While college is a faraway thought for most junior high students, Mark Gray was not only thinking about college, but also saving up for it, too.
So, when the financially savvy 20-year-old heard about the College of the Canyons First-Year Promise program, which waives tuition and fees for new full-time college students during their first year of study, COC became the obvious choice.
“Getting the financial help for my classes was paramount,” said Gray. “My parents have helped me a little bit financially, so FYP made it easier so that I wouldn’t have to work full-time.”
With the help of his FYP counselor, Michelle Reina, Gray took on a heavy load of coursework in order to meet the additional prerequisites for the international business program at San Diego State University (SDSU), his dream school.
Ranked 12th in the nation (U.S. News and World Report), SDSU’s rigorous international business program has a competitive admissions rate, especially for transfer students.
“A lot of teachers told me, ‘Make sure you have solid backups because that is a hard school to get into,’ but I had my heart set on SDSU,” said Gray.
Gray, who loves traveling and learning about other cultures, was especially drawn to SDSU’s international business program for the opportunity to study abroad in Chile.
Undeterred, Gray took classes in the morning, worked the afternoon shift at Walmart, and would spend his evenings studying and doing homework. He took four Spanish courses to improve his intermediate conversational Spanish skills.
The business-minded student also started his own t-shirt business and began investing in the stock market. In the little spare time he had, Gray was an active member of the college’s Future Business Leaders of America – Phi Beta Lambda chapter.
Fortunately, Gray’s hard work paid off. A week after being accepted to California State University, Long Beach—his second-choice school—Gray went to his car during a work break to check his email for any news from SDSU.
“Scrolling through my emails, I thought, ‘Here is my rejection letter from SDSU,’” said Gray. “But it said ‘Congratulations! You have been accepted into the Class of 2021.’ It was the most exciting moment of my life. It was the culmination of two years of hard work. I am really happy that I got in.”
Gray, who will be graduating from COC on Friday, May 31 with a 3.4 GPA, credits his success to the college’s affordability and student services, such as The Learning Center tutors and helpful counselors such as Reina.
“He worked very hard taking advantage of every opportunity to him to help himself stand out while also taking heavy loads of classes each semester and still maintaining a competitive GPA,” said Reina. “His ambition and determination to succeed lead him to where he is today and I have no doubt he will do great things at SDSU and beyond.”
Gray plans on becoming a regional CEO for a company like Walmart or a business based in Latin or South America. The Valencia resident credits his success to the college’s affordability and student services, such as The Learning Center’s helpful tutors and counselors like Reina.
“I couldn’t be happier with the college,” said Gray, who will finance his SDSU education with his hard-earned savings. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”