FAYETTEVILLE — High school students from across the state in past summers made their way to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. For a decade, they’ve attended the ACT Academy, a test prep program that also has offered a first taste of campus life to hundreds of students, including many from low-income families or who might be the first in their families to attend college.
But in June the experience will be entirely online, as UA classrooms remain closed to in-person instruction because of the coronavirus pandemic.
About 90 students who applied before the virus reached Arkansas will participate in virtual sessions to prepare for the college entrance exam, said Sarah Draine, director of UA’s College Access Initiative. Before the pandemic, UA planned for 150 to 175 students on campus, Draine said.
Students taking part in the program, scheduled for June 8-13, still will get five days of instruction. They also will get to know current UA students, which Draine said is a key part of the overall experience each year. Seven UA students who serve as “near-peer mentors” have been hired for the program, Draine said.
Participants will miss out, however, on visiting campus, which can play a big role in helping students envision themselves going to college and succeeding, said Kirra Williams, executive director of the Little Rock nonprofit We Apply Inc., which provides one-on-one college prep services.
“Exposure to college campuses, as simple as it sounds, can really be a turning point in helping students increase their insight into what they