Frequently Asked Questions

What is the High Potential program?

The High Potential (HP) program is a signature retention program at Saint Mary’s College setting the standard for academic excellence and leadership development. Launched in 1973, HP provides comprehensive support services to a first generation and/or low-income students.

Students who apply to be part of the program participate in activities and receive supports to develop their leadership, academic, service and personal skills.

HP students receive intensive support services in the first year at Saint Mary’s College and ongoing support throughout their 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 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 students are invited to our Summer Academic Institute for Leaders and Scholars (SAILS) and 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
  • Admitted to Saint Mary's College through the traditional application process

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 will require information regarding family income, family’s educational background, information regarding educational goals and responses to short essay questions.

  • Newly admitted students: Application will be available in January through your admissions portal.

  • Current students: Application will be available in November through our website.

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. The true payment from HP students is their commitment to the program, to their success, and to graduating from a four-year college.

Is the two-week Summer Academic Institute for Leaders and Scholars (SAILS) required?

Incoming first year students are eligible to participate in SAILS. If you apply and are selected to participate in SAILS, you 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 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. 

Can I stay on campus after SAILS until school starts?

HP students who live out of the 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.

For information about the High Potential Program please contact:


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

Joy Aburquez, HP Coach (Graduate Student Counseling Intern)

Nancy Aguilar, HP Coach (Graduate Student Counseling Intern)