As Daniel Ajayi neared the end of his junior year at Williamstown High School, he was thinking about college and how to best prepare himself. With a little help from his father, he took a big step towards that goal at Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ).
Ajayi had already eagerly taken advantage of AP and honors classes available at his high school when his father heard about RCSJ's High School Options Program (HSOP). Through HSOP, high school sophomores, juniors and seniors receive a discounted tuition rate of $75 per credit along with an exemption from course fees. The program would provide Ajayi with a new academic challenge, save him money on tuition, and the college credits he earned could easily be applied to an RCSJ associate degree or transferred to any other institution of high learning that he chose.
“They offered classes that just aren't available at a high school level and that intrigued me," Ajayi recalled. “I saw a lot of classes I was interested in taking that my high school didn't offer. That was one of the major reasons it appealed to me."
Ajayi completed RCSJ's free application and took the Accuplacer exam to determine what classes he was prepared for. Then he and his father took a trip to the College's Center for College and Career Readiness to meet his new HSOP advisor, who would guide them through the course selection and enrollment process.
“Our Advisors within the Center specialize in the specific needs and concerns our high school demographic," said Megan Ruttler, Executive Director of the Center for College and Career Readiness. “Each student has the opportunity to meet with an advisor assigned to their specific high school to talk though their educational and career goals. Course offerings and sequences are discussed each semester and students are guided to choose courses that will assist in achieving their unique goals and maximize their opportunity to earn college credits at a significant cost savings."
Ajayi was excited for the opportunity to get a head start on college life and committed to setting himself up for success. He chose to start at RCSJ over the summer so that he could focus entirely on college coursework before his senior year of high school began in September. Ajayi also thought that summer classes would be the perfect way to demonstrate his work ethic on future college applications.
“AP and honors classes are great and I'm glad I took them, but if on top of that colleges see that you're taking classes over the summer, that shows them your intellectual curiosity because no one's making you do that," he explained.
Over the summer, Ajayi completed both Calculus I and Calculus II to prepare himself for the more advanced classes he had his eye on. Pleased with his grades and his proven ability to excel in online coursework, he registered as a full-time college student the following fall semester – in addition to beginning his senior year at Williamstown High School.
“I like math, I like programming, I like science – so those are the classes I took. That's why I've been able to get A's and have fun doing it," said Ajayi, as he outlined his strategy. “I'm able to do all of this at the same time because everything's online. I can be done with classes a lot faster and not have to commute from high school to home to college. It's just as easy as clicking out of a Zoom and into another, and I'm instantly in my next class."
HSOP has enabled Ajayi to earn affordable and transferrable college credits as a high school student, but it has also provided the opportunity to build academic confidence, learn to navigate a collegiate environment and become comfortable asking questions and reaching out for help.
“Sometimes there's a difference between getting A's and understanding the material," said Ajayi. “I want to actually understand how everything works and put in that extra effort, and my professors have been very helpful. If you have a question, they'll answer it. The professors here want you to do well and they'll help you if you just ask."
Ajayi is on track to graduate high school this June, by which time he will have completed nine college-level math and science courses in less than one year's time. He spent the early months of 2021 applying to a number of four-year universities, and he and his father are excited to see the acceptance letters start rolling in.
“I feel like it gives me a leg up if colleges see that as a high school student, I was already pushing myself to take really advanced, college-level courses," he confided. “So, that's another advantage of the High School Options Program, because not every kid is going to do that."
Ajayi plans to pursue his bachelor's degree in engineering – most likely electrical engineering, with a possible minor in mechanical engineering – and is already considering a master's degree. He also has a strong interest in Entrepreneurship and hopes to one day start his own business.
“I'm still trying to figure out exactly what my major will be," he clarified. “I just know I'm going to be building stuff because to me that's really cool – to create things."
No matter which university he attends or what major he ultimately chooses, Ajayi feels better prepared for the challenges ahead because of the college-level courses he has taken at RCSJ.
“I'm definitely happy I did this," said Ajayi, with a grin. “It's really, really cool to be able to take college classes as a high school student!"
Learn more about the High School Options Program and other cost-saving higher education opportunities for high school students at RCSJ.edu/HighSchool.