Peter Robbins, 17, used to think all lab scientists wore white coats. Then he spent last summer working as a young scientist at Washington University.
The experience taught him that some scientists prefer casual clothes, even blue jeans.
"It's a lot different than you see on TV," said Robbins, a senior at Roosevelt High School.
During June, July and August, high school teens go on attendance rolls at college campuses from Mizzou to Boston to Australia.
Robbins, and seven other juniors from St. Louis Public Schools, participated in one of several academic experiences that bring area high school students onto the Washington University campus in summer to study science, architecture and business.
Here and elsewhere, students enroll to:
Earn college credits
Sharpen academic skills.
Focus on subjects of special interest.
Sample campus life.
"It's a wonderful prelude to college," said Michelle Delaney, a counselor at Clayton High School, where the experience is popular.
No one keeps statistics. But administrators here and around the country have to turn away would-be teens for lack of space in competitive programs on many campuses, including Washington University and St. Louis University.
About two-thirds of the 3,000 colleges and universities around the United States hold summer classes for students who have already graduated from high school.
Teens learn that no two programs are alike. Even on the same campus, teens of all abilities have options. For example, at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, 50 or so top students sample science at George Engelmann Mathematics and Science Institute. At the same time, about 90 teens work on basic skills so they can succeed in getting into college and then graduating.
Administrators at UMSL see both programs as marketing tools that tell prospective students what the campus can offer them.
***** Grade The School's Agenda
Some schools find enrolling teens during summer a way to keep money coming when dorms and classrooms get less use. Others offer a focused academic experience complete with final exam and term paper.
At St. Louis University, about 50 high school students from the metro area, including St. Charles, get invited to the Academy of Humanities. The intensive, two-week course earns them three college credits.
At Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, minority teens active in high school nursing clubs come on campus to get a head start. They study reading, writing and such nursing skills as taking blood pressure.
One goal: recruit minority students for nursing, a career choice where blacks are under-represented, said Ruth S. Gresley, associate dean for academic affairs at SIU.
At Summer Focus, the program Robbins participated in at Washington University, graduate students work individually with teens. …