So, you are a moderately-high achieving high school student and you want to go to college. But now you think, “how do I prepare?” You can do SAT prep or maybe go through some other practice tests, but between all of those different forms of college prep, you still have to learn and go through in high school, and what you have to do to get into college, you just can’t see yourself being prepared for college.
It would be best, then, if you took what is commonly known as a bridge year, then. Bridge year programs offer a perfect time for you to prepare for college life, and there are just so many bridge year programs you can sign up for to make this happen!
What is the Bridge Year Program in High School?
A “bridge year” often refers to a high school student’s upper-level or senior year explicitly aiming to get to college. Bridge year programs, then, are about allowing students to prepare themselves for their future curriculum in college. Bridge programs are also offered to students who are currently going through a college with a two-year degree and want to transition to a full four-year degree.
The specifics of a bridge year program for a high school will depend on the high school. For example, New Jersey had recently instated a law for New Jersey students during the 2021-2022 school year as a response to the number of schools that closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In practice, the program is not dissimilar to more standard dual-enrollment programs in American education. The difference is that while a student in a dual enrollment program may take college classes and high school classes. In contrast, students in a bridge year program forgo their current courses and education in high school entirely in favor of specified lessons and extracurricular activities.
Students in the bridge year program take time off from regular high school to accumulate the new experience necessary to go to college. Schools offer activities such as:
- studying abroad and learning the country’s languages,
- doing community services or actions with other students in the bridge year program,
- and generally, any activity that would involve improving interaction with college students or up-and-coming college students and developing the additional, extra skills necessary to behave and participate in a college environment.
To sum it all up, a bridge year program is a streamlined experience towards college and specifically college.
Who are Eligible to Participate in the Bridge Year Program?
A student’s eligibility for a bridge year program highly depends on the sort of school they go to. The universal standard is that the student must be within their high school graduation year. Additionally, they must be in the position to graduate; either already having the necessary credits or having the academic status to earn them by the end of their school year. Naturally, a student who isn’t going to college isn’t eligible for the bridge year program either.
There are additional qualifications: New Jersey’s Department of Education, for example, has the previous capabilities with additional ones such as the student needing to be 19 years old or younger during the bridge year (i.e., if a student would turn 20 during the bridge year, they are not eligible to participate in the program) and that they need to maintain a grade point average of 2.0 or higher during the bridge year.
Since this is a program about students preparing to go to college, there is a lot of expectation that the student is ready for college-level work. Many bridge year programs offer entry into an actual college or university and give the students a chance to complete a few college courses. In this case, tuition is free, so it is also good to see if college is worth the future tuition fee.
Bridge year programs are typically designed to cater to the specific needs and interests of the student involved, including:
- understanding what they mean to achieve with the program,
- what they are required to go through in their time in college, such as the requirements of their major,
- the financial aid that they need or receive in order to pay for tuition and supplies.
If you are a student doing well in high school and on track according to their age, you should have little difficulty becoming eligible for your high school’s bridge year program. But that is all discussion about getting to the program. Once you are in there, what is the point? What are the benefits of the bridge year program?
What are the Benefits of the Bridge Year Program in High School?
Bridge year programs are focused on getting you, the student, ready to take on college. It stands to reason that they will offer high school students a head start on becoming a college student.
It is your last year in high school, so you have already done the bulk of your secondary education. As a college student, regardless of your potential major or minor, you will have to deal with more impressive and complicated things, such as higher-level algebra and geometry, calculus, advanced physics, chemistry, and biology. You have the choice of your specified college majors and minors that have you on a fast track to the kind of job you want.
Be assured that you do not need to undergo a bridge year program just to get into college (why, this author never participated in one!). It is not a requirement that any university’s incoming freshmen have completed a full bridge year. But there is no mistaking the benefits of participating in one, including a rather lengthy period of time for you to get your college affairs in order.
How Long is the Bridge Year Program in High School?
Of course, the bridge year program is as long as your graduation year in high school. It is somewhat evident that as the program is meant to prepare you for college, it will outlive its usefulness when you prove that you are ready for a post-secondary, college-level curriculum.
But there lies the matter: what happens when you are not ready? How long would the bridge year program last if the student is shown correctly not to be prepared for college? To most students who fit these criteria, the program will be cut short if they decide that maybe they are not a good fit for college life, or perhaps something came up in their lives, and they need to divert their attention elsewhere. Taking a bridge year is not optimal for completing high school; it is typically a program for students who have proven their academic prowess and can deal with a year off or away from the standard secondary education curriculum.
Throughout the different forms of bridge year programs, few have any particular rules for students who are unable/unwilling to complete their assigned activities. Typically, they expect the student to keep up with the material they are given, as it is deemed necessary and expected to be what they will go through as a part-time or full-time undergraduate college student.
In the case of a student simply not being able to keep up with the workload, the student may just be removed from the program altogether, their efforts for naught. Though, as was stated before, a bridge year program is not necessary for entering college, quitting the bridge year program sooner than expected may make it more challenging to get back into high school.
Wrapping Things Up: What is a Bridge Year in High School?
A bridge year program is, for any successful student, the perfect chance to get that dedicated and streamlined pathway to a future in college. Get ready to undertake special courses and extracurricular activities before you make the transition from roundabout, wayward high school student. Hopefully, this article has made you look at the idea of post-secondary education with broader and brighter eyes!