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April 22, 2003

Bridging the ‘high school to college’ gap

Incoming freshmen looking for educational advantages are leaping early into University life by spending their summer on campus, smoothing the transition from high school to CSUS.

Kay Lee, coordinator of the “summer bridge” program at CSUS, says the free intensive academic preparation and orientation has an incredible success rate. Ninety percent of the students pass the six-week program and slide into the fall semester better prepared than other students. She says the summer bridge students are also more likely to remain at the University.

Summer bridge operates out of the educational opportunity program, which provides advising, counseling and other services to low-income and first-generation college students. The participants are placed in classes based upon English placement tests and the entry-level math exams.

The agenda is rigorous. “I maximize their schedules and maximize their time,” Lee says. The students take three classes, most from the learning skills center. Several live on campus during the program. Lee plans a variety of field trips including visits to the Sacramento Discovery Museum to build teamwork.

Lee says there are many benefits to summer bridge. “It’s a great transition. The students get an extra nudge.” She says that not only are the classes academically helpful but, “Once the fall semester begins, they know things like where the computer labs are. They already feel like they’re home.” She says the students, faculty and staff become a cohesive group. “They build a community. It makes the community stronger.”

Lee says the most difficult part of her job as coordinator is fitting people into classes. There are 26 courses offered this summer. With nearly 180 students taking three classes per day, the arrangement can be challenging, she says. Many students have scheduling concerns including long commutes or lack of reliable transportation.

Lee says the application procedure for summer bridge is simple. The student must have applied to the University and checked the appropriate box on the application that asks if they “wish to apply through the educational opportunity program.” If the potential student checks “yes,” the application is then routed to the EOP office and the student receives a summer bridge application. “There is still time to apply for those that have not applied to summer bridge this year,” Lee says.

Lee says she expects 350 applications, but can only pick approximately half that number to attend. She says “word of mouth” is the most common way students find out about summer bridge. “Family and friends who’ve been through the program talk about it. Usually siblings are the best source,” she says. However, Lee says she would like to see more high school teachers, counselors and administration talk about summer bridge and EOP. She says many people have the impression that EOP involves only financial aid.

Lee says if she could change anything about the program besides the promotion of it, she would require the summer bridge to be entirely residential. Usually, about 60 students live on campus during the summer. “This makes the bonding even stronger,” Lee says. She wouldn’t mind if it were mandatory for all students to live on campus for the program. “That way,” she says, “everybody gets the same experience.”

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