Precollege programs prepare students for success

Two young people working on a precollege program together, standing in front of a table and smiling

As parents line up to sign up their children for summer activities, they can add precollege to the list of options. Children and teens can benefit from – and enjoy – academic challenges outside their regular classrooms, often labeled precollege programs.

Generally, a precollege program is offered in the summer by a college or university to prepare middle and high school students for the rigors of college. However, these programs can be for elementary school learners and take place all year.

We talked with Christopher Pevey Harry, assistant dean of Badger Precollege at UW–Madison, to gain more insight into precollege programming, particularly for middle and high school students.

What kind of precollege programs are available in Wisconsin and for what age ranges? 

There are many precollege programs across the state for students in grades 2–12. These typically focus on arts, STEM and humanities, music clinics, sports camps, 4-H programming and college readiness programs. Programs can be available online or in person and offer residential or commuter options.

What are the academic benefits for students enrolling in a precollege program? 

Students attend precollege programs to develop the academic and social-emotional skills they need to transition successfully from middle to high school to university and to persist while in college. These programs offer an authentic experience that immerses students in college life.

As one of our Badger Precollege students shared with us: “This program helped me grasp the ‘college lifestyle.’ I made connections outside my comfort zone and socialized with different groups of people. Academically, my class helped build my critical thinking skills and my research skills.”

What are some other benefits of precollege programming beyond academics?  

Students in precollege programs make new friends as they are in classes and may live with students from around the U.S. and, in some cases, around the world. They become global citizens, which includes thinking at a high level and collaborating with peers from a variety of backgrounds. This, in turn, helps students be better prepared for college.

A quality precollege program offers courses taught by well-qualified instructors, often associated with a university or college. As a Badger Precollege student shared, “My instructor was incredible, constantly putting his all into thoroughly covering the topics we were interested in and committing to our learning. He challenged us every day with complex topics but put in every bit of effort needed to allow us to grasp them and feel confident in ourselves with it.”

Students can also benefit from co-curricular programming in college prep. Programs often provide tips for applying to college and finding financial aid resources.

How can families find more information about precollege programming?

Check with your local school, community center or nearby university to find precollege programs that work best for your student. If you are looking for programs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, consider Badger Precollege, which has a robust portfolio of online and in-person programs this summer that can be found by visiting precollege.wisc.edu.

The Lifelong Learner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Beth Jaggers, an academic advisor, can be reached at beth.jaggers@wisc.edu.