The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of student life, including the summer enrichment programs that help high school students build new skills and learn more about collegiate life. While many institutions canceled their programs due to budgetary and safety concerns, Barnard retooled its Pre-College Programs (PCP) offerings — running from June 28 to July 31 (applications are due May 30) — with a set of new, innovative remote-learning models. Whether a student is interested in STEM, filmmaking, acting, art, leadership, writing, or activism, Barnard offers a complementary summer institute for them. 


With PCP celebrating its 35th anniversary this summer, the director of Pre-College Programs, Aleschia Velasquez, is adapting their programs from their initial design to a remote format; moreover, she’s creating a meaningful summer experience based on a more intentional and engaging curriculum. 

For example, participants in the Athena Center’s Young Women’s Leadership Institute will manage interdisciplinary zine projects that tie into the academic instruction they receive, rising seniors will learn about the College application process in the post COVID-19 landscape, and faculty will conduct TED-style talks via a new series, “Best of Barnard.” In conjunction with Barnard’s Cheryl and Philip Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, Velasquez and her team are working to make sure students have the technology, tools, and platforms needed to make the summer a success.

“I strongly believe in the power of intentionality in curricular design,” said Velasquez. “Students of all ages have been struggling to engage with their course materials, so we have reimagined our programs with a special focus on participants’ interests and an innovative approach to fostering community.”

Barnard’s approach to pre-college programs was unique well before the pandemic hit. With the College’s full-time faculty representing over 80% of PCP instructors, high school students receive the rare opportunity to learn from and conduct research with world-renowned experts in their fields. In the past, many students enrolled in PCP have applied to and attended Barnard, and Barnard alumnae have encouraged their daughters to pursue PCP programs.

Parker Watts '22
Parker Watts '22

“While leaving home was scary, I felt like I was returning to a place I loved, rather than diving into a place that I knew nothing about,” said political history major Parker Watts ’22. “Being a PCP student taught me how to think critically, write analytically, and it helped me develop the independence that was needed in a college classroom.” 

Program Offerings

Every PCP student is required to take one CORE course that includes interactive sessions with faculty and student course assistants who help guide the cohort through immersive experiences, such as virtual tours of NYC’s greatest cultural institutions, guest lecturers, and online labs where students have the opportunity to engage in hands-on and personalized learning. 

With Beyond the Gates, Barnard’s career and college guidance programming, students participate in panels with Barnard Admissions representatives, current students, esteemed educators, organizers, entrepreneurs, and coaches, who all work with students to cultivate skills such as self-branding, goal setting, networking, time management, and professional etiquette.


Building a Virtual Community

In addition to their academic work, group projects, labs, and inviting experiences, students will have time to build community within their cohorts — an issue of high priority for Velasquez during the quarantine. 

“Now more than ever, a sense of community is needed because of the sudden upheaval of the school year,” she said. “Fostering community in our programs is a way for us to drive home the college experience because community is what college is about, and it’s what Barnard does best.”

Junior Junction gives rising seniors a peek into the world of college admissions, and all students can attend virtual student-life events, including painting activities, game nights, and faculty-curated chats with prominent authors.


The opportunity to connect with peers on campus is something that Watts remembers well. “Being around Barnard students during the course of the program helped me to better understand what the many versions of a Barnard student looked like, and I began to see myself spending the next four years of my undergraduate experience here,” Watts said. “Even after the program, I was able to stay connected to those students, and they continue to be friends, mentors, and inspirations in my life.”

To learn more about summer programs, join PCP’s mailing list, follow us on social media at Barnard PreCollege, and participate in program webinars about the new online format. 

To apply for the Summer 2020 programs (below), click here

PCP Program Offerings

The STEMinists in Training Institute (June 28-July 10) provides students with the opportunity to develop their STEM skills in the extended classroom of New York City, going on virtual visits to job sites and liaising with city organizations in addition to their coursework in computer science, the physical sciences, psychology, or neuroscience. The program also serves as an introduction to some of the inequalities that women face in STEM fields and how that narrative can be rewritten.

Participants in the NYC Art and Design Summer Institute (June 28-July 10) develop a nuanced understanding of the social, political, and economic impact of art and fashion. Their academic work — topics range from hip-hop as an art form to an exploration of New York City as an epicenter for feminist art — will be supplemented by sessions on the business of the art and fashion industries, museum studies, art and social justice, and more.

PCP dancer

The Performing Arts and Media Institute (June 28-July 24) allows students to embrace their creativity through courses in dance, theatre, filmmaking, art, and music production that culminate in the annual Festival of the Arts, where students showcase their best work to their peers in a virtual showcase. They also receive specialized information about how prospective arts or media majors can navigate the college admissions process.

Barnard is well known for its alumnae authors, and students who attend the Young Women Writers Institute (July 19-31) develop their writing portfolios following in the footsteps of such writers as Edwidge Danticat, Greta Gerwig, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jhumpa Lahiri. PCP will offer topical writing workshops this year on mental health, New York City, and the witch as archetype, as well as seminars about short stories, essays, and playwriting.

The Athena Center will host the Young Women’s Leadership Institute (July 19-31) to explore leadership through a feminist lens, focusing on areas such as gender inequality, politics, queer studies, urban studies, and human rights. In a way similar to the Athena Challenges available to Barnard students, PCP participants have the opportunity to tackle a problem they see in the world and work in small groups to design and execute a solution using the skills they’ve gained in courses and workshops.