Precollege is an educational experience the helps high school students prepare for the transition to a college environment. These programs often feature college-level courses and give you the chance to live on campus in the residence halls. And they can be a great addition to your college applications.

Many colleges and universities offer precollege programs for several weeks during the summer. They're tailored to high-achieving students looking to challenge themselves with rigorous academics; students wishing to explore college fit, academic majors, and/or careers before applying to college; and those who may be nervous about college and want to try it out in a supportive setting.

Why spend part of your summer going to school?

1. Get a taste of college-level academics

Many precollege programs offer the same curriculum as undergraduate courses that are taught during the regular school year, but condensed into a shorter time period. They may be led by professors from the regular faculty or by summer instructors.

Some colleges and universities grant college credit for completing their precollege program (as does Cornell's Summer College). Generally, you can transfer these credits to your college of choice when you enroll as a freshman.

Classes may include lectures from guest speakers, hands-on labs, and small-class discussions where everyone gets a chance to speak and ask questions. Professors assign readings and other homework for you to complete outside of class on your own time, as well as group projects where you'll work closely with peers.

These classes can help you develop your critical thinking, reading, and writing abilities and give you a head start on mastering college-level study skills.

2. Experience life on a college campus

A big component of precollege programs is learning to live in a residence hall with your peers and share space with a roommate. For many students, this is their first time being away from home and family, so it can take some time to adjust. Precollege programs can be a good chance to practice being independent and making your own decisions.

There are tons of things to keep you busy on a college campus. Just like a regular college student, you can choose to spend your out-of-class time playing sports, attending club meetings and campus events, hanging out, or doing whatever interests you. You'll learn to balance downtime activities with studying—and to remember to save time for important things like sleep, meals, and laundry, too!

Precollege programs like Cornell's come with well-trained professional staff in the dorms who provide 24/7 supervision as well as personal support if you need it. There are also services like campus police patrols, professionally staffed health centers, and counseling to keep you safe and healthy during your stay.

3. Prepare yourself for college admissions

Many precollege programs offer some component of admissions prep, whether that's talking with admissions counselors about what to put on your college applications, meeting representatives from different schools at a college fair, or designating time to work on essays and other application materials.

You can get advice about which schools offer programs that match up with your skills and interests.

You'll also develop relationships with the professors teaching your classes that can lead to longterm mentoring, personalized career advice, or even letters of recommendation for your college admissions portfolio.

4. Learn about yourself

A precollege program is a great opportunity to study a favorite subject, get ahead in your chosen field, or try out something completely new. You may even be able to study something not offered at your high school, like veterinary medicine, sports psychology, fashion design, entrepreneurship, or robotics.

The experience also can help you decide what you want out of a college and which majors or careers pique your interest.

And the single best thing you'll gain from a precollege experience?

Confidence—as you learn more about your interests, your plans for the future, and what you're capable of accomplishing.