A Taste of College

The Impact of College in the Schools on High Schoolers
Portrait of CIS Coordinators Sara Mack, Stephanie Anderson, Cristina Castro
Photo by JAcob Van Blarcom, CLAgency student

CIS Spanish Coordinators Sara Mack, Stephanie Anderson, Cristina Castro

Do you ever wish you had a taste of college before starting your freshman year? College in the Schools (CIS) is a program that allows high school students to do just that, while earning college credit, too. It allows highly motivated high school students from across the state to engage with the University of Minnesota by taking college-level courses in a high-school setting. 

Faculty Coordinator Assistant Cristina Castro coordinates the CIS Spanish program. With CIS, Minnesota’s high schools are better able to engage with the University, providing students with the necessary preparation and tools they need to further their education. 

Engaging Minnesota’s High Schools

The Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies implemented the CIS program more than a decade ago, with only a handful of schools participating in the program. Now, CIS Spanish comprises nearly 40 Minnesota high schools, with nearly 45 teachers and almost 1,800 students. Castro says that an additional 10-20 schools wish to be a part of the program. 

The high school teachers are also engaging with the University. Because teachers are from all around the state, the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies provides as much support to the teachers as it can to ensure quality instruction. The teachers come to the University four times a year to receive training from the program’s coordinators. “We try as much as possible to give those teachers as many tools as we can to teach these classes the same way we teach them here [at the University],” Castro explains. 

The CIS program also strives to accommodate the high schools who participate, which is what makes the program so successful, according to Castro. “Sometimes the resources aren’t there for some of the teachers, so that’s when we need to work around and try to support [them],” clarifies Castro. Some accommodations include adapting to a high school semester’s calendar, reframing the University’s syllabi to cater to high school students, and supplying and/or working around any lack of technology or materials needed for a CIS course in the high school environment. 

A Day in the Life of a College Student

According to Castro, the program “helps students receive college experience before going to college.” With the type of material, discussions, expectations, thinking, creativity, and involvement in learning, the high school students have a taste of college-level academics before entering their first semester of university. 

Additionally, several schools come to campus for a field day each semester, a day in which the students have the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a college student. This day allows the students to sit in on classes, listen to speakers and students from the department, and learn more about the curriculum and campus life. Students attend at the end of October and another group will visit campus in April.

The Impact 

The CIS program gives students the opportunity to get an early glimpse of college, along with the incentive of receiving college credit and growing academically. For example, a high school student could be taking level three or four Spanish through the CIS program and jump right to a 3xxx level class here at the university their freshman year. 

Castro has had the opportunity to visit CIS schools around the state and monitor the students’ levels of engagement, and it’s evident that students enjoy the program. “I am really impressed by the type of work they do and how interested they are,” says Castro, “The perception of the program is very positive.”

The University provides the framework for these students to challenge themselves. As mostly juniors and seniors in high school who are preparing for college, these students are academically motivated to be a part of the program. “The students are more motivated, more interested, have the skills, and this class helps the challenge,” says Castro. Between the students, teachers, and University, engagement is at an all-time high. 

Students who participate in CIS courses have an advantage in that they are more adjusted to college life before they start. Therefore, it’s easier to transition from high school to college because of CIS, fulfilling its purpose of implementing college in Minnesota’s high schools. 

This story was written by an undergraduate student in CLA.

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