All About Pre-College Summer Programs

Summer programs are a great opportunity to boost your skills and stay sharp over the summer. Here's what you need to know and why you should consider one!

For most students and their families, emails about pre-college summer programs are nothing more than annoying spam from top-tier colleges that play with your emotions and get your hopes up for no good. One huge barrier to these summer programs is their immense costs, which easily range in the thousands of dollars. The ridiculous fees make it seem like the programs are offered not for the students’ benefit but for the college’s profit, so most students abandon the possibility of attending a pre-college program without even considering what they are all about. But that’s where I’m going to stop you, because you could be making a big mistake. If you’re unsure what exactly pre-college programs are for—or how they might be a fun and beneficial choice for you—read on to learn more.

All about the campus life

As the name pre-college suggests, the ultimate goal of these programs is to give students a taste of life on campus. Students are given the rare opportunity to live in the residence halls during their stay over the summer, and as a result, they get a sense of what living in dorms feels like. Additionally, they experience “daily life on campus,” as they are invited to use the various facilities around the campus, from the school dining hall to the library and maybe science labs. Students may even get identification cards that acknowledge them as students of the college, at least for the duration of the program. High school students are not only treated like college students but also given corresponding privileges.

All about the education

Many high schools offer college-level courses through programs such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and concurrent enrollment at a nearby community college. But these opportunities rarely provide the authentic experience of attending a college lecture. One of the major appeals of pre-college summer programs is that high students get to take challenging courses taught by college professors. They cover topics that are rarely taught in traditional high school classes, including medicine, screenwriting, law and litigation, neuroscience, and anthropology, though specific course options differ by college. Some of the longer summer programs may even offer college credit upon successful completion (usually including graded assignments and tests). But the shorter noncredit programs have academic perks too, since students can sometimes secure letters of recommendation from their course professors through strong performance in their classes. Regardless of credit or letters of recommendation, students always learn a lot from their interactions with professors and about subjects that more often than not genuinely interest them.

Related: 5 Big Benefits of Attending a Pre-College Summer Program

All about the future

Aside from the academic classes, pre-college summer programs also tend to offer helpful sessions on the college admission process. Students attend conferences on how to find the right college, write strong college application essays, and apply for financial aid, but they also get tips from admission insiders and exclusive guidance on what can be a confusing application process. Pre-college programs are meant to help students feel more prepared for college—all of college—so, really, the programs come down to helping students make the right choices for their futures. They allow students to explore potential majors and brace themselves for the rigors of college courses, but they also encourage students to see other factors they will have to consider when choosing their new college home. The couple of weeks they spend on one campus during the summer can significantly influence their future as college students.

All about the fun

Regardless of their numerous benefits, pre-college programs are supposed to be fun. After all, they take place during the summer, and students don’t want to spend all of their precious vacation days in, well, more school. After the day’s class, students usually participate in planned activities or get free time. They may be taken on a tour around the surrounding city’s landmarks, and these excursions are made extra exciting with the new friends they meet during the program—and silly but fun activities can solidify those bonds for life. At the end of the day, pre-college programs are just another exciting midsummer adventure for high school students.

Related: The Top Summer Pre-College Programs for High School Students

So the next time you receive an email about pre-college programs, take a second to read it over carefully. Now that you know all about them, you know these programs are all about you. One of these programs may just be a great opportunity for you to be productive, have fun, and get ready for college this summer.

For more advice and information on pre-college programs, check out our “Summer Programs” tag.

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