- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

An increasing number of high school students will be spending their time this summer not at the beach or the ballpark, but back in class. More and more area colleges and universities are offering programs targeted especially for high school students.
Need some coaching in writing your college-application essays? American University has a workshop for you. Want to explore the growing field of kinesiology? The University of Maryland's Young Scholars Program not only will give you hands-on time in the classroom, but will take you outside the campus to explore Washington and Baltimore. If you are considering a major in international relations, Georgetown's intensive eight-day program in the subject offers lectures, small group discussions, visits to organizations involved in foreign policy and a simulation of an international crisis.
What makes these and other programs offered by area schools noteworthy is not only their number, but their scope. Each institution offers many summer programs for high school students, from college-preparatory programs to courses designed for specific interests such as medicine, law, and film and video production.
Some are intense eight- or 10-day experiences; others last five weeks. Many earn students college credit. Colleges promise that just about any course they offer will look very good on a college application.
"Such credits show how serious a student actually is," says Mike Sims, executive director of the National Student Leadership Conference, which offers programs in collaboration with George Mason University, the University of Maryland and AU.
Many area high school students already have had a taste of college life. Programs that operate during the school year routinely take students out of the high school classroom and into the university. In the District, the Consortium of Colleges and Universities allows D.C. public school students, as well as students from Archbishop Carroll High School, to take introductory classes as part of the High School College Internship Program.
In Montgomery County, qualified high school students can take courses offered by Montgomery College. Similar programs exist in other nearby school districts.
"It's a good way to maintain interest in learning, especially for seniors, who may be suffering from that senior-year slump," says Dale Fulton, director of curriculum for Montgomery County Public Schools.
For many educators, summer programs offered by area colleges for high school students are just another way of continuing to spark interest and excitement about learning.
"As students, they are moving on a continuum," Mr. Fulton says. "We don't want them just doing nothing. Such opportunities can excite a kid, who can come back to school recharged."
Of course, college summer programs also can work as useful recruiting tools.
Many attract college-bound students from out of the area, but they also draw a fair number of local students attracted by the programs and institutional expertise. Of the 160 students enrolled at Georgetown University's international relations program, for example, 15 are from the District and its surrounding suburbs.
Because many programs require campus residence, dorms are filled at a time when they typically would be empty. Many of the programs have curfews and don't permit alcohol on campus, but parents still must determine whether their teens are mature enough to handle living away from home.
For students, summer programs at area colleges offer an opportunity to get a leg up on college in a number of ways. Many are looking for an admissions edge and hope time spent in a college or university's summer program will give them an advantage when it comes to admission.
"There are no guarantees," says Emily Harrington, director of the School for Summer and Continuing Education at Georgetown University. "Georgetown is a highly competitive institution. Still, it certainly doesn't hurt the admissions process."
While colleges and universities won't guarantee admission, they do promise a hands-on taste of higher education and dorm life.
At the University of Maryland, the Young Scholars Program offers high school sophomores and juniors a chance to experience life at a large state university. After qualifying, students can take courses in architecture, international relations and philosophy, among other subjects.
Some students end up at the ballpark after all.
"Students who take our Architecture 150 class go to Camden Yards to tour with an architect," says Chuck Wilson, director of summer sessions at the University of Maryland, "and students who take kinesiology are exposed to a range of experiences, from lab work to physical therapy."
The focus is on both academics and eventual employment, as students are exposed to various career paths in their subjects.
Even students who live in the Washington area elect to stay at the school.
"Of the one hundred students in our Young Scholars Program, 50 elect to live on campus," Mr. Wilson says. "A lot of those are local kids who want the experience of living in the dorm."
Additional programs at Maryland include a college-preparatory program that provides practice in listening and note-taking as well as reinforcing math and writing skills. There is a summer journalism program co-sponsored by the Maryland Scholastic Press Association and the university's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and an engineering program geared toward high school girls.
So, is getting a leg up on college worth giving up a piece of your summer? Yes, the leadership conference's Mr. Sims says emphatically.
"The students report that the friendships they forge are much stronger than the friendships they have during the school year," he says. "When you have a group of like-minded individuals working together, there is no telling how far you can go."
The conference operates its programs in conjunction with three local universities: Maryland, George Mason and American. Each provides a particular program to the students it serves, based largely on institutional expertise. At Maryland, for example, the emphasis is on medicine and health care. American offers a conference called Mastering Leadership, which gives students the skills they will need as they move into college.
Over the years, featured speakers at the leadership conference have included former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Sen. Trent Lott.
A typical day for a leadership student might include a guest speaker, a trip to Capitol Hill and a number of other curriculum-based activities.
At Georgetown University, the Summer Program for High School Juniors combines undergraduate course work with intensive academic counseling and volunteer opportunities.
Programs like these are competitive, with minimum grade-point averages and recommendations required from high school personnel.
For students not considered scholars, there are courses with a broader appeal. Two courses offered by the Summer High School Institute at American are popular. One helps students prepare for that daunting college-application essay. The other, College Writing Skills for High School Students, helps ease the transition from the kind of writing demanded in high school to what is required in college.
"It's kind of a sneak peek at what students are likely to encounter," says John Hyman, director of the College Writing Program at American University. "It helps demystify what college writing is about."
That means students get plenty of practice in sharpening their writing and research skills. That's important, Mr. Hyman says, especially for students who are doing well in other areas but lack confidence when it comes to writing.
Some programs can come with a hefty price tag. In Georgetown's Summer Program for High School Juniors, students take a six-credit course load at $525 per credit and pay nearly $2,000 in housing and meal costs. The leadership conference charges its participants $1,600 for its 11-day workshops.
That's one reason Sarah Menke-Fish, coordinator of the high school summer program at American's School of Communication decided not to expand her popular Discover the World of Communication program into one offering college credit.
"We're not tied to college credits because if we did, we'd have to be a lot more expensive," Mrs. Menke-Fish says. "So we're a certificate program, not a credit program."
Courses in the school include script writing and video production, 16 mm film production and a new course, "What Makes Films Great." A team of students videotapes the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife every year and constructs a documentary.
The price? Just $425 to $650 per 11-day course.
Programs that target high-interest areas also work to strengthen important skills in reading, writing and critical thinking, Mrs. Menke-Fish says.
"Those are all skills that will help them be successful in college," she says. "So why not get a leg up if you have the chance?"

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