I feel the need to say something about my son's college class, a summer residential camp program. I could say a lot but won't. I have been trying to write something in general to give advice to parents thinking of using these programs but we are too close to the experience for me to write about it objectively. Also my son's experience was so different than a girl I know at Cornell in a summer program right now, taking a real college class, and her brother's experience there, who did three courses there. My son's experience was different still than the camp (not class) that a girl I know did this summer, for engineering. My point being that my son's experience with this program is not an equivalent experience with different colleges, they vary so much.
My son was so enamored by this university after speaking to the college admissions officer twice in person plus again at the dog and pony show we attended that he had this college as his one and only choice for where to attend. He planned to apply this summer using their rolling admissions, hoped he'd get in, and planned no backup safety school plan.
My son was growing unsure if aerospace engineering was really for him. He began to think about aviation (to be a pilot). In the background for fun over the last six months, he has developed a deep interest for computers and has built his own, and continues to modify it. He reads a lot about new technology and options and capabilities of systems. He also has been looking to invest his own money in the stock market and got a few friends together to talk about pooling savings to buy stocks.
This program had no prerequisites for courses having been completed and it was for students aged 15-18. A transcript was submitted and my son was approved for admission. I now question the policy of not having prerquisites. There was a disconnection with the TA that taught the class and the abilities of the students based on what they had already covered. Students who have not yet studied pre-calc should not be expected to do college level calculus. Also the physics principals were hard to understand if physics was not yet taken. Two engineers I know asked how the camp was going and when they heard the two engineering topics covered they said it was impossible to learn without calculus I and physics. My reaction was, "If it seems too hard my son won't major in it, if he thinks he is not capable." They both said (these were two different conversations by the way) that I was wrong. That the topics taught at the appropriate time could have been learned without a problem but to overload the students when not ready would give a false sense of incompetence.
To sum it up, my son has a better idea of what engineering is now. He wants no part of engineering.
He said he doesn't want to spend months or years working to perfect on part for something bigger, like an automobile component or one piece of a spaceship. He doesn't like the idea of something taking years, he wants more of an immediate, tangible result to his work. The work process in and of itself does not excite him.
He felt he was drowning but pulled off a B. He feels the B is a failure and is disappointed in himself. My husband and I cannot get through to him that a B is fine. Mind you, this kid was not graded until some of his high school classes so this grade mindset was not ingrained by our homeschool. This is a perfectionist thing that comes from within himself.
My son feels engineering requires doing more math than he wants to do. Meaning, more math in high school and more math in college and more math on the job than he wants to do.
The last reason is the pace and intensity. To work hard in a class and feel it is always a struggle then to pull it off just fine at the end of the class was too stressful, he felt. He said the stress of living like that is a lifestyle that he simply does not want to have as his college life. He needs sleep, he needs more of a feeling of competence and capability. For good mental health he needs more of a balance and time to decompress and relax.
He learned some things about people also. He saw kids who were brilliant at math but could not do the rest of the team project, could not write at all and who could not handle big picture thinking to organize the entirety of the multifaceted team project and presentation. He saw smart physics kids not able to contribute to the team in any other way. And he was the only one on his team to be able to organize it (!!) so the team asked him to lead and organize the project (!!). Apparently his big picture thinking did translate to organizing people and a project well even if he chooses to have a messy bedroom or forgets to do his chores. He was also elected to do writing and said no one else felt they could write. That project earned a 98/100 grade. I cannot tell you how elated I am that he got to see that even if he felt he floundered with the math that he learned he has value and natural talents and some skills and abilities that other students lack.
We feel the expensive experience was worth every penny.
During the class upon hearing he did not want engineering we organized a college tour to investigate major B: aviation science. So the next chapter in our homeschool was looking into that college major.