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A Virtual Twist to College Preparation

Posted 02/19/2021 by Roxanne Wilkerson

Princeton University has declared that their Journalism Summer Program, which is traditionally held on campus, will be completely virtual for students this year, along with many other colleges and universities. photo courtesy of Princeton University

Due to COVID-19, a multitude of colleges have decided to stay with a virtual plan for their 2021 summer programs. 

The pandemic has sprung many surprises on society over the past year, yet now, when an event is switched to a virtual platform, no one is shocked. Traditionally, most colleges plan week-long programs held in summer for high school students, where they are often given the opportunity to stay on campus to gain the full college experience. These programs are meant to encourage students to further explore their interests and get a better idea of what college or type of school they would like to attend, if they would like to further their education at all. Due to a concern for safety in the time of a pandemic, colleges and universities have come to the decision to not only alter how they run academic courses, but summer college preparation programs as well. 

Considering a huge part of a college preparation program is allowing students to physically experience and see life on a college campus, it is likely that a virtual platform will not be as engaging. However, the replanning of how these programs are run has been quite creative, as colleges continue to strive for the programs to have as much potential as possible. At Princeton University, an established and renowned Ivy League college, four alumni of the university’s 2001 class founded a summer program known as the Princeton Summer Journalism Program in 2002. These founders were Richard Just, Michael Koike, Gregory Mancini and Rich Tucker, all editors of the Daily Princetonian. Their goal for the program was to diversify college and professional newsrooms by striving to include women, people of color, and those from lower-income to middle-class backgrounds and rural communities, who are historically underrepresented. This program is traditionally a 10-day residential journalism institute in August held on Princeton’s campus. The program is free of any cost, but applicants must meet the requirements to apply and attend. As a result of the pandemic, the university has transitioned to a virtual program for the Summer of 2021, stating, For the first six weeks, students attend one lecture and two workshops each week taught by program alumni and journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Politico, Sports Illustrated and CNN, among other media outlets over Zoom. They also attend weekly discussion groups to further their understanding of core topics, as well as learning about the journey through college. . . During the last week of the program, the week [they] would normally have spent on campus, students spend more time having critical discussions with renowned journalists on a variety of topics.” Though students attending the program will not be able to see Princeton’s impressive campus, it is admirable that the university has still found a way to make the best of the situation by creating a valuable learning experience. 

Another college preparation program that has a similar goal is the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business Leadership Program. This program is traditionally held on the university’s campus as well, but they have also made the decision to proceed in a virtual manner. Like the Princeton Summer Journalism Program, the program is free of cost to students. The aim of the leadership program is to attract and support students who are underrepresented in business: including first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color. Describing the program outline, the university’s website states, “We invite you to attend an exhilarating week with the Leeds School of Business this upcoming summer. This intensive virtual experience is designed to provide a high impact learning opportunity through case study. Participating students will gain real-world experience while competing in a case challenge set to solve real-world business problems.” The program gives students the opportunity to compete in a marketing campaign to win a $1,000 scholarship to the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business, connect and learn from leading experts from major corporations while getting answers about their business and career path, meet Leeds School of Business faculty and administrators, gain confidence while strengthening business and leadership skills, and make new friends with students from a range of high schools. The overarching University of Colorado Boulder has also been able to make the best of a virtual learning environment and continues to provide students with amazing educational opportunities. 

Colleges and universities are hopeful they will soon be able to invite high school students back onto their campuses in a safe manner and assist them in their exploration and preparation for their future in education. Right now, it is important to recognize that these programs are valuable in supporting the inclusion of students who are often unrecognized in higher levels of education. Whether held virtually or in-person, college preparation programs should be appreciated for their efforts and determination to encourage students to pursue higher education and explore their career goals, especially in a time of worldwide crisis.