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I can just hear many parents wondering, “How in the world could my son or daughter, as a freshman or sophomore, experience what I did as a high school senior or a college freshman?”  After all, did we feel ready for college and college work?  Our first exposure to college requirements was likely taking the ACT or SAT test as a senior, with little or no preparation, and that resulting score likely determined which college we would attend.

The Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) is designed to help determine how ready a student may be for college-level course work.  And high school students wanting to take dual-credit courses must take this test to enroll in college-level classes unless they meet one of the exemptions – usually certain scores on the ACT or SAT test which qualify them instead.  Most high school students haven’t taken those tests yet.

Hamlin Collegiate High School has offered our TSI Camp the last two summers as a way to prepare our students to take the TSIA.  We just completed this year’s camp, where attendees received nine hours of instruction in English and nine hours of instruction in math before taking the TSIA online while at camp.  This experience has also been totally free.

The six 3-hour sessions, taught by instructors at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) in Canyon, Texas, help students recall what they’ve already learned in math and English that will show up on the TSIA.  I smiled as the students in my group kept having “Oh, yeah!” moments during the sessions.

Of course, the entire camp is an exposure to college life.  Our students lived in college dorm rooms with their roommates, and this year, students from another high school were present as well.  They ate their meals in the college cafeteria, which offered many selections from which to choose.  They walked ten minutes to their classrooms across campus.  And probably like those of us who’ve attended college, they sometimes fought to stay awake in class after a late-night activity, such as the Texas Pageant in Palo Duro Canyon and a movie and games at Cinergy in Amarillo.  Of course, just like many college students, some of our students turned to the Starbucks Coffee shop located inside the classroom building for assistance!

TSI Camp is a collaboration between Hamlin Collegiate High School and WTAMU.  It’s a work in progress, and we are striving to improve our results each year as we learn more about what’s included on the TSIA.  The camp shouldn’t be seen as a “let’s play college and also take a test” adventure.  It’s a prep course before taking the TSIA, and it just happens to give our students a taste of college in the process.

Written by Gary Ford