Ask These 4 Questions to Find the Right Pre-College Program

For many students, the process of applying to pre-college summer programs can feel just as important (and just as complex) as applying to college. Below we discuss the benefits of these programs and share the essential questions your students can ask to evaluate and decide on the right one for their needs. 

We also share an up-to-date list of free pre-college summer programs you can share with your students. So jump down to the middle of the page if that's what you're visiting for. 

Why Should Students Attend a Pre-College Summer Program?

A pre-college summer program is a short-term academic program designed for high school students who are interested in getting a head start on their college education. These programs typically take place during the summer months and are hosted by colleges and universities.

Pre-college summer programs offer students a less stressful way to take initial college-level courses. Students are able to gain valuable experience and explore potential career paths, all while gaining confidence and comfort on a college campus. 

Students who have good experiences in pre-college programs are more likely to feel like they belong on college campuses, which in turn gives them a higher likelihood of academic and social success. Simply put, pre-college programs open doors to more college and career options for students who participate in them. 

Questions for Students Evaluating Pre-College Programs:

  • What is your goal for attending a pre-college program?

Students should have a clear idea of why they want to attend a pre-college program. Understanding this will help them identify programs that align with their goals and interests. Maybe they hope to jump-start their academics, or maybe they want to spend time on a campus to see if the school's vibe works for them. No matter the reason, it helps to recognize it first.

  • What academic topic(s) do you want to learn about?

By identifying the academic topics they are most interested in learning about, they can narrow down their search to find programs or workshops in those subjects. 

  • How far away would you be comfortable going for a program?

Some programs may be located close to home, while others may require the student to travel a significant distance. It is important for them to consider the logistics and costs of travel when evaluating programs.

  • How long of a program are you comfortable attending?

Programs can range in length from a few days to several weeks, so students will want to choose a program that fits their schedule and availability. 

Students should also know that application and financial aid deadlines for pre-college programs vary a lot. So, staying organized and making a plan is critical for securing a spot in a free or well-funded program!

For even more information about applying to these programs, watch our Pre-College Summer Program webinar for more insights.

Tips for Helping Students Find Pre-College Programs

Understanding your student’s goals and limitations for attending a pre-college program improves your ability to guide them to an appropriate and affordable option for the summer.

Empower them to research programs before deciding where to apply and be sure they know the red flags to look out for in this process. The cost of attending (or applying to) a program should never outweigh the benefits – and students should never go into debt to participate in a program!

To help students in your college readiness program find the ideal summer program, consider creating a survey for tenth and eleventh grade students and their families.

See Our List of Free Pre-College Summer Programs

Click the link below to access our current list of free pre-college programs. We update this list yearly, so bookmark it so it's easy to share with students interested in jumpstarting their college experience. 

How to Use This List

View the full list in this window or click ‘view larger version’ in the bottom right corner of the table for an expanded view. The list can be filtered, sorted, or grouped based on the following characteristics:

  • Host institution
  • Location
  • In-person, hybrid or virtual format
  • Month when program occurs
  • Duration of program
  • Month when the application opens
  • Program cost
  • Academic focus
  • Grade level
  • Residential component
  • College credit offered
    Check out our list of free summer programs