While generally thought to be geared toward upperclassmen, The University of Wisconsin summer term has created a catalog of experiences for incoming freshmen.
Programs like the Mechanical Engineering Summer Launch, the International Student Summer Institute and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Quickstart brought freshmen to campus weeks before their fall semester in an attempt to not only ease their transition to school but to also provide them with important academic resources.
Recently, UW announced the creation of several new programs they will be piloting this summer, including the Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch, open to all incoming freshmen and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Summer Launch, open to students in the electrical engineering or computer engineering majors.
Assistant Dean of UW Summer Term Aphra Mednick said the process for creating these programs was student-based.
“I help to align summer with what students are looking for and support campus as well,” Mednick said. “We work with a lot of campus partners like financial aid, advising, registrar’s office, those kinds of things.”
Mednick said the inspiration for these programs also came directly from students and families.
Offices received calls from incoming freshmen asking about ways they could get ahead in the summer before they started on campus, Mednick said. UW thought summer start programs would be a great way for students to get adjusted to Madison and the campus’s wealth of resources before even starting the semester.
For some students, like freshman William Woods, who participated in CALS Quickstart, the appeal of a chance to acclimate to campus before even starting the semester drove him to join a summer program.
“I felt really nervous an out-of-state student that I wouldn’t fit in and that I would be behind everyone else,” Woods said. “So I looked for opportunities that would help me not only get the most out of my college experience but also hopefully help me acclimate.”
Woods said Quickstart helped prevent the “culture shock” that can come with the chaotic college transition since it was a smaller, more “friendly” group of people. Woods said that he got the chance to meet many “wonderful people” and make new friends.
Quickstart made him feel more connected to the broad campus community since it exposed him to a variety of resources and organizations, including the lab that he now works in.
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“Quickstart has been a really rewarding experience and made the college transition seem effortless,” Woods said. “You get to start it with a set group of people who are all on the same page before you have to start doing it a little more independently if you chose to do so.”
Freshman Audrey Swanson also participated in CALS Quickstart. Swanson said she was a little nervous coming to Madison, so she wanted something to help her navigate campus.
“I’d never been in a big city before — that I was going to live in — so I wanted to find out what I was doing, so I could act like I knew what I was doing,” Swanson said.
Like Woods, Swanson used the connections she formed during the summer later in her college career. She toured the Wisconsin Seed Potato Lab through the program, and now has a position working there. Swanson also said she met “lifelong friends,” one of which she will be living with next year.
Freshman Steve Manos participated in CALS Quickstart as well, and he said that one of the most important parts of the summer program for him was the academic advice he gained.
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“I gained a greater appreciation for the importance of advising, and being open with your advisor about the classes you want and your planning,” Manos said. “They’re there to help you, but they can only help you if you let them know what you want.”
Overall, Mednick said the summer term programs are there to support the needs of students.
And though Swanson mentioned that there were a few disadvantages — like being alone in the dorms for the first few days with no air conditioning — the Quickstart students emphasized how a summer launch program lent them a support network of peers and professionals.
“It helped me find my footing in this new, independent environment of mine, it helped me meet people and make some new friends, because I didn’t really know anyone when I got here,” Manos said. “I think it made the beginning of my first semester go more smoothly than it otherwise would have gone.”