As the university admissions process grows more competitive, several high school students are enriching their summer vacations with pre-college summer programs.
These summer programs are designed to provide a taste of collegiate learning and life. Although there are many ways to use your summer vacations effectively and creatively, attendance at one of these programs can really strengthen an application, confer college-level credit and introduce you to more rigorous classes than your high school provides.
There are a variety of summer programs available, with subjects ranging from international travel to environmental science to creative writing. Here are some important tips on how to select the right one for you.
1. Consider your long-term goals:
When considering these types of pre-college summer programs, begin by asking yourself, “What is my aim or goal for beyond and college?” You may not have a particular major in mind just yet, but if you can narrow your career and academic interests to the humanities, sciences or arts, it will assist you find a pre-college summer program that suits your requirements.
There are numerous sites that maintain directories of pre-college summer programs. Even at a smaller school like Carleton College in Minnesota, there are a plenty of available chances so make sure to check these directories carefully.
Larger schools, like the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, offer an even wider array. Your choices may include leadership seminars, study abroad experiences and traditional academic courses, so evaluate each and every opportunity completely before you make a decision.
2. Improve your strengths:
Next, review your current extracurricular and grades. One option is to register in a summer program that emphasizes your strengths.
If you are talented in science and math and think you might like to pursue a career in the so-called STEM fields, a program in physics and engineering could place you in an elite group of university applicants. If you select this path, search for summer programs that are tailored to high achievers. The program should push you to enhance your skill set, rather than easily explore the field.
3. Shore up your weaknesses:
If your transcript is not strong across various disciplines, you risk looking unbalanced as student. In such cases, identify a summer program that will assist you overcome your challenges. Most colleges seek well-balanced applicants who are capable in every field, despite of their planned majors.
For example, if your transcripts suggest that you have struggled in history, a program that illustrates the subject with hands-on projects and small-group instruction could be a superb choice.
4. Take a cue from college and major requirements:
If you’re unsure about which path or program to pursue, you can look to the admissions requirements for your short list of colleges, as well as to the requirements for the degrees that interest you. Some specialized degree programs may have few general education requirements – an arts school may be primarily interested in your portfolio or audition during the admissions cycle, for instance.
In that scenario, a pre-college summer program in STEM may or may not pay dividends from an admissions perspective. Similarly, an engineering university may be much more concerned with your mathematics ability than with your painting experience and knowledge.
If you are not sure of your future major, or if you plan to attend a college with a focus on liberal education, work on strengthening your weaknesses.
5. Seek opportunities that award credit:
Some universities provide pre-college summer programs that confer college credit; the specifics differ by college, as well as by any arrangements with your high school.
Earning credit for a pre-college summer program is a win-win situation if you can afford the tuition and invest the time. You will simultaneously increase your application with an additional rigorous class, while also securing university credit before you officially start university.
Certain for-credit programs are more expensive and more selective than noncredit programs. For instance, Carnegie Mellon University’s Advanced Placement or Early Admission pre-college summer program provides courses in engineering, math, the science and humanities and has prerequisites, which may include minimum standardized exam scores.
But there are several subsidized options available, as well as a wealth of scholarships. New York University, which provides a fee-free STEM program targeted at students from disadvantaged backgrounds, is just one such school.