College Prep

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Pre-College Enrichment Programs

Three students sitting on the grass at a college campus

Getting a bachelor’s degree is expensive. When you consider that 30% of college students change their majors at least once, adding about $18,000 in tuition costs, it’s not surprising that there has been a growing interest in college enrichment courses for high school students.

Why are College Prep Programs so Important?

High school summer enrichment programs, such as those offered by Georgetown University, provide the chance for motivated young people to test out a subject that interests them. This is the best way to see if it could turn out to be a major or even a future career. You’ll note that Georgetown University has 15 courses to choose from: everything from cybersecurity and entrepreneurship to law, medicine, and even surgery

Prelum partner programs are available to students ages 13 and up. This is the perfect age range to start exploring. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “settling on one occupation in high school isn’t necessary. But looking into different types of careers can set you up for success.” 

This is essential today as innovations in science and technology are moving so fast, some of tomorrow’s careers may not even exist today; while others will look vastly different. Plus, college loans are now at a staggering $1.75 trillion, with each borrower owing an average of $29,000. Many carry their education debt into middle age and beyond, so every little bit helps. 

Types of College Prep Programs

There are two basic types of college prep programs. The choice depends largely on whether or not you want to try out a college-level course online, or whether you want to experience both the course and the university in person. Many universities today offer both.

Let’s review.

High School Summer Enrichment Programs — the On-Campus Experience

Living on campus for a one-, two-, or four-week program is a great way for high school students to get a real-life feel for college. 

Prelum partner Wake Forest University is just one university that offers a Summer Immersion Program for high school students. It features 21 On-Campus Institutes. You can choose to focus on bioscience, business, engineering, entrepreneurship, filmmaking, law, medicine, neuroscience, and more. 

There are programs that target specific age groups. For instance, Brown University has a pre-college program in STEM, designed specifically for 9th and 10th graders. You can choose from stem-related courses and engage in a research project or design challenge, while living on campus and collaborating with like-minded students from around the world. 

Some students have a talent for the arts and fashion. Summer enrichment programs are offered by Parsons School of Design in New York City. Parsons Summer Intensive Studies is offered to those in their junior and senior years of high school. You’ll explore the latest techniques and design portfolio pieces for college admission applications. 

Let’s weigh the pros and cons.


  • A fully immersive experience.
  • Live in well-chaperoned dorms.
  • Eat in the university cafeteria. 
  • Face-to-face interactions with other students.
  • Taught by top professors and instructors. 
  • Courses available that cover a vast range of topics.


  • May be geographically prohibitive.
  • May be financially prohibitive.
  • More time intensive.

High School Enrichment Programs — the Online Experience

Online college prep classes for high school students are plentiful. Many provide flexible formats, engaging videos, the chance to learn from top university professors and other experts, and access to mentors. One example is Rice University’s Precollege Online Program. High school students can apply for two- and four-week sessions in popular courses such as genome engineering, physiology, and entrepreneurship.

Online enrichment courses offer several key advantages — and perhaps one or two cons — when compared to the on-campus experience. 

So, what are the pros and cons?


  • Significantly reduced cost — no travel or residency fees.
  • Courses available that cover a vast range of topics.
  • Flexible format allows you to study anywhere, anytime that fits your schedule.
  • Prelum partner universities all provide mentors: alumni or current university students who offer guidance.
  • Compelling video content and interactive tools that make courses highly engaging.
  • A final project that, when successfully completed, earns you a Certificate of Completion that can be included in college applications.


  • Not as immersive.
  • No on-campus experience.
  • Inability to meet other like-minded students — and professors — in person.

In summary, what can you look for in college enrichment programs?

Features to Look for in College Enrichment Programs

Whether you’re seeking an on-campus summer enrichment experience or online college prep courses, here are the 5 key features you’ll need to look for:

  1. Courses that provide a thorough grounding in the subject that interests you.
  2. The opportunity to take add-on courses if you want to explore other interests.
  3. Guidance in confirming if your passion for a subject is the right major for you in college.
  4. A campus life that fits your personality and feels like you’re in the right place.
  5. Input from professors and mentors who can offer valuable advice on career paths.

Interested high school students can find more here.

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*Kaplan may receive compensation upon student enrollment in one of our partner programs.*