Taste College Life in School

Summer courses let high school students experience life in U.S. universities, without the academic pressure.

By Hillary Hoppock

April 2023

Taste College Life in School

Pre-college programs are a great way to experience undergraduate studies and make connections with fellow students from across the world. (Photograph courtesy Arnav Garg)

International high school students who want to pursue undergraduate education in the United States can get a taste of college life before enrolling in a full-fledged university program. Summer high school programs, like the ones at Boston University, Brown University and The University of Chicago offer an immersive pre-college experience, as students live on campus and take in-person classes, or register for summer online courses. 

Each campus employs its rich resources to offer high school students college-level academic programs in sessions ranging from two to seven weeks. These programs are a great way to experience the in-and-outs of undergraduate studies. Students can concentrate on learning without the pressure of formal grades with non-credit courses, or even get a head-start on college admissions by earning academic credit.  

Forging global connections 

During the course of the pre-college programs, high school students make lasting connections with fellow students and professionals from around the world, as did Arnav Garg from New Delhi and Atharva Shukla from Bengaluru. 

Atharva recounts his time at the summer course as highly “engaging and productive.” In 2022, he joined an in-person credited summer course, Physics of Stars, through The University of Chicago’s astrophysics department. “Richard Kron [professor emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics] and three graduate students taught us the essential concepts of physics, mathematics and astrophysics,” he says. “What I really appreciate was their willingness to go above and beyond the requirements of the course to answer our questions as we did a simulation of the orbit of the Sun and Moon and completed a group project on particle physics about the Theory of Supersymmetry.” For him, the highlight of the course was an excursion to the world-renowned refracting Yerkes telescope. 

Arnav completed The University of Chicago’s online summer course, Pathways in Economics, for credit in 2021. It was a rigorous study of microeconomics, macroeconomics, game theory and consumer theory. His class of 70 multinational students were divided into groups of 20, taught by different professors from the university’s Department of Economics.  

Next year, in 2022, Arnav participated in a summer session on The University of Chicago campus with eight other grade 10 students who had qualified for the course Introduction to Special Relativity.  

“A graduate student from Harvard University, Nick Aggia, taught the course and made the abstract ideas of Einstein’s relativity quite simplistic for us,” says Arnav.  “The teaching, homework and interaction with peers made those three weeks the most engaging and productive of my life.” He notes his favorite segment of the course was the last two days when they studied black holes and time travel.  

The University of Chicago offers six pre-college programs to international students, delivered both online and in person. The Summer Immersion program offers undergraduate-level courses taught through workshop discussions, research projects and other hands-on activities. The subjects in this program range from STEM, biology and economics to media, creative writing and computer coding. Other programs, like the Summer College, can be accessed as a residential student or online. 

The University of Chicago also offers financial aid to incoming international students. While the amount of aid varies based on need and program cost, the university offers a limited number of full and partial aid packages for the Summer Immersion program. Full financial aid will cover costs for tuition, housing and dining.   

Introduction to college life 

Each year, high school students from around the world take advantage of programs such as Boston University Summer Term’s pre-college programs.  

Students in grades 10 and 11 can apply for the six-week High School Honors program and select from more than 80 courses for college credit. They can enroll in the university’s three-week Academic Immersion program to study experimental psychology, medicine or creative writing. 

The university also provides a two-week, two-seminar Summer Challenge for students of grades 9, 10 and 11, as well as the Summer Preview program, a one-week seminar for 7th, 8th and 9th graders.  

“Boston University’s pre-college programs showcase all that our top-rated university and the city of Boston have to offer,” says Amanda Kautzman, associate director of Boston University Summer Term’s high school programs.  “Students get an introduction into college academics and college life, helping them to explore their future academic interests.”   

Brown University’s pre-college program for high school students, Summer@Brown, offers more than 300 non-credit courses. The university offers two additional on-campus programs: a STEM program for incoming 9th and 10th-grade students, and a Leadership Institute for students interested in socially responsible leadership. Additionally, Brown’s online Pre-Baccalaureate Program provides incoming grade 12 students opportunities to study alongside Brown undergraduates in seven-week courses for credit. 

Aninditha Goel from Mumbai enrolled in Brown University’s Engineering Design Studio course with 15 other students in 2022. Her initial assignment was an engineering project for a case study of a real-life disaster. She then joined a group of three, which was assigned to make an adjustable piece of furniture. “After a brief session on laser design and cutting, we used the equipment to create a coffee-dining table that transformed into a student desk,” says Aninditha.  

Overcoming challenges  

As might be expected, the high school students faced challenges and acclimation for their immersive college life experience. “I’ve spent my life interacting with people of the same nationality and college life was a very different experience for me,” recounts Aninditha. “Brown provided a lot of social activities and excursions. We went to a baseball game which I don’t follow or understand. But it was a new experience and my second time going to a sporting event.”  

“My experience in UChicago was eye-opening,” says Atharva. “I had to learn a lot based on first-hand experience, figuring out restaurants, dealing with the culture and doing my own laundry.” Arnav says the summer course on relativity encouraged them to interact with fellow students on homework after lectures. “I made great connections with other U.S. and multinational students,” he says, “and I’m still in contact with friends worldwide online or by phone.”  

Hillary Hoppock is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Orinda, California.


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