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Students build college skills in Prefreshman Summer Program

Matthew Knight '19, standing, talks with Christopher Talavera and Betty Wang
Chris Kitchen/Cornell Marketing
Matthew Knight '19, standing, talks with Christopher Talavera and Betty Wang.

Most students across the country head to college in August. In June about 180 new Cornell students arrived on campus for the Prefreshman Summer Program (PSP), which gives them the opportunity to prepare for and adjust to the challenges of their first year of college.

Over seven weeks PSP participants take two or three classes in a variety of subjects, such as global Chinese history, government, chemistry and statistics. Classes are assigned to participants based on their intended major and information from their college applications. Students also take a college achievement course that teaches such skills as scheduling and time management.

“This summer, I’ve learned how to enjoy the art of learning,” said Etinosa Osagie ’20. “Coming into the biology program, I’ve learned that the grade isn’t the most important thing about learning … It’s learning how to learn.”

Said Sarah Griffiths ’20, “It’s a lot of work nightly, and it’s a lot to handle at times, but it teaches us to prioritize and develop good habits.”

“I like the achievement course because we learn good tips,” Steve Tarcan ’20 said. “It’s a good introduction to what college will be like.”

Participants also attend weekly seminars that help the prefreshmen learn about Cornell.

“We’ve learned about the resources available to us,” Betty Wang ’20 said. “[Cornell] cares a lot, and I feel better prepared because I know how to ask for help if I need it.”

Students gather for dinner each Wednesday at the Keeton House dining hall, where they have the chance to eat together and listen to professors speak about their own life experiences.

On July 6, Jonathan Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, and Katherine Kinzler, associate professor of psychology, were the featured speakers.

Lunine showed students videos of NASA’s Juno mission, which went into Jupiter’s orbit July 4, and he spoke of the joy of science.

Kinzler told of her journey to becoming a professor. She went into college as a physics major but graduated with a double major in physics and cognitive science after taking an introductory psychology class and falling in love with the subject. Kinzler began working in a lab as an undergraduate and encouraged PSP students to take advantage of the research opportunities at Cornell.

“Cornell is really great at getting students involved with research,” Kinzler said.

PSP gives students the chance to build a community with one another through classes, studying, the weekly dinners and spending time with each other outside of class.

“Getting to know campus is really helpful, and you get to know a lot of people through PSP. It’s cool because I have a group of friends before even entering college,” Tarcan said.

When the students aren’t studying, PSP plans events like barbecues and movie nights. The participants also play a lot of volleyball and have found the much-loved Collegetown Bagels.

“PSP is really awesome. I’m glad I got the opportunity to come,” Raven Schwam-Curtis ’20 said.

Anna Carmichael ’18 is a communications assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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