For many, the words “High School College Prep” conjure up an image of stuffy prep schools, reading boring papers and taking even more boring tests. Although preparing for college does include many of these things, it also includes many other options that students might never have thought of. In fact, a new way for high school students to prepare for college is emerging and it comes in the form of studying abroad.
SPI has been proudly running study abroad programs for high school students since 1996 with many interested students, but recently we’ve noticed an obvious increase in the amount of high school students wanted to study abroad during the summer. We find that these students are dedicated to learning a new language and want to be prepared as much as possible before they enter college. Students are also learning that they can petition for college credit for their time abroad, saving them time and money in college. High school is a critical time to stand out amongst the rest of the crowd and there isn’t anything much more unique than studying abroad, especially while in high school. As a matter of fact, it is still true that a mere 1% of American students (high school and college combined) study abroad. With such a low percentage, students stand out on college applications as looking more qualified than others.
The image of college prep has certainly got a boost since companies started introducing high school students to their programs. Students are no longer staring at language books during the summer, but instead chatting with locals at European cafes and conversing over host family dinners. More importantly, it is almost certain that students will be put into situations that they have no choice but to use the language they’re trying to learn, a teaching method that has been proven to be more effective then doing homework exercises or reading from a text book. Students tell us all the time that they were forced to work through speaking the language with a local and there is never a time that they don’t feel more accomplished for having gone through it. It is these types of experiences that prepare students for the challenging college courses ahead.
U.S. students are undoubtedly opening up to the idea of studying abroad and it’s clear that study abroad is an emerging trend for high school and college students alike. For the first time, students are realizing that their jobs have a great possibility of being in the international market and having an advantage on their competition is not only smart but vital. Yes, for now the mere 1% statistic remains, but as the image of “college prep” gets a much needed facelift from high school students one must wonder if such a growing trend will soon be strong enough to give a facelift to the overall American education system.