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Pre-college programs aid students in choosing a major

Daily and overnight programs introduce participants to college lifestyle

By Sabrina Khan

Deciding on a college major can be an issue for many students as they near high school graduation. The list of majors is endless, and narrowing it down to just a few options can be a challenge.

Colleges worldwide have addressed this problem by opening their doors to high schoolers by offering them academic programs on campus. Commonly referred to as “pre-college programs,” these sessions are hosted by universities such as Rutgers, Yale and Cornell.

   These pre-college programs offer students an opportunity to take classes that strengthen or expand their knowledge in a desired subject area and inspire them to explore new topics that they might not be able to find in their high schools.

Senior Kelsey Ames explored “Engineering Design via Community Service Projects” at Columbia University’s pre-college  session in July.

“Summer programs, from my experience, help you solidify your interest in a field,” said Ames. “It serves as an experimental period to test out what strikes people as interesting.”

The programs have classes that range from “Advanced Cryptology” to the “Freaks and Geeks of Popular Media,” spreading across a variety of subject areas and possible majors.

The typical summer program can range anywhere from one  to six weeks, giving students a substantial amount of time to learn the material.

While each program differs, the majority require admissions testing or some other filter to determine the best candidates based on academic performance and extracurricular background.

In addition to course materials, applicants are required to pay for tuition, health services, food and room and board (depending on whether the program is residential or not.) The overall cost usually amounts to around $5,000.

“These camps can be pricey, especially if you are away from home for some time, but can also be valuable… you get the ‘feel’ of the campus and get to hang out with like-minded people,” said guidance counselor Luke Kotsu. “At these programs there is more academic rigor.”

Get the experience year-round

A more affordable and less time- consuming option is also available for students willing to participate in a pre-college program during the school year.

One of these options is called Splash, a non-residential educational program that lasts for one to two days during the school year. It costs up to $40, all classes and meals included.

Splash provides more than 400 classes for high school and middle school students that are taught by college students. At Splash, students have the option of taking several of these classes a day.

“Programs like MIT’s Splash are a great and affordable way for students to explore a variety of educational topics in fun context,” said Kostu. “The benefits are hanging out and having a good time with friends on a college campus, traveling to a great college town like Boston and rethinking strengths and preferences in a casual and fun atmosphere.”

Alyssa Romanos, a student from Demarest, NJ, participated in both the MIT Splash program and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Summer Program. “If a student were looking to concentrate and go in depth in a subject for three weeks, CTY would be the way to go. If someone was interested in many topics and would like to be introduced to them, Splash is the place for that,” said Romanos.

No matter their duration, all pre-college programs allow students to dip their feet into college life, even if it’s only for a few days. The programs also introduce a new level of academic rigor and style that students are not exposed to during their high school years, in addition to providing them with the experience of life on a college campus away from home.

“If a high schooler is looking to apply to a summer program, I would strongly encourage them to take full advantage of the experience by not only attending every class, but by living on campus, and finding the courage to ask questions,” said Ames.

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