NYU Precollege students working together on a project.

What Are Precollege Programs?


Precollege programs are opportunities for high school students to explore their interests and experience college life before going to college. Alongside NYU Precollege, many colleges and universities across the country offer their own unique programs. Although typically restricted to high school students, some schools also offer programs for middle school students who want to get a head start on their college process or try out something new.

Each precollege program is different, meaning it will vary in length, cost, and curriculum depending on where you go. Regarding length, programs typically run anywhere from one week to 12 weeks. Longer courses, ones tending to last six or more weeks, often include college credit that can be applied toward your degree once accepted into an institution. Additionally, summer precollege programs typically offer both residential and commuter options. Students can choose to either live in the residence halls with peers or commute from home if they live close by.

Before coming to NYU, I participated in two different precollege programs. One summer, I spent two weeks studying photojournalism at a university in Washington, DC. The following summer, I spent another two weeks, this time at a Boston college, learning 35 mm film photography. Although I didn’t earn credit toward my future academic career, the experience was invaluable. The programs helped me decide which types of schools I wanted to attend while reaffirming my passion for my chosen major. Above all else, the experience allowed me to build a strong foundation for my future transition to college. Ultimately, the precollege programs made it a bit easier to leave home, make new friends, and start new classes, all in a foreign place.

Why Should You Value the Precollege Experience?

It Helps You Determine Your Area of Study

When choosing a precollege program, most likely, you’ll end up choosing one that fits your areas of interest. These programs are known for giving students the chance to dive deep and explore their passions with an uninterrupted focus. However, precollege programs can also benefit the student who doesn’t fully know what their primary interest is. Precollege programs are a great way to explore new fields and discover new paths. Precollege allows you to learn, try, and fail without detriment.

Regardless of wanting to explore an old passion or to find a new one, precollege programs replicate the process of studying your interests full time. Ultimately, this means that precollege can help determine whether or not a specific major is right for you.

It Shows You What a Specific College or University Has to Offer

Most of the college process is about showing schools what you can offer them. However, precollege programs are a way to see what a school can offer you. Most students learn about a college by taking a campus tour where a guide points out random historical plaques. Those who take precollege programs learn about a school by experiencing it, often from the students’ perspective. You get to test the dining hall food, find out if residence halls need upgrades, and explore the equipment a department offers its students.

Beyond scoping out a school’s resources, precollege also connects participants with faculty so you can see what they have to offer. A precollege course is often taught by professors, giving you firsthand access to their knowledge and experience. Through basic networking, you learn about professors’ research or the internships they offer. You also learn the insight they can provide based on their position in the industry.

It Makes the Transition to College Easier

The transition to college can be stressful. You are placed in a new environment with new people and asked to succeed on your own. However, precollege programs can make that transition easier by serving as a test run for the real deal. These programs make sure you already know what to expect when you go to college, making it easier to adjust.

For starters, the primary way precollege helps with the transition is through the experience of dorm life. Residence programs help you get comfortable connecting with resident assistants, sharing space with someone outside of your family, or simply sleeping in a dorm bed. Ultimately, when you finally move into a residence hall your first year, it won’t be a completely new experience. 

By default, precollege programs also let you practice your independence and organization skills. Whether it be a two- or a six-week program, precollege teaches students how to self-regulate their time. You learn how to balance work life and social life, so by the time you get to college, you’ll feel prepared to build a successful routine.

Precollege programs also make the transition easier by helping you develop relationship skills. Similar to your time as an undergraduate, precollege will mix you with people you’ve never met. Through precollege programs, you get to talk to new people in a classroom, in the dining halls, or the dorms. Learning to connect with new people earlier on will make college less daunting. You won’t be as anxious to exchange numbers with someone for a project or to slide a note under your neighbors’ door to be friends.  

Students in a classroom throwing pieces of paper into the air in celebration.

Start Searching!

Regardless of which field you choose to study or which university you decide to attend, the precollege experience will offer numerous benefits. You’ll learn more about yourself, your interests, and your future college experience, all while making friendships that last a lifetime!

Don’t know where to find precollege programs, especially when the possibilities feel endless? Start your search with NYU’s Precollege and high school programs, which offer a range of courses from food studies to magazine writing and biomolecular engineering to nonprofit management.

I’m Ryan, a senior in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration on the intersections of Photography and Themes of Justice and a minor in Print Journalism. On campus, I’m an Admissions Ambassador, a resident assistant in Brittany Hall, and have an internship! Outside of class, I love exploring the city with friends and grabbing waffles at brunch. Most importantly though, above all else, I’m a military kid who’s moved every two years and lived worldwide!