Alternative Summer Means an Easier Transition
Academic Bridge Program Gives Participating Freshmen Advanced Experience
Aug. 26, 2008
Forty-two UT Dallas students have a jump on freshman year, thanks to their decision to forgo a traditional summer break in favor of participation in the UT Dallas Academic Bridge Program.
The Academic Bridge Program (ABP), housed in the School of General Studies, provides a college “incubator” for students who graduate from Dallas-area urban high schools with high class rankings but who have not completed a full college prep curriculum. This summer scholarship program is offered to select entering freshmen and gives them the opportunity to begin their university education immediately after high school graduation.
Neha Nalam, a Plano ISD graduate who is interested in software engineering and business, discovered ABP at Scholar’s Day. She spent her summer immersed in the college environment.
“ABP was a good introduction to college life; every day we go play volleyball, participate in a study group, go swimming or go to the gym,” said Nalam. “When I came to the ABP, it was hard because no one knew anyone else. After a couple of weeks, I started meeting people and it was a lot of fun. I’m kind of sad that it’s over.”
Accumulating course credits is one way the Academic Bridge Program helps students get ahead; a maximum of nine credit hours may be earned in the two-month program. All students take the same classes – math, rhetoric and orientation; students who intend to major in engineering or computer science take Introduction to Engineering and Computer Science for an additional credit hour.
ABP students benefit from small class sizes of 20 or fewer students, tutoring and campus orientation activities. Additionally, the best students of each class are eligible for the Bridge Builders Award, a $1,000 scholarship given to outstanding ABP students.
But perhaps equally significant is the way students are introduced to the social aspects of college life. ABP students live in University dorms, associate with current UT Dallas upperclassmen and experience Metroplex attractions with their peers, all while having the resources of the ABP staff to help ease the transition to life away from home.
“I got to experience true college life through ABP; the classes are fast-paced and the teachers are the same instructors other UT Dallas students would take classes from throughout the school year,” said Thai Cao, Dallas ISD graduate and ABP student interested in biology. “I also got to improve my oral presentation skills this summer. We had to present information about campus resources in the rhetoric class to the other ABP members, which also allowed me to share information with my ABP classmates.”
And the ABP experience doesn’t end when fall classes begin. ABP students have the supportive resources of the School of General Studies for the duration of their UT Dallas academic career.
“The School of General Studies faculty supports the Academic Bridge students with advising, internships and community work opportunities,” said Dr. George Fair, dean of the School of General Studies. “We believe in providing them with an appropriate level of individualized support as they move toward their goal of earning an undergraduate degree.”
At 68 percent, the Academic Bridge Program boasts a graduation rate higher than that of the University overall. Financial support for the ABP comes from the Texas Legislature, UT Dallas and private donations.
“Because we provide full scholarships for the students in Academic Bridge, including funds for tuition, books, housing and meals, sustaining the program is a challenge,” said Fair. “We couldn’t deliver the level of excellence that we do without the support of our public and private funding.”
Isaac Miller, a Garland ISD graduate interested in computer science, believes ABP gave him the head start he was looking for before entering college.
“The ABP program met and rose above my expectations. I knew I wanted to do summer school to get an idea of what college would be like before the fall, but the ABP also gave away a lot of scholarships and gave us the opportunity to do community service,” said Miller. “I made a lot of friends who I now consider a second family. This is the best thing to do if you’re an incoming freshman.”
Students are selected via written application and personal interview each spring. For more information on the Academic Bridge Program or the School of General Studies, call (972) 883-2655 or visit www.utdallas.edu/is/.