When a student at Juanita High School, in Washington State USA, Jenna Everard opted to study the advanced mathematics Cambridge Programme pathway, comprising Cambridge International AS & A Levels in Maths, Biology, English Literature and History, together with AS Levels in Global Perspectives & Research and English Language. 'The variety of courses helped me determine what to study at university,' said Jenna, 'especially the amazing combination of text book and hands-on learning I experienced during my biology studies which made me decide that I wanted to pursue environmental biology.'
Jenna applied to Barnard College, part of New York City’s Columbia University, to study both environmental biology and computer science, with the long term aim of undertaking scientific research. As she moved from school to university, Jenna’s Cambridge qualifications gave her a number of advantages: ‘At Barnard College, my Cambridge International A Levels earned me 15 college credits - the maximum amount available and equivalent to one semester,’ she said. ‘When I started my courses I also gained exemptions from some classes, such as entry level biology and calculus courses, accelerating my studies and giving me the opportunity to explore more higher level courses while on my degree pathway.’
The breadth, depth and detail of the Cambridge syllabuses proved excellent preparation for university study, added Jenna. 'The courses allowed me to thrive at university, even in my fast-paced and intensive biology degree course, and helped me to develop good planning and time management skills. The Cambridge focus on applying knowledge rather than just learning it also helped me gain a greater understanding of my course topics. In addition, I was used to revising for, and taking, extensive – cumulative – Cambridge exams so I felt well prepared for university assessment.'
After graduating (in 2023), Jenna plans to pursue a PhD in geochemistry and eventually a career as a research scientist and college professor. ‘In line with this, I currently work as a geochemistry research assistant at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory,’ she said. 'I’m investigating the timing of past earthquakes, especially around the San Andreas Fault and the Japan Trench.'
Jenna says that she continues to benefit from the skills gained during her Cambridge studies: 'Cambridge places an equal weight on STEM and humanities subjects, which is one reason why I wanted to go to a liberal arts university like Barnard College. Cambridge demonstrated the importance of all subjects in any career, and that most fields are intricately intertwined.'
In particular, Jenna highlights the influence of her Cambridge International Global Perspectives & Research (GPR) AS Level course: ‘Firstly, GPR greatly increased my confidence in public speaking, something which I did not enjoy at school but by the time I entered university I loved it! I still apply the skills I gained during GPR in my own research projects but perhaps most importantly, GPR gave me the freedom to choose my own study path which led me to explore - and develop a passion for - the world of genetics. This eventually led to a research assistant position in medical genetics at Columbia University Medical Center studying the genetic causes of hearing loss.’
These are the reasons are why Jenna continues to recommend Cambridge qualifications to other students: 'If you put in the effort required to succeed in the Cambridge programme, then you will develop the discipline and skills you need to reach your academic and career goals.'