Schools With The Best Pre-College Summer Programs

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One of the best ways to get to know what it’s like to attend college is to actually do so. Many schools offer the opportunity for high school students to attend summer sessions, but some do it better than others, according to College Consensus, an online college and university ranking and information site. Opposed to the simple campus tour, College Consensus maintains that pre-college experiences go beyond the norm and often mundane.

“Instead of being dragged around campus by an over-enthusiastic junior pointing out historic plaques, you’re actually getting first-hand experience taking college classes, living dorm life, and eating in the dining halls,” the editors at College Consensus write. “You’ll make friends, embarrass yourself, do 80 new things that terrify and thrill you — all the stuff that happens in freshman year, crammed into just a few weeks.”

To measure pre-college programming, College Consensus looked at universities offering college credit, mentorship, residential experience, and scholarship opportunities for the programming. “Pre-college summer programs also help students establish relationships with mentors, which can be key to a successful college experience,” the editors write. “And with scholarship programs and outreach to first-generation, underserved students, many pre-college programs can be free — and a valuable way to show disadvantaged students that they can go to college, too.”


College Consensus used those criteria and a “Consensus Score” from the publishers and students. The publisher rating score is an aggregate of 16 different rankings from other publishing sites like U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and WalletHub, to name a few. The student consensus score is defined as “a school’s average student review score from around the web,” and is based on five student review sites.

Based on those scores, College Consensus says the University of California-Berkeley offers the best pre-college programming. According to College Consensus, UC-Berkeley offers two pre-college programs based on its Northern California campus — a Summer Residential Program for students wanting to experience what it’s actually like to live on campus, and a Summer Commuter Program for local Bay Area students. The residential program is a six-week session for $13,700 or an eight-week section for $15,000; both offer multiple courses students may complete. The commuter program is open to as many as 300 San Francisco Bay Area students who are at least 16 years old and who have at least a 3.0 GPA. Instead of a general fee, students pay $450 to register and $550 per credit.

Following Berkeley is the University of California-Los Angeles, which offers a bit of a different approach with its Pre-College Summer Institutes. High school students may choose to hone in on one of nearly two dozen specific areas ranging from economics to digital filmmaking to “Big Data for Justice.” Costs range from $1,700 to $6,400 per week. Up next is Wake Forest University in North Carolina, which offers week-long programs in which students may focus on one of more than a dozen areas, including business and sports business. Cost per week ranges from $1,450 to $2,500.

Rounding out the top five are Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

“Pre-college summer programs have become a new rite of passage for rising high school seniors and new graduates, giving them the opportunity to experience anywhere from a week to six or even eight weeks on a college campus before enrolling,” College Consensus said in a release of the rankings. “With these pre-college programs, colleges and universities provide young people with a taste of college life, including residency and courses (sometimes for transferable credit). And students can make a much more informed decision about the next four years of their lives, while enjoying a formative experience.”

See the full ranking with descriptions of the programs and schools here.


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