06/03/2014 07:07 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2014

Tips for Succeeding in Summer Pre-College Programs

Many colleges will open their doors to high school students during the summer in college programs. These programs can range from intensive, counselor-approved sessions to programs that allow students to attend college classes. Pre-college programs, although costly, can give students key insight into how college academia works, which in turn can lead to a better college application. Students also get to meet peers from around the country and world, as well as experience the college town and surrounding community. In some cases, the courses they take can count as credit that will be transferred later on when they actually start college.

Educational summer programs are just like college in that they are what you make them. Students who make the best of a college summer program will gain invaluable knowledge, make significant connections and be way ahead of their peers in the college application process. Solely attending the program, however, doesn't necessarily predict success -- here are some actionable steps to take that can ensure your success.

1. Go above and beyond in your studying
College courses can be intensive; summer courses can be even more difficult, as subject material is taught within a much smaller time frame. It's a terrific opportunity to apply your already-known study techniques to college-level material, but you can also learn some new tricks along the way. Some quick tips that work well for many college students include:
• Highlighting notes in different colors. This is a great way to emphasize key information and make studying from your notes far easier later on.
• Using a schedule to map out specific times for you to devote to studying. This will help you prevent last-minute cramming sessions and other methods that repeatedly fail.
• Find your perfect study spot. A very common mistake students make is studying in their dorm or apartment bedroom. Although it may work for some people, that case is a rarity and overall, you are better off settling down in a place where you are not surrounded by distractions and easily able to curl up and fall asleep.

2. Ask for recommendations
Most likely, you'll be taking courses with actual professors or teaching assistants on campus. Don't underestimate this winning opportunity to get a valuable recommendation for your college application. However, it is crucial to know the proper etiquette before doing so. Remember:
• Get to know them first. Actively participate in class and show genuine interest in the material. Visit professors during their office hours, if possible, or talk to them before or after class. Bottom line -- don't limit your interaction with them solely to in the classroom.
• Ask for their opinions on important subjects. If you're interested in a few different college majors, inquire to them about how they would recommend you narrow down your decision. Even better, strike up a conversation about the material they lectured in class that day -- not for the assignment, but because you're sincerely interested and want to hear more thoughts on it.
• Give plenty of time in advance before asking for the recommendation. It's typical to allow a professor at least a month to write a letter. If you don't have a chance to ask until the very end of summer, give them your home address and follow up at the appropriate time by email or phone -- whichever they indicate they prefer. It is no secret that professors are extremely busy, but don't let this scare you off from asking one you admire for this favor. As long as you follow the aforementioned bits of etiquette, you will be on the right track.

3. See if you can transfer credits
Ask in advance whether or not courses count for official college credit. Of course, it's always beneficial to expand one's knowledge, even if through a non-credit course that has no grades and won't count toward a degree. The direct learning experience in the literal atmosphere of the college environment is no small thing. If summer courses do count for college credit, ask about how transferrable they are -- e.g. which colleges will accept them as validly completed courses and how you can make sure it is recorded adequately.

As you can see, there are many advantages to taking pre-college programs. Why not spend your summer getting this unique experience and exceptionally helpful preparation for your college career? Remember to make the most of it!