By Erin Donohue, Pre-College Summer Graduate Assistant
In the summer of 2017, UConn’s Pre-College Summer (PCS) program for rising high school juniors and seniors expanded in more ways than just increasing numbers. This past summer, the program has also extended its reach both nationally and globally! Thirty-five percent (35%) of program students out of the 383 total registrations came from states outside of New England, including Puerto Rico. The program also had a total of 8 international students from countries such as Canada, France, Romania, Luxembourg, China, and Taiwan! This is the largest and most diverse group of students that have ever attended Pre-College Summer, which prepares students for college life through a non-credit, academic enrichment environment.
One of the main goals of UConn’s Pre-College Summer program is to allow students to “test out” an academic area that they may be interested in pursuing in college before they attend college. This year, to accommodate the growing number of students, PCS ramped up its course selection. This past summer’s course spread included new courses in the Arts with Animation and Photography, as well as a range of Pre-Med courses on topics such as Anatomy and Physiology, Kinesiology, and Human Pathology. These new Pre-Med courses provided the students with an opportunity to aid in the dissection of a human cadaver right on campus! We additionally added a Pre-Law course to the line-up, and as part of the course students were able to visit the UConn School of Law and a local courthouse! The hands-on experiences provided by these courses allowed students to really get a feel for whether this academic focus is something that they would want to further pursue in college, or not. As Sarah from Ohio put it, “UConn has given me an incredible experience that reassured my desire to pursue medicine.” Other students learned based on their class experience during Pre-College Summer that perhaps the subject they chose was not the best fit for them. Ina from Massachusetts who studied Statistics while at Pre-College Summer remarked, “The UConn Pre-College Summer Program was a good experience in that I left the program with many new friends and a glimpse into what college life will be life. The academic course itself, however, was one that I would definitely not repeat.”
Another goal of the Pre-College Summer Program is to make sure that students gain the full experience of what college life is like before actually attending college. Students who attend our program live in residence halls on the Storrs campus where they attend interactive classes for 19 hours a week for up to four weeks and participate in engaging afternoon workshops of their choice. New workshops popular with students this past summer included Creating a Vision Board where students were able to highlight their future goals using pictures, participating in a Hands on Drumming circle, and DJ Session 101, an introduction to disc jockeying. While all of this is daunting to high school students at first, by the end of their time in the program they begin to understand the importance of their experience on campus and get, according to Christina from Connecticut, an “eye-opening experience of what life at UConn could possibly be.” Justin from Connecticut remarked, “It was even better than I imagined it would be. I felt like a college student and got more information about college life out of the program than any other experience.” And Michele from California added, “This program provided me with a good balance of college lifestyle, subject based learning, and workshop learning.The summer staff members were very sweet and welcoming and we were able to do a lot of evening activities that were really fun.”
Students also experience social opportunities similar to that of incoming college freshman. While spending time in the program, students are able to hurdle social obstacles and make friends, which can be difficult when in a new environment. Our summer staff, including mostly current UConn undergraduate and graduate students, are as inclusive as possible of all students and convey the message that students are in a safe space where they can express themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin. On the first day of student check-in and drop off, students are usually anxious about meeting new people and may be shy to get to know one another, so making friends can be difficult. Once students realize that they are all in the same boat, however, friends are made quickly. Emelyn from Connecticut could relate, saying, “Even people who are shy like me can find people to hang out with.” The Pre-College Summer program provides many fun and exciting experiences and activities through which students can bond, such as unorganized sporting events, game and movie nights, visiting downtown Storrs, taking walks on Horsebarn Hill, and even a talent show! This past summer we also included horseback riding lessons provided by the Department of Animal Sciences for students who are passionate about riding. It’s clear by the end of the week that after all of these amazing experiences, students are sad to leave campus and their newly made friends to return home. Meira from Massachusetts remarked, “I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous about coming to UConn, but everyone is friendly and it only took a day for me to get comfortable. I definitely wish I stayed longer, it’s an unforgettable experience! It may be scary at first, but you’ll have a 50+ person family to back you up!” Yazmin from Massachusetts also reflected on her total experience in the program, saying, “It was a truly unforgettable experience. I had the opportunity to create bonds with different people and experience the ACTUAL college life while sleeping in the dorms, eating in the dining halls, and being taught by an actual college professor. We were also given a bit of freedom just like real college students. This program has a lot of variety and it’s a must.”
The impact that Pre-College Summer has on students is truly remarkable. While the experience is new and intimidating at first, students learn so much about themselves and who they would like to become in college. It’s amazing to think that UConn’s Pre-College Summer Program will host its 5th summer beginning in July of 2018. The 4-week program will run from July 8th through August 4th 2018, and program registration will open in December of 2017. For more information, please visit pcs.uconn.edu or contact our office at 860-486-0149.