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Graduating High School and MCCC Concurrently, Two West Windsor Students Head to Four-Year Colleges as Juniors


West Windsor, N.J. – West Windsor students Alex Inkiow and Kristina Parag are on the fast track.  Both graduated from high school this year while also earning their associate degrees from Mercer County Community College (MCCC).  In the fall they will transfer to four-year colleges as juniors to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

Inkiow, age 17, and Parag, age 18, say it’s been a big win for them and their families both academically and financially.  Inkiow, who was able to graduate from West Windsor-Plainsboro North a year early because his MCCC courses met his high school requirements, is finishing up his associate degree in Liberal Arts this summer.  He will transfer to the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University with a full scholarship to study Urban Planning and Design.  Parag, a West Windsor-Plainsboro South grad, completed her associate degree in Business Administration in the spring and will transfer to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) to study Marketing and Management.

Inkiow’s Mercer experience started simply enough.  He decided to take a geography class in the fall of his sophomore year in high school to prepare for the AP test in Human Geography.  “The experience was so great that I decided on a different path, taking two Mercer courses per semester at night or online, while going to high school during the day,” he explains.

Inkiow says the dividends have been significant.  “Taking classes at Mercer helped me mature as a student and develop skills I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.  And I saved so much financially.  That will give me more opportunities to work and to pursue my master’s degree without being saddled with debt.”

Kristina Parag and Alexander Inkiow

Inkiow says he has approached his education like an entrepreneur.  “I don’t want to be like the rest of the crowd.  If it’s possible and it’s something I can achieve, there’s nothing there to stop me.  It’s about motivation and hard work,” he said, adding that parental support is key. 

For Parag, the decision to add college to her high school studies through the MCCC Jump Start program was based on the experience of her two older brothers, who followed a similar path. 

“I was apprehensive at first, but it has truly been a stepping stone to help me grow,” Parag said.  She notes that the business classes she took at Mercer – her favorites were statistics, macroeconomics and marketing – helped her solidify her goals.  “I have friends who say they want to study business, but they have never taken a business class.  When I get to TCNJ, I won’t change my mind, waste time and waste money.  It’s nice to dip your feet in at Mercer.”

In order to do it all, both say their schedules were very full.  They took classes on campus in the evenings, during winter session, and in the summers.  They took half of their classes through MercerOnline and say they found the same kind of attentive faculty online as they did in regular classrooms.
Parag says that her online professors were responsive and accessible.  “I ask a lot of questions.  The professors were very open to emailing them and calling them.  They also had office hours when I could come in and see them. They made it very easy for me.”  Inkiow adds that his online courses were well laid out and very organized.

Both say their MCCC classmates provided unexpected and welcome learning opportunities.  Parag recalls classmates and study buddies who were decades older than her.  “You learn so much from your classmates, much more than just classwork,” she said.

Inkiow agrees, noting the inspiration he got from his older classmates.  “When you see what these people are accomplishing with all their other responsibilities, it gives you so much focus and motivation.  It feels like the real world.  There is a seriousness in the classroom that you just don’t find in high school,” he said.

Parag, who was active in student government at her high school, sought out leadership opportunities at Mercer.  She served as the student representative on MCCC’s Faculty Committee for Teaching and Learning, where she had a chance to interact with faculty members and the college president, and regularly voice her opinion on behalf of her fellow students.  She also served as a mentor for intellectually challenged students in MCCC’s DREAM program.  Inkiow was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and earned a Faculty Association Scholarship.

Hard work paid off for Inkiow and Parag, whose solid GPAs made their transfer process easy. Working with staff from the Transfer Services office, they say their transfer schools accepted all their MCCC credits.

Parag says high school students would benefit from more information about what they can achieve at their local community college.  “If you earn your associate degree and transfer to a New Jersey state school for a parallel major then that school has to accept all of your community college credits and you’ll be halfway to your bachelor’s degree,” she said, adding that SAT scores and application essays become far less important.

MCCC Transfer Counseling Specialist Jennifer Cook concurs. “The New Jersey Statewide Transfer Agreement, commonly referred to as the Lampitt Law, makes the transfer process with an A.A. or A.S. degree from Mercer to a New Jersey state public college or university as seamless as possible. By earning their associate degrees, both Kristina and Alex were able to take advantage of this law and begin at their next institution with junior standing.” Cook adds that, in many cases, transfer students with a certain number of credits are not even required to submit SAT scores to their next school.

Inkiow says his college transcript became the main element of his story as he applied to Rutgers.  “For high school students looking to stand out, it’s an unusual path.  I have college credits; I took that kind of initiative and I did well."

He adds that his Mercer degree means a lot to him.  “Liberal Arts was a perfect fit.  I wanted a foundation and I got opportunities to take so many interesting classes.  My two favorites, Children’s Literature and Moral Choices, are not offered at the high school level and they were terrific.”  He and Parag also say their course in Public Speaking was invaluable.

“There are some incredibly caring people at Mercer who want students to succeed,” Inkiow said.  “People don’t realize what’s available right in their backyards.”

Both students readily agree their path is not for everyone.  “You must be ready to do this completely of your own accord.  You must be ready to face adulthood,” Inkiow said.

Parag adds that she will head to TCNJ with a strong sense of independence and self-direction.  “When I go to TCNJ, I feel like I will be ready to tackle anything.”

To learn more about MCCC's Jump Start program for high school students, click here or call 609-570-3244.

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