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DCE Magazine

Bridging the Gap from High School to College

Winter 2020

Experience University Research lets high school students take university-level courses on campus at UCI.

Valli Nachiappan dreams of studying engineering at an elite university, hopefully at her hometown UC Irvine or another UC school. The University High senior is focused and driven, with a strong educational background, but making that big jump to higher education is always quite jarring, even for the best students.

She wanted to get a taste of college before making the transition, so Valli enrolled in UCI Division of Continuing Education's Experience University Research (EUR), an on-campus program that gives high school students from Southern California an opportunity to take college-level courses and experience life at a Top 10 public university.

It's more than just getting a feel for college coursework, although there's plenty of that. The best part of EUR might well be meeting counselors and professors, learning about the opportunities available at UCI and exploring academic and social life on campus, Valli said.

“This was one of the best experiences I've had for sure. Firstly, I enjoyed the tour of the UCI campus that UCI students guided us through. It was really a nice experience seeing several college students in one place and seeing how college life is.”

“What I really enjoyed was working with the instructors because they were so helpful and provided us with several resources if we didn't understand the topics.”

Currently a junior at Capistrano Valley High, Brandon Trodick took the EUR's project management course and found the experience to be a real eye-opener — the coursework as well as the atmosphere. He was most impressed by the wide gap between high school and university classes.

“The atmosphere was so much more professional, I guess you could say,” he added. “The classroom equipment, the way the coursework was delivered, even the chairs and desks.”

“Everyone really wanted to be there and study hard, which made the lessons focused and really easy to follow. High school isn't always like that.”

Valli Nachiappan

“This was one of the best experiences I've had for sure. Firstly, I enjoyed the tour of the UCI campus that UCI students guided us through. It was really a nice experience seeing several college students in one place and seeing how college life is.” Valli Nachiappan
EUR Student


Exploring university life

Valli was attracted to the engineering course, not only to prepare for college-level academics but also as a valuable addition to her resume in an increasingly competitive UC system. Having real university elective courses under your belt when you apply for admission can certainly make a candidate stand out.

“Out of all the courses Experience University Research offered, I found the engineering course most appealing,” she said. “I was inclined toward it because it focused on Raspberry Pi programming, and though I knew some Python, I wanted to familiarize myself with the Raspberry Pi and how it works. I also wanted to experience studying at a college-level program taught by a UCI professor.”

Valli was able to get lots of experience with the popular device, a small, stripped-down single-board unit mostly used to teach basic computer science. Since her class was hands-on and free flowing, she could stretch herself and be creative while experimenting with code. And she was able to keep the Raspberry Pi for future experimentation.

But perhaps the main thing she took away from her EUR experience was getting a preview of life on the campus of a world-class university. Interacting with older college students and having access to leading professors was an invaluable opportunity, she said.

“After the EUR program I learned that college classes are drastically different from high school classes, and it is mostly up to the student to be self-driven,” Valli said. “Several of the assignments, notes and resources were available, and it was up to us to make use of them. This program helped me learn to manage my time well and understand how important it is to do your own work because there aren't going to be parents or teachers hovering over you like in high school.”

Brandon echoed those sentiments and added that the EUR program exposed him to a far more diverse group of students. It was similar to the type of international student body he would encounter at one of his target schools, either UCI, UCLA or Cal Tech.

“One of the best parts for me was interacting with students from so many different backgrounds,” he said. “It was especially interesting and rewarding to meet and interact with my classmates who were from China. The EUR program is open to lots of international students along with locals.”

Brandon Trodick

“Everyone really wanted to be there and study hard, which made the lessons focused and really easy to follow. High school isn't always like that.” Brandon Trodick
EUR Student

College-level coursework

Experience University Research offers a broad range of university courses over two sessions, the first of which is available only to high school students. The second session is offered to high school and university students, covering advanced subject matter including global communication skills, social ecology, and international trade and supply chain.

All courses are designed to be academically challenging and serve as an introduction to the rigors and rewards of university life. And students can take one or more from either session risk-free, without affecting their GPAs. The idea is to better prepare the leaders of tomorrow for academic success and enhance qualifications to get into a competitive school.

For Brandon, it was an outstanding opportunity to get a jump on his ambitions to major in engineering, although right now he's especially interested in finance, specifically the stock market. He and Valli both feel that any of their college-bound high school peers could benefit greatly from the EUR program.

“I would absolutely recommend this program to other students,” Valli said. “Even though it may seem short, it surely is a different experience. And while others may think that they can learn the same things online, the atmosphere and the instructors make this program so worth it. There are so many tours around the UCI campus and the labs, it really helps one get a feel of college life and the campus.”

Learn more at ip.ce.uci.edu/EUR_SoCal