College Encounter in the Summer

Angel Zheng, Editor

   With the school year coming to a close, students start looking forward to a variety of activities such as amusement parks, family trips, and vacation destinations outside of the United States to fill their summer break. Amidst these summer plans, some students use their break from school to engage in academics via pre-college summer programs at colleges and universities.

   Both colleges and universities offer pre-college summer programs for high schoolers interested in certain academic topics while also providing a taste of the college experience. Students get to live in dorms, walk around campus, eat in dining halls, and meet interesting people along the way. Many of these programs require an expensive admission fee, and typically last from a few weeks to a few months.

   Senior Alexander Wang participated in the UCF Competitive Programming Summer Institute in 2019, the summer before his sophomore year. His interest in computer science reinforced his decision to attend the two-week long academic experience at the UCF campus. 

   “I wanted to try to be a little bit more advanced in programming as I was going to take AP Computer Science next year, and I wanted to help build up possible skills … from a young starting grade,” Wang said.

   He explained that while his classes ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., there would be a four-hour long programming contest every other day. Not only that, he notes a considerable difference in the teaching styles between high school and college.

   “The programming techniques taught there were mainly standard for competitive programming stuff, which is stuff not really taught in school,” Wang said. “You’re able to learn more about different programming algorithms, techniques, and more advanced skills that you need for competitions or even career later in the future.”

   These pre-college summer programs aren’t only available in person; many colleges and universities offer an online option as well. Senior Shraddha Bhatia attended the Harvard Pre-College Program in 2021, the summer before her senior year. She took an online course called “Great Ideas in Macroeconomics.”

   “I just was interested in economics and I hadn’t had any classes for it, since Trinity doesn’t offer it until senior year,” Bhatia said. “So I wanted to just get an introduction and see if it’s something I’d be interested in doing further in college.”

   Although the online college experience differs from that of in-person, one can still get a feel for the lecture style, homework load and discussions that occur in a typical college classroom. Bhatia compares her online course to a class in the Malone Schools Online Network (MSON).

   “It is really similar to MSON because … it was the whole online setting and you’re with people you don’t go to school with, but you’re all learning the same topics,” Bhatia said.

   Attending a college summer program can be an impactful experience for students, especially if they want to explore and delve deeper into their academic interests. Despite the significant costs that range in the thousands, the overall experience may help students challenge themselves and become more confident in their abilities.

   “Initially, I was actually a little bit hesitant to go because I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know what these two weeks are going to be like,’ and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but it turned out to be one of my best experiences pretty much in high school,” Wang said.

   Furthermore, pre-college summer programs can benefit students who aren’t sure what to pursue later in life. Students who feel stressed about the college application process can use these programs to their advantage and figure out what kind of environment they would like to be a part of.

   “I think if people have doubts about what they’re going into, especially juniors, it’s helpful for them to go explore these programs and the courses they offer and see what university styles they’re interested in, and see what courses they’re interested in and what major they might want to pursue,” Bhatia said.