SJU Program Gives Middle School Students a Taste of College Life

Monday, May 19, 2014

A group of middle school students recently visited St. John’s University to experience college life through an SJU program called College Immersion. Sponsored by The School of Education and with the help of the After-School All-Stars and the Vincentian Institute for Social Action, (VISA), the program brought 50 students from local, high-need middle schools (MS 216, MS 217, and IS 192) to the Queens campus during their winter recess.

Now in its fourth year, College Immersion was created by Mary Beth Schaefer, Ed.D., assistant professor of education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, in response to her research that showed middle school students have better chances for success in high school and beyond when they can imagine a plan or goal for their future.

“I want every student who participates in the program to envision college as a possible option,” said Schaefer. “Students who struggle in school or find it difficult to work to their fullest potential are particularly urged by their teachers to attend.”
 
College Immersion contains a mix of “real” college classes and information sessions about college life. Middle school students begin each day with a 50-minute lecture in order to give them a feel for taking notes and sitting in a large, stadium-style classroom. For their “major” courses, students choose smaller, seminar-style classes from a menu that includes Shakespeare, medieval myths and life, art and design, toxicology, and human relations. Each of these “major” courses lasts for 90 minutes and all are taught by a University professor. After lunch in Montgoris cafeteria, afternoon activities included physical education, visits with representatives from Greek Life and other organizations, and campus tours. They also received information on financial aid.
 
After years of research on student experiences in College Immersion, Schaefer found that participation in the program helps middle school students develop important college readiness behaviors. “Students deepen their understanding of the kinds of work expected at the college level, feel more confident about going to college in the future and doing well, and gain critical understandings of college expectations and behaviors,” she said. 

With continued support from VISA and the After School All-Stars, Schaefer hopes to offer this program for many years to come.