Author: Banks, Melanie P.

How You Practice is How You Play

The phrase “practice makes perfect” is often used in sports and music as a way to explain that the more we do something, the better we get at it. Athletes don’t simply wake up one day and become the best at their sport, and musicians can’t master their craft overnight. I’d argue that the same logic applies to college students. Success in the classroom comes from participation and studying, and success in extracurriculars comes from dedication and energy. But success in college as a whole is something that can be practiced as well, and practice is at the core of a pre-college program like UConn Pre-College Summer (PCS). 

    As a former UConn PCS Graduate Assistant, UConn PCS Residence Life Director, and the current UConn PCS Program Coordinator, I’ve seen the ways in which a Pre-College Program can inspire a significant change in a student’s academic career. I’ve seen former participants thriving on campus as Huskies, and I’ve even hired former UConn PCS students as summer staff. I believe the changes I’ve seen in students are largely related to the fact the pre-college programs are a stress-free and engaging trial run of a student’s future collegiate experience. These programs are a way to practice. 

At UConn PCS, students practice by trying out a class in a subject of their choosing. This helps students understand the major-selection process and explore their academic interests. In a similar way, students practice by exploring their personal and career interests through a series of exploratory workshops. This type of practice helps students develop a plan for success in college as well as identify and seize opportunities related to their interests. It’s our hope as a program that this personal, academic, and career-based exploration will help students identify a desired major or career and feel confident in their choices. As someone who switched their major four times in college, I personally encourage students to use this exploration to define their interests now instead of in their senior year (like I did). Investing time now means saving both time and money down the road. 

Our program also helps students prepare for the social transition to college. Making the jump to college learning is one thing, but understanding a campus culture, meeting new people, and being away from family or loved ones can be just as challenging, if not more. With that said, the way we structure our social events and utilize our summer staff is intentional. We want to mirror the experience of first-year college students but we also want to provide our participants with tools and resources to comfortably navigate the transition to collegiate life and learning. Our goal is to help students gain an understanding of the complex nuances of college in a safe, relaxed and supportive learning environment. I’ve seen first hand how alumni of our program leverage their UConn PCS experience as college students, and it makes me think of the phrase: “how you practice is how you play.” We’ve set up a program that is dedicated to helping students find success in their summer with us, but more importantly, in their future academic career at whatever school they choose to attend. 

It feels important to note that our program isn’t set up to solely help students. We want to encourage parents and guardians to practice as well. Our program can help parents/guardians navigate applications and the college search process, negotiate their wants and needs with their soon-to-be independent students, identify the support systems and resources available to their students, and, simply put, practice letting go. 

Practicing is taking on new meaning in an online and hybrid educational system, but just as higher education is changing, our program is changing to match. It has always been our goal to mirror the college experience, and this summer we will be doing just that with a unique array of online classes, workshops, and social events. Nobody knows exactly what college is going to look like in 1, 3, or 5 years, but as our program adapts year after year, I can assure you that our program is set up to safely and effectively prepare students for whatever the new paradigm of education may be.  

Everyone needs to practice. Yo-Yo Ma didn’t master the cello overnight and Lebron James didn’t master basketball in a week. Practice is their key to success, and it’s the key to success in college too. College isn’t easy, and college students don’t just succeed by chance. There is a learning curve in academia, and taking time to practice and prepare now flattens the curve over time. If you see college in your future, I encourage you to practice. You can do it on your own by studying hard, exploring your interests, and making new connections. But if you want to take steps to prepare for academic, social, and personal success in college now, I invite you to come practice with us at UConn Pre-College Summer. After all, practice makes perfect. 

Cody Olson – Program Coordinator, UConn Pre-College Summer