High school students are trying on college life in a unique summer program that gives them a chance to experience college level courses and explore campus life. 

Trying on College Life

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Even though she was missing an end-of-the-school-year party, Mallika Bhatta wasnt upset by her friends trying to rub it in that she wasn’t able to attend. “I’m in a better place than you” she texted to her friends, as they sent her pictures from the party.

The better place was University of South Florida’s Pre-College, where she could study science, and perform college level experiments while living in the college dorm

Last week’s program, one of seven planned over the summer, focused on diabetes and medicine. Additional sessions will focus

Trying on College Life

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on science and engineering in addition to filmmaking and game design.

While their peers partied, slept late or hit the beach, 18 of Florida’s best and brightest headed to the USF campus to learn the basic science underlying diabetes health; perform hands-on research in USF labs; visit the university’s research centers, including the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation; and carry out field research at Fort De Soto Park.

“I’m not much of a party person anyway,” said Dominic Montas, who will be a junior this fall at Seminole High School in Sanford. “I find this stuff to be more interesting, more fun. I want to get a head start on my college career, and I’m pretty sure this is a really good way to set me apart from everybody else.

“I’ll have time for parties and such later.”

It’s the incentive most cited among the participants — to get a leg up on their peers as they take aim at higher education. There’s motivation for the university as well.

“There’s a major issue across the country in terms of students remaining in hard-core science and technology majors,” said Richard Pollenz, associate dean and director of the school’s Office for Undergraduate Research and an organizer of Pre-College.

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Trying on College Life

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