Summit Insights: Experiencing College Life

How a pre-college experience tees students up for success.


We want to begin this edition of Summit Insights by sharing some numbers with our prospective families. According to 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, nearly 70% of high-school graduates enrolled in either a 2-year or 4-year college, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. The majority of American students, therefore, will experience college, and Ambassador Leaders’ students are no exception. At the same time, a College and Career Readiness survey completed by 165,000 high-school respondents found only 45% felt prepared for the college experience.

What does this all mean? Simply put, there’s a big gap between students who enroll in college and those who feel ready for the responsibility. The good news is a pre-college experience can begin to bridge that gap for middle-school and high-school students, making exposure to college another key benefit of the Ambassador Leadership Summits.

Bringing college into focus

Ask any college student and she’ll tell you the path to university took careful preparation and hard work. Although many of our students plan to attend a college or university, the reality can still feel like it’s a long way off. Early access to college information can help young students understand the steps they need to take now in order to achieve their future academic goals. As our alumni parent Kelly explains in the video below, the Ambassador Leadership Summit helped her son focus on his future.

One aim of the Summits is to provide students with a platform to have college-life discussions and admissions talks, so they can engage with and ask questions of current university students and staff. Many of our students tell us that having direct access to people associated with the university was one of the biggest benefits of attending the Summit. Hear an alumni parent’s thoughts about how this and other aspects of the Summit helped ease her daughter into the idea of attending a university away from home.

We explored in our first Summit Insights post how students build independence during their time at the Summit, which in turn prepares them for a challenge that each college-bound student will experience: the transition from home to university. This is by design! As a pre-college experience, an Ambassador Leadership Summit introduces students to university campuses, dorm life, roommates, and a full schedule of academic activities. While this can feel nerve-racking for students (and parents!), it’s also exciting and eye-opening. Students get to meet and work with their peers from around the world, learn time management, develop open-mindedness, flex their creative problem-solving muscles, and envision their college future. Listen below as our students describe how the Summit helped them feel better prepared for college.

Our goal is not for all of our student leaders to gain admission into the university where their Summit is held, though we’re thrilled for those who do. Rather, our goal is to expose students to the universal elements of the college experience and equip them with the leadership skills to succeed at any college. At the same time, this immersive experience gives students the confidence to set their sights high and pursue the college of their dream with renewed determination.

Check back next week for our third installment of Summit Insights where we will explore how the Summit experience hones students’ leadership skills.

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By Corie Bales

Corie is the Academic Affairs Manager of Ambassador Leaders. As a lifelong educator and avid traveler, she believes in empowering students and teachers to learn and lead through experiential education.