6 Pre-College Programs You Can Join in High School

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When adcoms are evaluating your application, they want to see that you’re proactive. That means branching out from extracurricular activities like high school clubs and organizations and community volunteering. One way to get involved is through a pre-college program.



What is A Pre-College Program?

Many high school students participate in summer pre-college programs, which give participants a “taste” of college life through academic courses and college campus settings. Participating pre-college summer programs is certainly a great addition to your resume, but some students can’t or don’t choose to attend them for financial or other reasons. Fortunately, there are plenty of programs year-round for students that teach them important life skills.


Read on to learn about some of these opportunities.



Why Should I Participate in a Pre-College Program?

Participating in activities outside of your comfort zone can allow you to explore your passions and even make a difference in the world. They are great additions to your resume; they show that you take the initiative to pursue activities that aren’t readily available through school or your immediate network. You’ll also gain real-world experience.



6 Pre-College Programs


1. Join a Nonprofit Organization or Start Your Own Chapter

Nonprofit organizations such as museums, zoos, and cultural centers tend to offer many opportunities to high school students, such as courses and training programs. This is a great way for students to explore a passion, philanthropy, and learn about a potential future career.


For example, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City offers science courses, which include lab visits and tours, lectures by scientists, and other activities.


Students can also get involved in nonprofits by founding or participating in chapters of organizations at their high schools. For instance, many high schools have chapters of organizations such as UNICEF, which supports and fundraises for children’s rights around the world. (Read Leading Your School’s Chapter of UNICEF Club to learn how to get started.) Amnesty International, which advocates for worldwide human rights, is another organization that high schoolers can support through school chapters.



2. Get Involved in Peer Outreach Programs

Through peer outreach, teenagers work with other students toward missions and common goals. Doing so teaches them how to tackle real-world problems, build practical skills, and develop confidence.


One such program is The Young People’s Project. The program trains high schoolers to become Math Literacy Workers as they teach math to elementary school students in their communities.


In another example, the University of Michigan’s Depression Center partnered with Michigan public schools to train students to work with peers who are struggling with anxiety and depression. While the students aren’t licensed professionals, they can offer support and encourage their peers to seek counseling when needed.

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3. Youth Court

In this program, teens get involved with and learn about the justice system by acting as lawyers, jurors, and judges in real court cases with juveniles who commit minor offenses. The network offers local programs across the country.



4. Boys and Girls State

In this prestigious, selective program for students interested in government, high schoolers participate in activities such as legislative sessions, court proceedings, and assemblies, as well as observe presentations by government officials and other professionals. The programs last one week and are usually held on college campuses.



5. Become a Brand Ambassador

Some companies employ students to promote their products on social media. Brands that thrive off of their brand ambassadors include Lost Souls, Wicked Custom Apparel, Faviana, and many others. (Keep in mind that some brands require you to be at least 18 to join, so read the fine print carefully.)


You can also take the initiative to start your own project and gain a following by launching a YouTube channel or approaching local businesses to see if they could use your assistance. You’ll build valuable skills marketing products—and yourself—and may even earn some money.


To learn more about this type of project and find a little inspiration, check out this Inc. article about young people who have done it themselves.



6. Girls Who Code

Founded with the mission of closing the gender gap in technology, Girls Who Code offers summer programs and after-school clubs for girls wanting to build character and coding skills in a supportive community. The after-school programs require facilitators to guide students through the experience, so you’ll need to get a teacher or community member on board to start one locally.



Why You Should Go Beyond

High school offers many opportunities for you to explore your interests, but to truly delve into topics that excite you, you need to go beyond the everyday. Get outside of your comfort zone and show colleges that you challenge yourself by involving yourself in your wider community and gaining real-world experience. You may even discover your future career!


For more ideas for extracurriculars outside of your school, read:


Best Places for High Schoolers to Do Community Service

7 Reasons Why You Should Participate in a Summer Program


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.


Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills to help maximize their chances of success in college, business, and life.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.