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Every semester, SBCC Promise students meet with an academic counselor. Image courtesy of Santa Barbara City College.

This semester, nearly 800 local students will attend SBCC free of charge thanks to the SBCC Promise. The Promise will use privately raised funds to cover all enrollment fees (tuition), other required fees, required books, and required supplies in an effort to remove barriers and make our community’s college fully accessible to all local students.

Statistically, students who enroll in college full-time shortly after high school and receive academic guidance are more likely to successfully complete their studies. The SBCC Promise specifically incentivizes these three things by design.

Enrolling in college is one thing; staying on course to achieve one’s goal is another. This is where the SBCC Academic Counseling Center comes in, guiding students from the very beginning and throughout their academic journeys. As part of the Promise, students are required to meet with a counselor at the center once each semester, and to prepare a Student Education Plan (SEP). This extra support and guidance for Promise students is a key part of the program, and is expected to increase academic success rates.

“We are excited about the Promise and the opportunities it provides, especially for students who may not have considered attending college due to the expense,” said Sabrina Barajas, an academic counselor at the center. She and other counselors assist students with reaching their educational goals, whether that means earning a certificate, an associate degree, or transferring to a four-year university.

By completing a plan on paper or electronically, students can see exactly what they need to do, and monitor their progress. The SEP outlines a student’s goals, academic standing, declared major, and required coursework for each semester. It includes important steps such as setting a target transfer date, as students who are planning to transfer to a four-year university must complete required courses and apply one year before that date.

As the Promise students get acclimated during their first semester, they will receive guidance from their counselors and make any necessary changes to their SEPs. Most of them prepared a one-semester plan while they were still in high school, as SBCC academic counselors visit local schools to advise students and help them complete their SEPs.

Over the summer, Sabrina and other counselors responded to email inquiries from students. “We realize this is a big step, the transition from high school to college. Some may have anxiety, or simply don’t know what to do during their first semester. We help them make a plan, and answer any questions that come up,” said Sabrina.

It’s good for students to realize that they’re not alone in making decisions or navigating through their coursework. “We recommend that all first-year students enroll in the College Success and Career Planning courses,” said Sabrina. Both of these popular semester-long courses, offered in the Personal Development department (PD 100 and PD 110, respectively), are transferable to the University of California and California State University systems. The College Success course covers topics such as time management, note taking, goal setting, staying healthy, test-taking strategies, and choosing a major or career.

What if a student isn’t sure what he or she wants to study? Counselors at the center can help by meeting with the student to discuss interests and options, recommend classes, and answer questions. Counselors often follow up by email, and can refer students to the Career Center for more in-depth counseling in career choices. An academic counselor’s role is to not only provide information and resources, but also to serve as a cheerleader, helping students stay motivated.

Promise students will get motivated and oriented at one of the “welcome meetings” scheduled in early September. At the meeting, they will learn what to expect during their first semester, enjoy lunch, connect with other students, and schedule their first meeting with an academic counselor. They will be energized and encouraged, knowing that support for their academic success means the promise of a bright future.

Author: Jessica Tade


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