Should I be a Resident or a Commuter Participant in a Summer Pre-college Program?
Introduction: Residential and Commuter Summer Programs
There are a variety of summer pre-college programs that are available for high school students. A number of these programs provide high school students with the option of staying on a campus or attending as a commuter student. This is particularly the case with programs that are held at colleges. Some examples of pre-college programs that include a residential and a commuter option include the New Hampshire Institute of Art Pre-College Program, the University of Texas American Ballet Summer Program, the Lipscomb University Summer Journalism Camp, the Lake Superior State University High School Summer Camps, and Boston University’s Summer High School Honors Program.
There are benefits to participating in a pre-college program as a residential student and as a commuter. This post is designed to examine the choice of attending a summer program as a residential participant or as a commuter when an option is provided.
Commuter Students in a Summer Pre-College Program
A commuter student in a summer pre-college program does not stay on the program’s campus or facility after the activities of the day are over. Commuter students typically return home or to an arranged place off-campus (such as a relatives house) in the evening and then return to the campus the next morning. Commuter students have a chance to participate in the educational and social experiences of the program that occur during the day and sometimes participate in early evening activities without staying for the full night. One of the most significant benefits of attending a pre-college summer program as a commuter involves the cost. Typically, there is a cost associated with room and board for a pre-college program. As a commuter student, the cost is typically reduced because of not residing in a dormitory or facility during the program. Other benefits of being a commuter student include being able to sleep in the comfort of home and getting to spend time with family in the evenings while participating in a summer program.
Residential Students in a Summer Pre-College Program
There are also advantages to being a residential student at a summer pre-college program. One of the benefits of being a resident in many pre-college programs involves gaining a better sense of what life is like on a college campus. Typically, residential students stay in college dorms throughout the duration of the program. While this does not replicate college living exactly, it can help students get a preview of living in a dorm on a campus and it may give them an idea of what type of housing they would prefer when they are actually in college. Residential students staying on the campus also have a chance to eat in campus dining halls and utilize campus resources.
In addition, residential participants in a pre-college program may find it easier to engage in extracurricular and social activities that often occur in the evenings. While the educational experiences end at a certain time each day, many pre-college programs have structured activities for residential students in the evenings. Residential students may enjoy these experiences and it can be helpful to already be on campus the next day to begin the educational activities. Furthermore, there can be social benefits for residential students. For example, residential students may get to know their peers well because participants often stay in one dormitory or one floor of a dorm on the campus. Even if residential students have difficulty connecting with roommates during a pre-college summer program, this can still serve as an effective learning experience as they prepare to transition into a college environment.
Decision Making about Residential or Commuter
There are benefits to both being a commuter student and a residential student in a pre-college program. When a program is close enough to home, one valuable way to determine whether to attend as a commuter or resident involves providing a student with the opportunity to share his/her thoughts on which option would be the best fit. As a high school student, the process of decision-making is particularly significant in order to prepare to engage in the college admission process and transition from high school to college. As a result, parents/guardians, a teacher, a school counselor, or another adult can help guide a student through the decision making process with regards to how he/she would like to attend a pre-college program. This can be helpful in developing the skills needed to weigh options and make effective decisions.
A Student’s Story and Experience
One high school student that we worked with in the past made the decision to participate in a summer program as a residential student even though the campus was 25 minutes from his home. This student had not had the opportunity to be away from home for more than a day or two before this experience. He appeared to be confident in his decision to participate in the summer program and reside on the college’s campus. As it turned out, the student had a difficult time adjusting to being away from home, living in a college dorm, and connecting with peers. In addition, unfortunately, the student also had several mishaps such as being stung by several bees. The student was also quite tall and had a difficult time finding comfort in the beds of the particular dorm that were being used for the summer program.
After a few days, the student really wanted to go home. The program staff and the parents allowed the student to make the decision that he felt would be best with regards to continuing as a residential participant. The student decided to continue in the program as a commuter student. The student ended up finding the whole experience helpful and was able to use what he had learned going forward. For example, the student was able to use the experiences gained in the summer program when he began the college admission process. While college academic opportunities remained very important, the student also considered other factors when considering and visiting colleges. For example, he looked at colleges that were not too far away from home just in case he wanted or needed to go home for a weekend. He also made sure to visit the dorms, eat in the campus dining halls, and carefully considered the campus culture and climate. The student was able to consider a variety of factors to make sure that a college aligned with his interests and goals and provided what he needed to be comfortable. This helped him to decide on a college that was a good fit for him.
Concluding Notes about Residential and Commuter Summer Programs
Overall, the experience of being a residential or commuter student in a summer pre-college program can be beneficial. Additionally, providing high school students with the opportunity to take ownership of determining whether to attend a program as a residential or commuter participant can be helpful in developing decision-making skills. These decision-making skills can be particularly advantageous for high school students who are beginning to prepare for post-secondary education options.