The benefits of attending a summer pre-college program

Stay Energized This Summer: Summer And Pre-College Programs

An area of increasingly interest to high school students in recent years has become Summer Pre-College Programs.  They run from the gamut from 1-2 week academic experiences to full blown 7 week programs where students take a couple of college level courses comparable to normal programs at the university.  Whatever program you choose, they offer three potential benefits.

  1. Understanding College and Building Confidence

The first year of college is an exhilarating but also concerning experience for students.  Their image of college has largely been formed by TV or movies.  For many young adults, this is their first exposure to real independence.  High school is the most structured experience in many people’s lives (outside of the military).  Course periods are planned to the minute, while papers, homework and quizzes are scheduled with precision.  By contrast, college is less ordered.  Papers and exams are often bunched at the middle to end of the semester.  Classes often have no attendance.  It is up to students to show up, plan ahead, and spread out their work.  Getting exposed to the rhythms of college ahead of time can be really useful.  Students also get a vibe for campus life – do they prefer a campus close to a large city or do they want a large, leafy campus hidden away?  It will also give you a better sense of what to look for when you tour campuses during the college search.

  1. Finding a Major

Many students struggle to find the right major. They often erroneously think they have found their dream major without ever having been exposed to the coursework that it entails.  (Or, they may come to college very unsure of what major to pursue.)  Since the first year of college often involves taking university requirements, students may find themselves dropping a major after taking their first course or wandering around from major to major for the first few years.  By senior year, they are struggling to graduate on time.

Summer programs allow them to experience the nitty gritty of individual majors.  Thinking biology, what is lab work really like?  Accounting or finance?  Find out if its really your passion.  Experiencing coursework and having a strong sense of the right major can really simplify and focus the college search.  Finding out in advance that a major is not right for you is just as useful.

  1. Lighting the Fire, Getting Ready To Apply

During the daily grind of high school, college can seem far away and grades hard to focus on.  Getting a taste for college and understanding that work now will pay off later can help many students stay focused.  If a student is unsure they are ready for college, this can help answer that question as well.

Relatedly, the application process is also somewhat alien for many students.  What is writing a college essay like?  Are you ready for the SAT/ACT?  Many summer programs also incorporate courses in college prep, essay writing or studying for standardized exams.

Some General Advice

Do not worry too much about the college, but focus on the program (and what you can comfortably afford).  If a program is run out of a school, do not assume that it will give you a leg up in admissions to it.  Think instead how the program and your experiences make you a more interesting candidate for a range of schools you are interested in attending.

By Amelia Mezrahi, New York, NY