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Intensive college prep: Ohio high-school students get a taste of campus life

President Drake welcome 2nd class of Buckeye Student Leadership Academy

Happiness, good health, engagement and a longer life: Research suggests that people who go to college are more likely to experience these benefits than those who are unable to pursue a college degree.

That was part of Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake’s message Monday to the second class of Buckeye Student Leadership Academy (BSLA) participants – Ohio high-school students who spend 3 ½ days on the Columbus campus to experience an intensive taste of college life.

“So if you want to be happy, healthy, engaged and live longer, then going to college is a good deal,” Drake said. “It’s really a way to maximize your human potential: You learn who you are, you train yourself, you teach yourself, you educate yourself to be able to do great things, and then the world has more options for you.”

Drake, and the academy, are selling these students on college – and not just at Ohio State. BSLA provides an opportunity for high-achieving first-generation, rural and/or underrepresented minority students to see what a college education has to offer and how to forge their own path to get there, wherever “there” may be.

“The hope is to better prepare these students for the college application process,” said Keith Gehres, director of outreach and recruitment for Undergraduate Admissions. “They will learn how to navigate applying to any college in the country.”

And though participation is not accompanied by guaranteed admission to Ohio State’s Columbus campus, program leaders maintain contact with the students during their senior year of high school and waive their application fee if they do apply to Ohio State.

In his welcome to the 110 BSLA participants, Drake told the students that Ohio State strives to educate the whole person, emphasizing excellence in four areas: academics, research/creative expression, character and leadership.

“We believe very much in character excellence – in who you’re going to be, how you’re going to conduct your life, what kind of person you’re going to be, what kind of friend, neighbor, co-worker or community asset you’re going to be,” he said.

“We do our best to … give you every opportunity to learn as much about yourself and the world and learn to be a really actively engaged person in the world.”

BLSA applicants are required to submit essays, academic information and details about their extracurricular activities, which is all good practice for the college application process.

Once on campus, participants learn about the college admissions process, financial aid options and campus resources, and attend personal development workshops on subjects ranging from budgeting to goal-setting and time management. They live in residence halls, eat at campus dining facilities and interact with current students, faculty and staff at cultural and leadership activities during their stay.

All aspects of the program – instruction, housing, meals, activities, transportation and parking – are free for the participants, who will complete this year’s academy Thursday.

Drake offered one other nod to Ohio State, ensuring the students that being a Buckeye doesn’t stop at graduation. After commencement, graduates join a community of 560,000 alumni thriving in Ohio, the nation and around the world.

“And wherever you go,” he said, “you’ll find Buckeye alumni doing great things.”