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A first-year Penn State student in the Prehealth Summer Bridge Program smiles during a Lunch & Learn session with the Eberly College of Science's associate deans

Prehealth Summer Bridge Program helps give incoming first-year students a leg up

For new undergraduates from historically underrepresented groups, community-building is a key complement to coursework in preparing for their first semester
19 September 2022

The students’ reaction was overwhelmingly positive as the Penn State Eberly College of Science wrapped up its inaugural Prehealth Summer Bridge Program last month. 

The program supports incoming first-year students in the college through a six-week residential academic experience at Penn State University Park and is free for participating students. Food, housing, trips, and course materials are all included, and participants who successfully complete the program are awarded a $500 scholarship.  

Over the summer, students take a math course, a chemistry course, a metacognition course designed to aid in developing successful study techniques, and a cornerstone course with a focus on learning about health disparities — with each course followed by ample time for eating, relaxing, and completing coursework.

Alec Paramo, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, discussed his satisfaction with the course load.

“It’s a schedule that gives you enough structure and freedom that once you get to college, you’ll know what you want,” he said.

In addition to a tailored curriculum, the program also includes a regular two-hour study session that allows the students to work collaboratively with their classmates and professors and catch up on homework to avoid procrastination. 

Serena Salt, a premedicine major, said she was inspired to continue her education through the summer to avoid forgetting crucial information needed for her fast-paced academic career. 

“You know how you take a summer break and then you lose all that knowledge you just learned? And you’re like, ‘Yay, high school is done! I don’t have to do any more learning,’” she said. “But once you hit college, you’re like, ‘Wait, I have to relearn this all over again,  but at a faster pace.’ So, I feel like me doing this program is really rewarding in that effort.” 

The students shared that the program has eased their worries about the transition from high school to college by introducing them to the University’s courses and curriculum ahead of the fall semester.

Marianna Olaya, a biology major, explained how her early arrival to University Park campus has helped her to feel more prepared for the start of the upcoming semester. 

“This program has been an immense help because it’s just allowed me to come in feeling like I know the campus a little bit,” she said.  “I kind of have a taste of what the culture is like here.”

In addition to college preparation, the program also provided unique opportunities for collaboration and networking with professionals in the healthcare field through trips to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The students also had early experiences with college facilities, such as the medical cadaver lab. 

Khalida Senghori, a forensic science major, spoke words of encouragement to those who are contemplating joining this program.

“I definitely say, ‘Do it!’ It’s such a good opportunity, I don’t think you should pass it up at all,” she said. “It’s so good.”

The Prehealth Summer Bridge Program is open to accepted students in the Eberly College of Science at the University Park campus who come from historically underrepresented groups or are first-generation college students.

Kristin Finch, the college’s associate dean for diversity and inclusion, said she hopes this new program will also be one of the deciding factors for prospective students interested in the University. 

“It’s just really about forming community,” she said. “I joke that the healthcare piece is kind of the carrot, but really the foundation of the program is forming community and students engaging with each other and being connected with resources across the University.”

Associate Dean Kristin Finch meets with students during a Lunch & Learn session for the Eberly College of Science's inaugural Prehealth Summer Bridge Program.
Associate Dean Kristin Finch meets with students during a Lunch & Learn session for the Eberly College of Science's inaugural Prehealth Summer Bridge Program.