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Illinois Tech's Elevate College Prep Program - Is It Worth It?

If you’re an ambitious high school student, you’re likely already looking for ways to strengthen your student profile and prep for college. One of the smartest ways to do that is by enrolling in a pre-collegiate program. Such programs offer the opportunity to experience college life through campus visits, summer programs, coursework, and curated workshops and events. A few even let you earn college credit! 


One such program worth considering is Illinois Tech’s Elevate College Prep program. In this blog, we’ll deep dive into the program to tell you what it includes, and whether it’s worth applying to. 


What is Illinois Tech’s Elevate College Prep program?

Illinois Tech offers the Elevate College Prep program to introduce curious middle and high school students to fields of STEM and potential career options. The program is comprehensive — it offers summer programs, dual enrollment programs that let you tackle college-level coursework during the academic year, paid apprenticeships, STEM-focused competitions, partnerships with high schools, and mentorship programs. 


Who can apply for the program?

While the program is open to middle and high school students, specific eligibility requirements will vary based on which course you choose to attend. Most Elevate College Prep offerings are only open to high school students; middle school students can apply to select summer programs and special events. Apprenticeships and the scholars’ program are open only to Chicago residents.


What does the program cost?

The exact cost depends on which track you choose. 

  • Summer programs cost upward of $500 depending on the course, duration, and whether you apply as a residential or commuter student. 

  • The dual enrollment courses cost $300, but Chicago residents can register for free.

  • The apprenticeships are paid and offer a flat stipend of $325


Is the program prestigious?

Elevate College Prep is moderately selective and prestigious. Most programs are paid; the dual enrollment courses are waived only for Chicago students, which could limit how many students apply. The apprenticeship program is more competitive since it offers a $325 stipend. 


What does Elevate College Prep offer students?

Elevate College Prep’s offerings can be categorized into the following: summer programs, dual enrollment courses, apprenticeships, special events, the DevUp Scholars program, and the Elevate Experiential Learning program.


Summer programs: Open to middle and high school students, Elevate College Prep conducts in-person and online summer programs. Here, you can choose between STEM, law, business, humanities, and more subject specific courses. You can choose to learn about computer programming, design and engineering, app development, biomedical engineering and drug delivery systems, architecture, robotics, AI, psychology, urban planning, and game design, to name a few. Some courses offer college credit too! You can view the full catalog of summer courses here. While most summer programs are exclusive to high school students, courses designed for middle school students include sports business, entrepreneurship, public health, app development, robotics, and civics.


Dual Enrollment Courses: This offering by Illinois Tech is a great way to get a headstart on college coursework. Elevate College Prep partners with select high schools in Illinois and across the U.S. to pursue college-level courses that allow students to earn college credit! Courses are conducted with in-person, hybrid, and online options and are taught by Illinois Tech faculty. Subjects covered include mathematics, biology, engineering, business, IT, computer science, and chemistry. To enroll, contact your school counselor to check if you are studying in a partner high school. You must be at least a sophomore to be eligible for the course. 


Elevate Experiential Learning: This is a four-week online course that gives you hands-on, practical experience in data visualization, cybersecurity, game development, project management, and entrepreneurship. This course focuses on making you more employable and teaching you professional skills like report writing, business etiquette, and presentation skills. It is open to high school and college students, graduates, and working professionals. If you are a high school student enrolling in this course, you are eligible for a $1,000 Edge Award that you can use toward your undergraduate tuition fees at Illinois Tech or for any program that Elevate College Prep offers. Elevate Experiential Learning courses are offered every month. As a high school student, you can earn up to five $1,000 Edge Awards.


Apprenticeships: Chicago high school students can apply for apprenticeships, where they are mentored by Illinois Tech faculty in fields like computer science, design, biology, law, and more. Apprenticeships last for 10 weeks and you receive $325 upon completion. 


DevUp Scholars: This program is exclusively open to high school students from Chicago’s South Side and aims to encourage STEM learning and provide mentorship through their high school years. The program is fully paid and students who are selected into the DevUp cohort participate in activities through their sophomore, junior, and senior high school years. Sample activities include summer programs, social justice and entrepreneurship workshops, SAT and other competitive exam prep, lab days at Illinois Tech, personalized college counseling and help with the FAFSA process, and dual enrollment courses to earn college credit.


Special Events and Competitions: Elevate College Prep holds multiple competitions throughout the year that allows high school students to challenge themselves for the chance to win a $1,000 Edge Award. Recently, the program held a bridge-building contest: students’ models were tested based on how much load they could hold.



What are some pros and cons of the Elevate College Prep program?


Pros:

  1. You can choose from a variety of offerings You can choose between summer programs, dual enrollment courses that let you pursue college coursework in high school, apprenticeships, professional skills to become job-ready, and more. 

  2. You can earn scholarship awards Through the Elevate Experiential Learning and DevUp Scholars programs, you can earn multiple $1,000 Edge Awards that are payable toward other Elevate College Prep offerings or tuition fees for your Bachelor’s degree. 

  3. You can get mentored through your high school years The DevUp Scholars program mentors high school students through grades 10, 11, and 12, giving them access to summer programs, the opportunity to study college-level coursework and earn credits, use college laboratories, participate in workshops, and even access personalized college counseling.

Cons:

  1. As a middle school student, your options are limited Though Elevate College Prep says it is for middle and high school students, in reality, middle school students are not eligible for most offerings. If you’re in middle school, you can only enroll in select summer programs. You will not be eligible for special events, mentorship opportunities, and several other courses.

  2. You won’t benefit as much if you live outside Chicago The DevUp Scholars program is exclusive to Chicago South Side high school students, special events and competitions are usually held at Illinois Tech or local Chicago high schools, only Chicago students can apply for apprenticeships, and you get a fee waiver for the dual enrollment program if you’re from the city.

  3. Most offerings are paid Most of the course and program options offered are paid, or free only for Chicago-based students. This influences how accessible the program is, and its perceived prestige as well. Apart from the Edge award and apprenticeship, there are no financial aid or scholarship options.


Our review — what do we think of the program?

If you’re a high school student and live in Chicago, the Elevate College Prep program is a solid opportunity to get you college-ready! The program offers a range of activities to help you grow, build skills, and become a well-rounded student. If you live in Chicago, you can earn scholarship awards and enroll in apprenticeships, to name a few advantages. If you are not from Chicago or Illinois, you could consider choosing college prep programs closer to you.



One other option

If you’re a high school student interested in conducting research, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here. You can also reach out to us at contact@lumiere.education to know more, or to have a chat about possible collaborations!


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Kieran Lobo is a freelance writer from India, who currently teaches English in Spain. 


Image Source: Illinois Tech logo


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