Redesigning High Potential

Created in 1973 to boost minority enrollment, the High Potential Program has become integral to Saint Mary’s efforts to diversify its campus and support its Lasallian mission.

First generation and lower-income students are invited to apply for High Potential upon gaining admission to the College, and there are more students wanting to participate than can be accommodated.

About 15 upper class peer mentors are hired annually through a rigorous application process to help run the High Potential Summer Bridge Program.This two-week, intensive residential program provides an introduction to academic life and has been so successful at preparing students that when Collegiate Seminar was revised, it incorporated some of the learning strategies taught during the Summer Bridge Program. Peer mentors continue to work with High Potential students throughout the year to provide individual leadership, guidance and academic and social support.

Although High Potential previously was a one- year program, it has been expanded to include upper level students, who can now enroll in a .25 EDUC 31 or EDUC 32 course, which focuses on independent study and provides additional transition support through twice-monthly meetings. This expansion came about with the consolidation of High Potential program, tutoring and academic advising to provide additional staff support for High Potential.

And the program seems to be working. Before the fall of 2010, High Potential students were conditionally admitted to the College through the High Potential program. Now, students who are first generation to college or low income are admitted without special consideration and then given the opportunity to participate in the program. The data show the additional services they receive help them attain higher levels of achievement.

The retention rates for the High Potential program participants are close to, and are beginning to surpass, those of the general Saint Mary’s student population, as can be seen in the following table:

High Potential vs. Total Student Body Retention Rates

Entering class HP retention rate SMC retention rate
Fall 2008    
After 2 years 78.9% 75.9%
After 3 years 73.7% 72.9%
After 4 years 50.0% 52.2%
Fall 2009    
After 1 year 90.7% 86.8%
After 2 years 79.1% 80.5%
After 3 years 73.1% 76.5%
Fall 2010    
After 1 year 100.0% 86.8%
After 2 years 90.0% 79.4%
Fall 2011    
After 1 year 93.9% 88.1%