The Problem with Summer Pre-College Programs at Big Name Universities

If you are a high school student you are probably getting inundated with materials about college and, occasionally, those colleges’ summer programs.Atlas Workshops is based in Cambridge, MA, a city known for its top universities. Every spring, the subway (or T, as we Bostonians say) becomes a giant advertising board for summer programs hosted by the city’s top universities, each proclaiming that they offer students an opportunity to get a head start on the whole college situation. These programs can be a great way to get a feel for a college campus – you can spend time in a different style of class or you can focus on a subject you don’t have access to in school. You can also start practicing for when you make the move to a dorm your freshman year. It’s difficult for some students to transition to living away from home so easing into the experience can be very helpful.  A pre-college program can help you adjust to city life if you’re from a small town, or vice versa.  These big name university pre-college programs can help students grow accustomed to new changes and challenges they will have to face when they leave home.

At top schools these pre-college programs have no problems filling up the slots. But what parents don’t always understand is that these pre-college programs are generally very detached from the rest of the school. While top faculty might give a guest lecture, many of these summer programs don’t have the same access and some are often just renting classroom space on the campus.

Keep in mind that doing a pre-college program can show the admissions office that you “get” the school and want to go there — but if you are applying to a highly selective school, they already know that.

Pro-Tip: Make the most of your Pre-College Summer Program on a Campus

Living on a beautiful campus at your dream school is a huge opportunity. If you think the value of the program will come during admissions season, you are missing the real point: getting to learn about subjects that are not taught in high school!

Find subjects that interest you: your high school may not have a class on city planning, but a summer program may offer a course. Make use of the resources available and meet with future advisors and students if possible.  Explore the campus and take time to familiarize yourselves with the different buildings and areas. Ask yourself what you are looking for in a college — big or small? Rural or urban? What is the community like? What type of students do you want to be working with?

Getting to know the town around the college is a fun and important element of doing a pre-college program as well. Of course we encourage intentional exploration — which you can do on your own. In a pre-college summer program exploring a new town or city can help students exercise their independence, and will prepare them for the excitement (and occasional challenges) of college.

Does Pre-College Need to Stay on Campus?

Most pre-college programs are a lot like “normal” school.  You’re based at a university, taking classes every day with teachers and homework and a planned curriculum just like in high school.

Atlas Workshops, however, offers students more opportunities to engage with their surroundings and strive to make active changes.  At Atlas, we strongly believe in experiential learning. We motivate students to think critically by introducing them to new situations where they can solve problems in an innovative way.

Students seeking a little more adventure and variety in their pre-college summers should consider exploring the opportunities that Atlas offers: high school summer trips that are unmatched in their unique combination of global exploration and intentional creative learning.

The trips are led by professionals with real-world experience working on real-world design projects for groups ranging from the UN to Google. Each trip incorporate elements of “design thinking,” an innovative way of problem solving that is becoming more and more popular (hint: we’ve been doing ‘design’ from day one).  Each trip is about coming up with a solution to a specific problem, and working on a trip deliverable–something you can add to your portfolio–to bring the trip home.  Check out our pre-college summer research and design projects as part of our Global Innovators: High School Summer Trips.

UncategorizedAdam White