advising sessions and monthly meetings with HP program staff and your faculty academic advisor are designed to meet the needs of HP students.

What are current HP students saying about HP?

  • “It’s about having a community of people you know.”
  • “Getting to work with the HP staff on the personal issues about family, money, and drama.”
  • "Having someone to go to when you're stressed out and don’t know what to do to solve a problem – a support system."
  • “Knowing the campus resources like tutoring, Financial Aid, and the Registrar’s is really helpful.”
  • “The classes during SAILS helped me be ready for Seminar and gave me a chance to get to know some professors. Being in a college class setting helped me when I started classes.”
  • “Working with peer mentors is great because you get to learn from someone who has gone through it.”
  • “Networking – meeting different people through the program workshops. It's about feeling like you belong already even before school starts.”
  • “The HP FYAC class is all about keeping me on track towards my goals and having a community that knows and supports me.”

For information about the High Potential Program please contact:

(925) 631-4835

Campus Location: Assumption West

Jenee Palmer
Director, High Potential Program
TRIO Student Support Services

Gloria Aquino Sosa
Faculty Co-Director, High Potential Program
SMC Chief Diversity Officer, Associate Professor, Counseling Department
Kalmanovitz School of Education 

Sharzad Mozaffar
Coach & Peer Mentor Coordinator, High Potential Program
TRIO Student Support Services

Tai Casey, HP Coach (Senior Graduate Student Counseling Intern)

Rebecca McPherson, HP Coach (Graduate Student Counseling Intern)

Leslie Montano, Program Assistant