Would you buy a car without test driving it? No. Yet many students do just that when they choose a major or a college without thoroughly researching it. But how do you test a campus that is hundreds of miles away? How do you test a major like Animation, or Hydrology, when high schools donâ€™t offer classes in those subjects?
Pre-College Summer Programs. Colleges and universities around the country offer opportunities specifically designed for high school students to â€œattendâ€ college for a week (or two or more), take classes from college professors (geared for high schoolers), live in the dorms, have a roommate and learn about a subject they think they might want to study â€œfor real.â€ There are hundreds of these programs and the subjects taught vary from performing and fine arts to engineering, medicine, law, politics, psychology, anthropology â€“ use your imagination. Some focus on a general college experience and offer intensive workshops on college entrance exam preparation, writing essays for college and scholarship applications and learning how to navigate a college environment. A few offer academic credit, but most are enrichment opportunities.
High School students can apply for the College OPTIONS Summer Program Scholarship, due March 19, 2013, to help defray the cost of a program. A student should research and apply to a summer program, and then apply for up to $2,500 from College OPTIONS. Most programs offer their own scholarships as well. The College OPTIONS application is online at: http://www.collegeoptions.org/scholarships.html Please note that College OPTIONS does not operate these summer programs and that deadlines for summer programs vary.
In addition to â€œtest-drivingâ€ a particular campus or major, students (and parents) will get a chance to break out of their comfort zone. What is it like being away from my parents for a few weeks? (Students are well supervised.) What is it like rooming with a complete stranger? (Typically, just fine, sometimes awesome.) Additionally, these programs will add weight to college and scholarship applications.
If you spend your academic free time (summer) in a learning environment, colleges will take you more seriously as an applicant (plus you will have something to write about in those oh-so-hard to write essays). In the studentsâ€™ own words:
â€œIt really taught me a lot of things about myself and about othersâ€¦I learned how to communicate and how to make friends. I went in to the trip thinking it may be boring and I wasnâ€™t going to meet anyone, and it was the total opposite. I was so excited to come home and tell everyone.â€ Patricia, Corning High, Summer 2011
â€œThis experience was, at first, just another item I planned on adding to my list of accomplishments on college applications â€“ another statistic. Now, its appearance on my transcript is just a side benefit. From Duke [University] Imagine Camp I developed as a person, gained new perspectives and met people from around the globeâ€¦I am sincerely grateful.â€ Christina, Foothill High, Summer 2012
Go test-drive that college!
Buffy Tanner is the Scholarship Coordinator for College OPTIONS. She is a Shasta County native and attended local schools for grades K-12. She earned her Bachelorâ€™s from UC Davis in 1992, and worked as an advisor at UC Davis until moving back to Redding in 2003 to work with the College OPTIONS program.