All About Pre-college Summer Programs

High School Student

Last Updated: Mar 8, 2017

Many high school juniors can relate to the following scenario:

It’s 11 o’ clock at night, and you are in bed, ready to sleep. But before you let your mind drift off, you decide to check your e-mail. You force open your tired eyes and squint against the blinding light from your phone. It seems like you have at least a dozen messages from various colleges, some of which you’re interested in, others you have never heard of. You scroll through the e-mails, and one in particular catches your attention: it’s from a top-tier college, an Ivy League school perhaps. Your mind races, your palms sweat, and your eyes dart around the tiny screen. Could it be that the prestigious colleges have finally begun to notice the hidden gem lying in your bed? Are they really scouting you as a junior in high school? Is this even possible?! With trembling fingers, you open the e-mail and you read… You are invited to attend a Pre-College Summer Program at… The words trail off, because you stopped caring. Feeling a little sheepish, you turn off your phone and go to sleep.

For most students and their families, e-mails about pre-college summer programs are nothing more than annoying spam from top-tier colleges playing with your emotions, getting your hopes up for no good.

Another 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.

Related: Top Summer Pre-college Programs

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 they are also given corresponding privileges.

Related: 5 Benefits of Pre–college Summer Programs

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: A Day in the Life at an Academic Summer Camp: Yale Young Global Scholars

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 the 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.

So the next time you receive an e-mail 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. (BTW, you can search for pre-college summer programs right here, right now!)

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