Each fall, tens of thousands of high school graduates head off into the great unknown of college life, with little to prepare them for the late night study sessions, cafeteria food that results in unexpected weight gain, homework and that weird thing called freedom.
Lewis Cutter could have been one of those typical freshmen when he headed to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., last fall to start his freshman year coursework. Instead, the Steamboat Springs resident opted to taste college life ahead of time, attending a pre-college summer camp at Western State University two years earlier.
Pre-collegiate programs such as the weeklong session at Western State give high school students a firsthand view of what it’s like to attend college. Some offer college credits while others simply provide the experience of campus including attending classes and dorm life.
While Western’s program focuses on a heavy dose of tech education, there are myriad options for other educational and life-learning experiences. Summer Study is a program based out of New York offers courses in Paris, and at Penn State University and CU-Boulder. These camps typically offer weekend outdoor excursions to the mountains—giving an appreciation for a well-rounded college life. Cutter’s Western State program peppered in hiking, rafting and rock climbing to the daily barrage of mathematics and science. It was basically freshman year light for the Steamboat teen.
“If we weren’t (in class), we were hanging out in the dorms, eating or hanging out in the computer lab,” Cutter says.
Ordering cheap pizza was optional.
Cutter spent his college summer focusing on computer science. Now he studies computer science at Gonzaga, and says the summer experience added to his understanding of programming and helped him transition smoothly into college life.
“(Camp) was way more laid back than real college,” Cutter says, “but it gave me some idea of the dorms and eating at he college cafeterias.”