WKU summer program giving a head start to first-year students

Many college students spend their summer break in the classroom, picking up an extra credit here and there through summer classes offered at their university. Several incoming students to Western Kentucky are getting the opportunity to do the same, thanks to a summer program they started just last year.

"It’s kind of a quick start. A college quick start," said Erin Holderman, Program and Events Managing Coordinator at Western Kentucky University.

Holderman, like many of us, understand that going to college can be a challenging and scary time. It’s a new area with unfamiliar people away from family. The Summer Start program started by WKU in the summer of 2017 is looking to eliminate those worries and anxieties.

"I wanted to get ahead in life," said incoming first-year student Alexis Bolds, a Chicago, Illinois, native. "I think that Summer Start is a great program to get off on the right foot and make it an easier transition from high school to college."

From July 7 to August 9, the program introduces incoming students to academic life at WKU by having them take real classes for credit, except in a much smaller class setting, similar to something most of the participants were used to in high school.

"The classes are small, so it’s helping me ease into the college experience," said Russell County, Kentucky, native Emily Cravens.

Bolds agreed.

"I won’t be as nervous as I thought I would at first because I already know the campus," she said. "I already know what kind of staff there is, and they’re nice people."

Holderman believes this kind of familiarity with the area will help these students perform better during their first year on the Hill.

"They’re already going to know the campus, know how to get around, know what to do, and feel a little bit more comfortable and be confident," she said.

In addition to the advances in their academics, the students learn what it’s like living on campus, and in the process, have a chance to make new friends before they even start their classes in the fall.

"Now whenever I move-in in the fall, I’ll have these people that I met this summer," said Cravens. "I won’t be alone. I won’t have that fear."

"They’re meeting friends. They’ve already got friend groups," Holderman added. "They didn’t know anybody when they came in. So now they’re going to take these friendships into the fall, and have friends probably all through college."

It’s a rather intensive and busy month for these kids, too. They have class twice-a-day, Monday through Friday, and that doesn’t even include the activities they do during lunch, the nightly study hours with tutors, and social outings to the different parts of Bowling Green. Long story short – these students are on a fast track in their preparation for college life.

"We kind of just help each other out," Bolds said. "I think it’s better, in a sense, than coming when there’s thousands of people."

Summer Start received a lot of positive feedback after its first year of existence last summer, and Holderman hopes that the program will continue to grow even larger in the future.

"We’d love to see it bloom," she said. "Who knows? Grow into something – 500 students could already be here before the fall starts."