Before attending F&M College Prep at Franklin & Marshall College last summer, Nadia Johnson of New Haven, Conn., wasn't sure she had the confidence to attend a college far from home.
"With F&M College Prep, I was able to establish independence and realize that maybe I can go to school on my own," said Johnson, now an incoming first-year student at F&M. "It ensured that I had the right social skills, that I could be on my own."
A new group of students will arrive at F&M this summer to experience firsthand academic and residential life in a college environment. From July 5 to 26, F&M College Prep will welcome 72 rising seniors from school networks nationwide that work with high-achieving, underserved groups. The students will participate in a three-week immersion program that launched in 2011.
This year's cohort, from such cities as San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta, as well as rural areas in Arkanasa and Pennsylvania, is larger than last year's group of 62. In the first year of the program, 23 students participated.
"The program continues to gain national recognition," said F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield, referring to the expanding network of participating schools as well as coverage in publications such as Inside Higher Ed and Education Next, and on "Higher Education Today," a Washington, D.C.-based television program.
"It's a promising practice for helping talented high-school seniors learn about the many opportunities available to them at top colleges, and to prepare them to excel at these institutions," Porterfield said.
F&M College Prep is designed to transform young people into college-ready men and women, eager to discover their intellectual passions and develop their leadership skills.
"We want our students to have a realistic perspective of what college is like," said Shawn Jenkins '10, special assistant to the dean of the college for strategic projects and the program's organizer. "When they leave here, they have an expectation of college in terms of the workload."
One measure of the program's success has been the number of seniors who decided to enroll at F&M, among many other top colleges across the country, including Harvard University, Drexel University, Howard University, Trinity College and Spelman College. Nadia Johnson is one of last year's 12 College Prep participants attending F&M this year. Seven students from the program's first year are rising F&M sophomores.
Johnson credits F&M College Prep for her decision to leave home and attend F&M. She made some long-term friendships during the program and found out what college is like, she said. "It really resembled what F&M is about," Johnson said.
During F&M College Prep, seniors attend F&M faculty-taught classes two hours per day, four days a week, in which they focus on completing a research project near the end of program. They also take skills and writing workshops, and go on field trips, all part of getting a well-rounded liberal arts education experience.
F&M staff, students and young alumni guide and help the seniors during their time on campus.
"I'm deeply grateful to the F&M faculty, professional staff and students who come together to provide such a welcoming summer academic experience," Porterfield said. "It's also inspiring that our alumni and other friends of the College are stepping forward to support the program."
F&M College Prep's student recruitment partners have increased from the first year when the sole participant was the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), a national network of college-preparatory public charter schools. The student support program National College Advising Corps-Keystone Region (NCAC), and the charter school networks Uncommon Schools, Mastery Charter Schools and Achievement First came aboard in 2012. This year, the School District of Lancaster, after-school college prep program College Track and Illinois charter school network Noble Charter Schools became partners.
KIPP Co-Founder Michael Feinberg is scheduled to attend one of the premier events of the program, a project fair held July 24 that highlights the students' three weeks of research.
An indication that students are benefitting from the program is a phone call Jenkins said he received last year from a Los Angeles high school counselor. He recalled the counselor telling him, "I don’t know what you did, but something happened to one of our kids; all of his teachers say he's on fire this semester! He has a new found drive to get to college."
Sending students home motivated to attend college is what F&M College Prep is all about, said Jenkins: “Giving a taste of what college is like can have a strong impact on some students."