Many colleges offer high school students (and sometimes younger!) the opportunity to experience college life and explore a topic of interest on their campuses over the summer through pre-college programs. You will usually live in a college dormitory (unless you’re commuting from home), eat in a college dining hall, and there will be field trips and other activities when you are not in class. There are a lot of these programs out there, and the variety can be confusing, so it’s important to be able to distinguish between them.
A helpful way to distinguish between pre-college programs is if they will give you college credit or not. With college credit options, you will be taking an actual college course offered during the summer term. In addition to high school students, there may also be college students in the class. You will be treated like a college student by your professor, and you will be awarded a college grade at the end. You will get a fairly accurate idea of what to expect in a college class, but the class might be more challenging than you’re used to. In addition, because you will get college credit for it, you will have to send your transcript from the course to the colleges you apply to.
Non-credit options often closely resemble college courses, but they are designed specifically for high school students. There will only be other high school students in the class, and you will not have to report any grades you might receive to other colleges. Non-credit courses can be as short as one week, or as long as the whole summer. In addition, because they are designed for high school students, the course topics might be more “fun” or less-traditional than for-credit options.
If you are looking forward to taking on a significant academic challenge, and have several weeks to dedicate to a college class, you might want to explore pre-college programs that award college credit. If you don’t want to worry about other colleges seeing your grade from your summer program, or if you’re looking for more flexibility in terms of program length or topic, non-credit options might be best for you.
Whichever type of program you choose, don’t expect to slack off. Pre-college programs are intended not only to give you a taste of the independence and excitement of college life, but also to provide an introduction to the level of academics you can expect in college. Whether you’ll be getting college credit or not, and whether your course lasts one week or eight weeks, your professors will always expect you to give your academic best!