Many colleges and universities offer structured summer programs for incoming students to support their academic and social transition to their institution. These cohort-based programs serve as a supportive “bridge” from students’ high school or community college experience to their four-year college experience. Longer summer bridge programs, lasting 4-8 weeks, typically involve completion of one or more academic courses. Shorter summer bridge programs, lasting 1-2 weeks, typically focus on establishing relationships, building academic success skills, and learning about campus resources.
Summer bridge programs are often designed specifically to serve communities of students with limited access to higher education, including students of color, students in the first generation of their family to earn a bachelor’s degree, students from low-income households, and students whose backgrounds are underrepresented in particular academic disciplines.
No two bridge programs are alike so students will need to review the details that are specific to their college. Summer bridge programs may have a separate online application or registration process to be completed after a student has submitted their application for undergraduate admission to the college. Other bridge programs require no separate application; instead, eligible students are automatically considered and selected during the general undergraduate admissions process.
In some cases, selected students may be required to complete the program as a condition of their enrollment at the institution. A conditional offer of admission contingent on successful completion of a summer bridge program may be referred to as an alternative admissions pathway.
Some students may be apprehensive about dedicating time during their summer to a transitional bridge program, but there are many benefits to participating. Bridge programs provide students with early exposure to academic and career resources, create opportunities for students to meet staff and faculty mentors, and help students form friendships with their peers. Additionally, some summer bridge programs may allow students to earn college credit and satisfy degree requirements prior to their first year. Some programs provide students with financial assistance in the form of a stipend or purchased technology. The goal is that incoming students who complete a summer bridge experience will enter their fall term with confidence, a network of support, and a strong foundation for success.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of active summer bridge program opportunities at US colleges and universities.