The transition from high school to college can be a challenge for even the best-prepared students. In addition to being thrust into a completely different social environment, adapting to group living, and assuming entirely new levels of independence, students must also contend with the leap to college academia – tackling much more rigorous coursework, more collaborative classes, and elevated academic expectations. Not to mention needing to master time management. Of course, there is no surefire way to ensure collegiate success – but for students who are seeking to simulate or try out in advance the college experience, summers spent on pre-college programs are great ways to prepare to tackle all that this new chapter has to offer.
Pre-college programs give students a great sense of dorm life, which can be incredibly helpful when it comes time to move in for Freshman year. On many programs, students will be housed in doubles, triples, or quads, and will need to learn to navigate the personal space boundaries that group living can pose. There is a real skill to finding solitude in a sea of people – in college it is easy to feel like it is very difficult to find the personal space that was so easily attainable in your high-school bedroom.
Pre-college programs allow students to grapple with these transitions in a supportive, short-term environment, which can be a real asset when it comes time for school. And similarly, on most programs there will be no one waking teens up, no one shepherding them to meals, or making sure their laundry is clean. On pre-college programs, teens learn to grapple with the responsibilities of college independence, and this can help them avoid a slow start in college. In fact, according to the National Pre-college Survey Project, deans of admissions at top colleges & universities shared that group living and living away from home were two skills that they most valued in summer programs.
The College Course-load
While learning to exist in the social sphere of a pre-college program is certainly a plus for students, some pre-college summer programs – especially those run directly by colleges and universities – can also offer great academic exposure to the rigors of college-level coursework. Students arriving in college will inevitably be faced with different academic expectations than those they faced in high-school. Suddenly, hundred-plus page papers and multiple hours of out-of-class reading are the norm, and many students must learn not only to write and critically think at a college level, but also to collaborate with classmates and create their own projects.
Pre-college summer programs can offer students a great stepping stone into the world of college academia. Many programs host courses taught by college professors at major universities, who know firsthand the expectations placed on college students. While some programs might limit out-of-class independent work, others might provide course structures that mimic those of college students, and force them to be diligent with their independent coursework.
Many pre-college programs also present students with the types of learning environments and project-based assignments that they will inevitably tackle in their college careers. Collaboration and group projects are oftentimes staples of pre-college programs, and learning to divide responsibilities, communicate effectively, and otherwise navigate an independent project will be hugely helpful for students when these assignments count in college. Similarly, pre-college programs can give students a great sense of what style of learning they enjoy – for example, if a student realizes they do not function well in large lecture environments.
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By and large, the vast majority of students who attend pre-college programs on college campuses will not ultimately study at the institution that hosts their summer program. However, a summer stint on campus can give a student real clarity as to what types of schools they might ultimately target during the course of their college search. A student who is set on an urban environment might decide solely to pursue metropolitan colleges, but they also might realize they ultimately want a school with a campus environment. A pre-college experience on a New England campus can forge a love of rural campus-life, or might catalyze an interest in city life. Simply trying different college environments can be incredibly useful for students when it comes time to start their college searches.
Students can also become more attuned to their learning style and what types of classroom environments will be most suitable to them. A student might decide that large lecture formats simply don’t compel them, and choose to look at smaller schools with lower teacher-student ratios; or might decide that they really value experiential learning, and pursue schools and fields that will allow them to have a hands-on undergraduate experience. Furthermore, students on pre-college programs have the opportunities to explore specific subjects, which can help inform their decision when it comes time to pick a college major – and remember, it’s far easier (and cheaper) for a student to rule out a major before they arrive at school, rather than during Sophomore year.
There is a reason that the journey to college marks one of the most significant transitions a person will make in the course of their lives. The combination of newfound freedom, social opportunities, and intellectual stimulation that college presents makes it a truly unique experience – but the suddenness of this transition can present a real challenge for many students. Attending a pre-college summer program doesn’t necessarily mean a student is Ivy League bound – however, it does ensure that wherever they end up in school, they will arrive with some experience of the realities of college life. And when it comes to making the college transition, this experience can be absolutely invaluable.