Summer Start: Supporting Success for Conditionally Admitted Students in a Summer Bridge Program

Blake Nemelka, Jacob Askeroth, Jon Harbor


Summer bridge programs on college campuses vary in terms of focus, activities, and the students they serve. Common goals include enhancing enrollment and diversity, and improving retention rates and timely graduation through better preparation of the admitted class. In 2016, Purdue University piloted “Summer Start,” a credit-bearing, five-week program for conditionally admitted students that includes enhanced support services. These students did not qualify for the traditional fall admission because their profiles included at-risk characteristics (such as low high school GPA or low standardized test score), so they were admitted on the condition that they attended Summer Start. To gauge the impact of Summer Start, we compared the conditionally admitted students to a
nearly comparable at-risk group of new beginner students who started in the fall semester. While the first-semester performance of these conditionally admitted students was slightly below that of the near-comparison group, as would be expected, their overall performance was better than predicted based on their entry characteristics. The inaugural Summer Start showed that conditionally
admitted students can thrive at Purdue with the extra support provided by the program. Additionally, the popularity of the program’s benefits (a jump start on courses, moving in early, getting comfortable with campus before thousands of others come, being in a learning community, etc.), combined with campus interest in reducing stress on fall courses, led us to add an opt-in for fall admits for the second summer of Summer Start.

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