How can you afford a Precollege Summer Program?

Here are just two of the inspiring stories students have shared with us about how they raised funds to attend Cornell's Precollege Summer Program, formerly known as Summer College:

Ben Tablada

A junior at Savannah Arts Academy in Savannah, Georgia, and president of his chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America, Ben Tablada was thrilled when he received his acceptance letter to Summer College's highly competitive Business World program.

Determined to find a way to fund his Summer College experience, Ben sent a letter to his family, friends, fellow church members, and various student leadership organizations, asking for their support.

With every one of the more than 50 letters he mailed, Ben included a photo of himself. He knew that close family members would be happy to receive the photo, but he also wanted other recipients to be able to attach a face to the request—whether they were acquaintances who hadn't seen him in a while or people in his community who had never met him.

“For the past 17 years I have been working hard to achieve my goals, and I am taking every opportunity that will help me reach those objectives.”

Ben Tablada

"The photo helped a lot," says Ben. In addition, Ben created a campaign on the fundraising website GoFundMe.

Within weeks, Ben's campaign had brought in contributions totaling over $4,000—approximately two-thirds of the program cost. Ben's savings from part-time jobs made up much of the balance.

Ben is especially grateful for the support of his family and several nonprofit organizations, including the Student Leadership Program and Junior Achievement of Georgia, which made significant contributions.

"Don't be afraid to approach large organizations," he advises, since those organizations sometimes have funds to support this kind of request.

"I refuse to let a number stop me from becoming successful," wrote Ben—and we expect that nothing else will, either.

Michael Chapa

When Michael Chapa was accepted to Summer College, he didn’t have the means to pay for it. Not willing to let that stop him, he applied himself determinedly to raising the needed funds—and in three weeks he had donations totaling $8,600 and a plane ticket from his home in Texas to Cornell.

How did he do it?

Michael was a junior at IDEA College Preparatory Mission, a new charter school in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Out of 53 students in his class, Michael ranked at the very top.

Michael’s teachers suggested that he write a sponsor letter to everyone he knew: family members and friends, local businesses, and veterans’ organizations.

Michael approached individuals and businesses in his town, mustering all of his communication skills to talk to people about his goal. He also held a fund-raising event.

Thirty people donated between $50 and $4,000, and the mother of one of his teachers donated her air miles for his trip to Ithaca.

Michael carefully followed up with his donors, picking up the funds himself, thanking them personally, and then writing to them about his summer at Cornell. He adds that his mom helped him tremendously by driving him to the donors, contacting them when he couldn't, and supporting him in every way possible.

After six weeks in the Summer College engineering program, Michael felt that his efforts to get there had been well worth it. He enjoyed the experience of independence, and the program confirmed his interest in becoming an aerospace engineer.

Michael went on to attend Cornell as an undergraduate (class of '17), joining his brother (class of '13) as the first generation of their family to attend college.