Summer bridge program finalized

This summer, roughly 30 incoming freshmen will head to campus for the University’s first-ever bridge program aimed at helping students transition from high school to college.

Freshman Scholars at Yale — the invitation-only pre-college academic bridge program that covers all tuition, housing and transportation fees for participants — was initially conceived in 2008, but financial constraints forced Yale College to put the project on hold until this year. The five-week program is designed to introduce students whose high school backgrounds may not have fully prepared them for Yale’s environment to academic and social life at the University, said Yale College Assistant Dean William Whobrey. Whobrey said the Admissions Office is currently reviewing the newly accepted class of 2017 and will send out invitations to a select number of students after the May 1 deadline for students to accept offers of admission.

“I think given the opportunity, these students will naturally achieve things like familiarization with the campus and getting the sense or feeling of what it’s like to live in the colleges, and maybe reduce the normal social anxiety and anxiety in general,” Whobrey said.

While the program will help students transition to a new environment, Whobrey said, administrators view the program as an early introduction to Yale life instead of one designed to fill gaps in student knowledge. He added that the program is currently in a three-year pilot mode and lessons learned from this summer will help administrators shape the initiative in the future.

Participants in FSY will attend the second Yale summer session and live in residential colleges with student counselors. All enrolled students will take English 114, an introductory writing course designed to help students develop stronger reading comprehension and writing skills.

“One of my goals is that for students who may be first generation in college, [the program] will give them extra support and a stronger set of writing skills to launch into first semester,” said Yale College Dean Mary Miller. “[They’ll take] one of the most valuable course credits that a student ever takes in terms of unlocking the rest of the treasures of the Yale curriculum.”

President-elect Peter Salovey said in a Wednesday email to the News that in setting up the program, administrators “looked at these kinds of programs on other campuses and have generally been pretty impressed with what they’ve discovered.”

Although the program is not explicitly geared toward high school students from any particular socioeconomic background, summer bridge programs at universities nationwide typically enroll many students from low-income backgrounds who may not be as academically prepared for college as some of their peers. Experts emphasized the importance of introducing students to university resources and ensuring they have a comfortable transition.

Christopher Avery, a public policy professor at the Harvard Kennedy School who recently co-authored a study on the low number of high-achieving low-income students at selective universities, said making students from low-income backgrounds “feel comfortable” in both the admissions and enrollment processes is extremely important.

“It’s a discouraging landscape for many,” Avery said, adding that because many students do not know how to access tools such as fee waivers or financial aid, colleges have an additional responsibility to provide low-income students with information.

Regardless of students’ socioeconomic background, said Jennifer Delahunty, dean of admissions at Kenyon College, making sure students have a good transition to college is “part of [universities’] responsibility to students.” Delahunty added that bridge programs are “not remedial at all” — rather, they work to familiarize students with campus and provide additional support.

Multiple guidance counselors said the move between the high school and college environments can often be intimidating. Jon Reider, college counselor at University High School in San Francisco, said bridge programs can teach students skills both on an academic and social level — including note-taking, academic paper-writing, personal management and adjustment to life in a campus dorm.

“The students coming to Yale through these programs are very bright and did very well in high school, but Yale is still a complex and often daunting place compared to their high schools,” he said.

University classes for the fall 2013 semester are set to begin on August 28.

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