New program provides early start to freshmen

Students participating in Summer Start have the opportunity to attend social events in the community. On July 21, the students were able to attend a Hot Rods game. (Photo provided by Erin Holderman)

Rebekah Alvey

A new program is offering incoming freshmen an opportunity to earn credit hours and college experience over the summer at a discounted price.

The first session of Summer Start began July 15 and will last until Aug. 10, just in time for participating students to attend MASTER Plan. The inaugural class includes about 45 incoming freshmen.

Throughout the four-week program, students take a morning and afternoon course, which earns them six credit hours. Students can choose to take a Colonnade course such as fundamental speaking/communication or a course in their major such as rural sociology

While not in class, Erin Holderman, program and event management coordinator for the Division of Extended Learning and Outreach, said students are able to form relationships and become better prepared to live on campus. By the time classes start, Holderman said, participating students will be “experts.”

Holderman said every day the students meet for lunch and there are usually guest speakers to talk with them about different aspects of campus life. One day the students learned about student debt and how to avoid it while another day they learned how to build strong college study habits.

The program also coordinates social events on the weekends which Holderman said keeps students engaged with the community. This weekend, the students will be taking a trip to Beech Bend park and having a cookout.

By introducing useful information and resources to freshmen during the program, Holderman said, the students will feel more connected to the university and are more inclined to stay.

“It’s all about retention and recruitment,” Holderman said.

In between the fall and spring semester there is an increase in students leaving WKU. Holderman said students in Summer Start will know who they can go to for help and feel more comfortable on campus.

Holderman said the students have already formed close friendships which can carry through and help them feel more connected during the school year.

Students are offered a “bundle” through Summer Start that includes the credit hours, a scholarship on books, 10 meal swipes a week during the program, summer housing, tutoring, MASTER Plan and a summer Preston Center membership.

Holderman said in-state students save 20 percent while out of state students save about 60 percent, which makes the program more appealing and affordable.

While many students came in with dual credit or AP credit, Holderman said, Summer Start gives students an additional boost to a four-year graduation. She said if students change their major, want to take on a minor or have a bad semester the additional hours give students flexibility.

Throughout the program, Holderman said, she is receiving a lot of feedback on how to improve. In the coming years, she said she hopes to see the program grow in number of students and courses offered.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated to correct the department where Erin Holderman works.