WKU Summer Scholars Program prepares incoming students

Alexandria Anderson, Editor-in-Chief

Five weeks before the start of WKU’s academic year, incoming students are able to complete the Summer Scholars Program, where they will earn six credit hours, live on campus and receive direct faculty support to prepare them for their college career.

This transitional program began in 2019 and is required for incoming undergraduate students with an unweighted high school GPA between 2.0 and 2.49. This year, classes will begin on July 10 and end on August 10, a week before the semester begins.

Heather Stuart, WKU assistant director of retention programs, helps coordinate the program and ensure communication across campus partners. She said the program typically has around 80 students and a team of faculty who return each year to teach the courses.


“This type of program is important because it allows students to begin to build connections with faculty and staff before they’ve started their first semester at WKU,” Stuart said. “They also have the opportunity to learn the academic skills that will allow them to be successful not only during this program, but throughout their four years at WKU.”

Stuart said there are indications of higher retention rates for the students who participate in the program, as well as potentially increased graduation rates specifically among these students.

With four years since the first Summer Scholars Program in 2019, Stuart is grateful for its impact on the first cohort of Summer Scholars participants that have gone on to graduate from WKU.

“We’re really proud of the students who have completed the program and graduated from WKU,” Stuart said. “We’re absolutely thrilled for the opportunities that these students have.”

Stuart still hears student stories about the program and sees students that always want to get involved with the next year’s program. She explained that this desire to get involved is an indicator of the program’s success as well.

“Moving forward each year, we hear from students who had previously participated in the program,” Stuart said. “They want to get involved […] As a whole, the students tend to be really reflective and really positive about the impact that their program has on their success at WKU.”

JC Guzman-Perkins, a 2019 Summer Scholars participant, is going into his fifth year at WKU with plans to graduate in the spring. Guzman-Perkins is a triple major in religious studies, Chinese and Asian religions and cultures, which he added last year, and also has a certificate in teaching English as a second language.

“Honestly, it was kind of the best five weeks of my life,” Guzman-Perkins said. “It was so much fun. It’s where I met a lot of my really, really good friends.”

After graduation, Guzman-Perkins hopes to work teaching English as a second language abroad in Korea or Taiwan. Alongside his three majors and certificate, he is also a member of the Korean pop culture club.

Guzman-Perkins said the program made it possible for him to succeed at WKU. As a participant at the first Summer Scholars Program, having completed four years of college, he sees the impact the program made on his upcoming graduation.

“If it wasn’t for the Summer Scholars Program, I wouldn’t be graduating hopefully this spring, and I’m the oldest out of all my siblings,” Guzman-Perkins said. “I’m the first one to go to college […] To be the first one to graduate college is really important for my mom, because I am essentially a role model for my younger brother to want to go to college.”

Since he has felt the impact of the program, Guzman-Perkins wants it to continue to thrive and support incoming students. He most enjoyed having other college students as mentors who helped them understand things like BlackBoard, meal plans and campus activities.

“I really just want this program to be the stepping stone for a lot of people’s college career and careers after, because it really does set the tone of what’s expected of you in college,” Guzman-Perkins said.

During the program, students stay in a residence hall on campus. He said living in the dorm before the school year helped him to adjust to moving into his actual dorm.

“It did teach us how to be able to be on our own once we left that dorm and moved to the dorms that we were assigned for in the fall, and that we would be okay,” Guzman-Perkins said.

Guzman-Perkins explained that using the resources provided during the program are what gave him an advantage to succeed.

“Summer Scholars is essentially like the lifeline you get before everyone else does,” Guzman-Perkins said. “So you kind of have an advantage over other freshmen coming in, and it’s your option to use that lifeline and be successful, or to not use it.”

Reflecting on his time with the program as a fifth year student, Guzman-Perkins wants it to continue to grow and make incoming students comfortable coming into college courses and the campus community.

“It is definitely, in my opinion, a program that doesn’t need to go away,” Guzman-Perkins said. “It’s really helpful. Especially when it comes to you being on your own for the first time […] I think it’s very important that WKU keeps this program and keeps adding on to it to make sure that it encompasses everyone’s needs.”

Editor-in-chief Alexandria Anderson can be reached at [email protected].