Breaking Down Pre-College Summer Programs

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    Pre-college programs are intended to help high school students prepare for college. These programs take place during the summer and often range from 1-6 weeks. The most popular time to attend a pre-college program is during the summer before your senior year

    Attending a pre-college program is a productive way to spend your high school summers while learning more about prospective majors and careers. Depending on the nature of the program, a pre-college program may help bolster your college applications by highlighting your academic strengths and extracurricular interests. 

    There are countless pre-college programs offered throughout the country, so regardless of your interests or goals, there is likely a program that will be of interest to you. Check out our article on Pre-College Summer Programs for High School Students to learn more about specific programs. 

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    The benefits of doing a pre-college program

    Pre-college programs can help students gain more confidence and independence within a social and academic setting. Attending college is a big step and attending a pre-college program can help students better know what to expect during their freshman year. 


    Learning more about prospective majors and careers

    Pre-college programs can help you better define your interests. For example, if you like programming and computer science, you can do the Cybersecurity program at Syracuse and determine if it is something that you want to pursue or not. Similarly, if you are interested in pursuing pre-med, enrolling in a medical or science-based pre-college program may help you decide whether or not you want to pursue a medical career.

    Volunteer hours, internships, and job shadowing opportunities are valuable learning experiences and for some careers, they are required. Students interested in becoming doctors, lawyers, and veterinarians should start seeking out educational opportunities as soon as possible. A great way to start gaining practical experience and logging volunteer hours is to enroll in a pre-college summer program focused on your prospective career. 


    Experiencing dorm life

    In addition to exposing you to potential college majors, pre-college programs often require you to stay on campus. This is a great opportunity to experience dorm life and socialize with your peers. Overall, attending a pre-college program can help you shape your expectations for college and ease you into your freshman year. If you are nervous about knowing how to manage your anxiety when leaving for college, attending a pre-college program, even for a week, may help you adjust more smoothly when the time comes.  


    Familiarizing yourself with a specific college

    If you are interested in attending a specific school, see if they offer any pre-college courses or programs. This may help you get a taste of what your life there might be like. Not only will a pre-college program help prepare you for college courses, but it will also help you decide if you like the location of the school, as well as its campus culture. 


    Developing a greater sense of independence

    For many students, attending college is the first time they will be living by themselves. This change can be extremely difficult, especially because the change is so sudden. If you attend a pre-college program, however, you can experience a little of this independence beforehand. 

    During a pre-college program, you will be responsible for attending your meals on time, practicing good spending habits, completing chores you might not be used to (such as laundry), and more. You will also have to budget your time. You will be responsible for getting yourself to class on time and completing all of your work. 


    Making new friends

    Chances are, a lot of like-minded people will end up attending the same program as you. This is a great opportunity to learn how to make friends in a college setting. And who knows, these people may end up being your lifelong friends or maybe even your coworkers someday. You’ll also want to use this opportunity to network with students and faculty members. After all, networking is one of the cornerstones of any successful career!


    Enhancing your college applications

    Attending a pre-college program may help bolster your college applications by highlighting your academic strengths and extracurricular interests. You may even choose to write about your pre-college program in your college application essay or ask a faculty member for a college letter of recommendation.  

    What to consider when choosing a program

    Pre-college programs are a great opportunity to challenge yourself, both personally and academically. That said, there are several important factors to consider when choosing which programs you want to apply to. In this section, we will review the three most important considerations: cost, location, and duration. 



    Pre-college programs tend to vary in cost. Ranging from hundreds of dollars (mostly for online college programs) to 6,000 USD, these programs are not cheap. You need to consider if these costs are worth it as they most likely are subtracted from your college funds. Talk with your parents and counselors about financial planning for college to determine if this is something you want to invest in. Depending on your family’s income, you may qualify for financial aid or scholarships. 

    Research scholarships that may help you cover the costs. Many students work the first or second half of the summer to gather the money and use it towards their college program. Some options can help you afford these courses, but you have to be determined to do the research and send out scholarship and financial aid applications. 



    Before you get your heart set on a specific program, you need to determine if the location is going to be an issue. Some schools are located far from major cities and thus you need special transportation to get there. For example, Cornell students usually have to take long bus rides to arrive on campus and UCSB students who are out of state are forced to pay high fees to fly into the small airport in Santa Barbara or spend hours on a bus from Los Angeles. 

    You also need to remember that you need to add the cost of transportation to the already high cost of tuition and board.



    How long are you willing to spend away at a pre-college summer program?  Determine how long you will need to get other things done during the summer. For example, if you are in your summer of junior year going into your senior year, it would be smart to leave some time to wrap up studying for the SATs and ACTs and to start your college applications, your personal essay, and the supplements.

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    Pre-college programs can be a great opportunity for high school students, especially students who are actively exploring career paths. Pre-college programs foster independence, creativity, and critical thinking skills while allowing students to socialize and get a glimpse of dorm life. That said, there are other meaningful ways to spend your summers to prepare for college and your prospective career. In addition to researching pre-college programs, you may also want to review other summer planning opportunities.

    Preparing your college applications and knowing how to choose the right college for you can feel overwhelming at times. Attending a pre-college program may help grant you more clarity into this process. If, however, you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance during your college planning process, reach out to learn more about our services

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