Are summer pre-college courses necessary?
Pre-college courses are classes that students may take at a college level while they are still in high school. These courses are often offered for credit and may benefit students in three ways:
- They may prepare students for the required subjects they will encounter when they enter college as a freshman
- They may open a student’s mind to new ideas or life paths, and
- They may give students a taste of campus life. A student who elects to take a pre-college course may feel more comfortable on campus and in the classroom than a student who did not take one.
But pre-college courses are not necessary for college admission and are not needed to get a jump-start on an intended major. Many students change their major a few times before settling on one, so taking pre-college courses in high school for an intended major may not be helpful. Some colleges even discourage students from choosing pre-college courses based on what their intended major, in hopes that students will try broadening their horizons.
Also keep in mind that pre-college course credit is often not transferable, so students who do not attend the school at which they have pre-college credit will not receive credit hour benefits.
I know that what you do during the summer has some effect on your college applications. I was wondering what types of things college admissions like to see…camps, volunteer work, study programs, vacations abroad, part time work, etc. Which one (or more) of these would you suggest that I focus on? Thanks.
There’s not a particular type of summer program colleges prefer above all, they just want to see that you did some sort of enrichment activity during your time off rather than sitting at home all day. If you go to a summer camp that you feel really contributes to your intellectual and emotional development, then by all means continue doing so.
Likewise, any volunteer work or pre-college study programs, or even an exchange/study abroad program could give you the experiences colleges look for. However, just taking a vacation with your family for fun or working at your local supermarket probably won’t have the same impact on you, though if you have some unusual travel experience that pushes you in a certain direction in life, you could certainly write about that for your essays.
Finally, don’t try and impress admissions committees with the quantity of summer activities you have planned. They prefer meaningful participation in one or two activities and will be able to see right through any attempts at filling your resume.
I am a high school freshman and am interested in summer classes on a college campus next summer (maybe in drama or in history). Other than looking through every college’s specific website, is there an overall source that can help me find colleges that offer classes for current high school students? Also, are such summer courses looked on positively when it comes time for college admission decisions? Should I be a certain year in high school before taking a college-level course?
First, congratulations on your motivation—it’s great that you want to spend your summer learning.
Let me answer your last two questions first: Admissions committees will certainly look favorably upon your pre-college college work or any other intensive summer enrichment programs in which you participate. Different pre-college summer programs have requirements for what year of high school you need to be in, so it really depends on which programs you’re looking into. That said, there are plenty of pre-college summer programs for rising sophomores, so there’s no reason to delay your search for the perfect program.
The College Board has two pages that will direct you toward several pre-college summer school programs:
Also take a look at Duke’s TIP Program, Northwestern’s National High School Institute, and Johns Hopkins’ Pre-College Program. These are some of the most reputable pre-college summer programs and the latter offer programs around the country in an array of subject areas.
You might also check out some of the shorter, specialized programs. For example, the Miller Center’s Presidential Classroom offers week-long programs in Washington, DC where you can meet with prominent members of Congress and the administration and observe the workings of our democracy.
Finally, take a look at the article in the current issue of My College Guide titled “What Are You Doing Next Summer? Get with the (Pre-College) Program!” Good luck!
My daughter is a freshman in college and would like to take some courses during the summer. Do summer courses lower or affect your GPA in any way?
If the courses are taken for credit, they will affect the GPA just like regular semester courses. Whether or not these courses will lower her GPA will depend solely on the grades she receives. Taking summer courses can be a great strategy for staying on track in a major and graduating on time. However, beware of overloading too many summer courses at once. Most summer semesters only last from six to eight weeks, and this means that a semester’s worth of material is covered in less than two months. This can be rigorous, and most advisers caution students to take no more than two courses in the same session.