Participating in Cornell’s Prefreshman Summer Program (PSP) helped Canyon Cross ’25 – a first-generation college student from Texas who hopes to major in biology and society – realize in advance how challenging the work would be.
“I realize that I’ve never had to study extensively, so I’m trying to find the happy medium between getting enough sleep, socializing and studying,” said Cross, whose summer courseload included biology and calculus. I’m happy I’m figuring it out now rather than in the fall.”
The seven-week program, started in 1973, offers new students the opportunity to learn more about Cornell and its resources before they start their first year. Each of Cornell’s colleges selects students based on their high school experiences, test scores, intended courses of study and personal backgrounds. Students admitted into the Higher Education Opportunity Program or Educational Opportunity Program are required to attend.
Cross was one of 183 students in this year’s program, which also helped him make friendships and connections.
“I’m a people person, so the pandemic has been hard for me,” he said. “Being able to see faces again and be within six feet of people has been super invigorating.”
Lukman Moyosore ’25, from Union City, California, chose Cornell because he’s interested in computer science, “but I wanted to also take classes in the humanities and I love creative writing. I wanted to connect those facets of learning.”
“This has been a good opportunity to take classes, get ahead and to get acclimated to the campus before the fall,” Moyosore said. “I also met a lot of people who I know will be my friends throughout my time here because we share this bond.”
Delia Ferry ’25, of Mount Airy, North Carolina, took introductory classes in philosophy and statistics, as well as the college seminar class that most of the PSP students take. That seminar introduces topics such as time management, test preparation and other skills for college success.
Most of Ferry’s classes had only 10 to 15 people. “I wasn’t really worried about classes, but I’m glad that I did PSP first because I’m more confident I can handle the work here,” she said.
Each PSP student takes two to three courses and participates in tours of various campus sites to introduce them to libraries, labs, museums, career offices, outdoor spaces, and cultural and athletic opportunities. And the program offers numerous social activities and outings including game nights, dances and sports programming.
The program was virtual last year because of the pandemic; this year students were able to be on campus in person. The program is coordinated by the Learning Strategies Center in conjunction with the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, the New York State Opportunities Programs, the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment and the university’s seven undergraduate colleges. Upperclass students also act as program assistants for the program.
“The greatest challenge of this summer was the changing rules surrounding COVID,” said Cate Thompson, director of the Prefreshman Summer Program. “We worked hard to keep our students healthy and safe while providing them as much freedom as possible.”
Ferry, Cross and Moyosore said they were ready for an in-person college experience after a year and a half of the pandemic. Moyosore and Cross had senior years that were all virtual, while Ferry had a mostly in-person year.
“I was surprised to find out how easy it was to start conversations with people when I got here,” Moyosore said, “and how easy it is to get to know people.”
Ferry agreed, adding that she worried what it would be like to come to Cornell, with so many professors and students who are at the top of their fields. “I thought that everyone was going to be a genius and I would be intimidated,” she said. “But people are down-to-earth and friendly.”
All three students said the PSP experience has shown them that Cornell is large and diverse enough for anyone to find a community.
“New students might feel that they’re not ready, but they do belong here. They will find their way and succeed,” Moyosore said.