UConn’s Pre-College Summer (PCS) program opened its doors in July 2014 as a non-credit academic enrichment program where rising high school juniors and seniors were provided an opportunity to experience life as a college student. The program initially offered two one-week sessions where participants could explore an area of interest taught by UConn faculty. Classes were supplemented with skill-building workshops on how to choose a college major, cope with stress, write a college application essay, and market yourself in a collegiate setting. Periods of free time during the evening left students to do as they pleased under the guidance of residential staff. They played sports, went for a jog, painted “the Rock”, and took walks to places like the Dairy Bar and Downtown Storrs.
Over the past three years, PCS registrations have grown substantially and have expanded nationally and internationally. In the summer of 2016, students from New England down to Florida and across the country to Colorado and California participated in the program. Internationally, we hosted students from Canada, Puerto Rico, and China, making it the most diverse group of students yet. Not only have student participants diversified in terms of location, but we also established a collaboration with Wishbone, a charitable organization that helps passionate, low-income students attend after school and summer programs.
In an effort to attract a diversity of students, we actively recruited a diversity of UConn faculty. Our first year of programming offered only five academic classes. By our third year we offered 17 different academic classes as well as increased afternoon workshops. We also doubled the program in length from two one-week to four one-week sessions and found that students were registering for multiple weeks. Class sizes will remain small with a maximum of about 22 to allow for an intimate, less intimidating experience where students can express opinions and concerns about subject material and ask about the transition to learning at the college level.