Incoming Harford Community College students get acclimated to college life during iPrep week

Charese Michel, a first-year student at Harford Community College, says she picked up a host of skills during the week-long iPrep program that helped her have a smooth start to the fall 2017 semester.

“Overall I thought that it was a great program,” Michel said during a presentation on iPrep to the HCC Board of Trustees Tuesday. “I had a great learning environment.”

She and five of her fellow first-year students talked about their experiences with iPrep. The pre-semester orientation program is designed to help students acclimate to college life, get a refresher on math and reading and writing skills and prepare to retake the ACCUPLACER test so they can start off with college-level classes and avoid remedial math and English courses.

The program also has helped students save hundreds of dollars in tuition by not having to take the remedial courses, according to organizers.

“I would recommend it to another person who wants to get a jump-start on the semester,” Michel said.

All incoming students must take the ACCUPLACER test before starting classes at HCC, Susan Muaddi Darraj, the co-chair of the iPrep program, said.

Darraj, a full-time English professor, and her co-chair, academic advisor Bill Elliott, led Tuesday’s presentation. She said the test determines the level of coursework in which the student is placed, whether that is a college-level course or a remedial course.

Elliott, in response to a question from HCC President Dianna Phillips, said iPrep organizers find participants by reviewing test data for students whose scores are five to 10 points short of the mark for college-level work.

Students are also referred via admissions or programs such as the My College Success Network.

Some participants qualify for college-level courses, but they just want to get a refresher before school starts, according to Elliott.

“We never turn a student away,” he said.

How it started

Darraj said faculty and staff had been seeing a trend of students who took the ACCUPLACER and came close to making college level, but their scores were “just missing the mark by a little bit.”

Darraj said many students need the remedial courses “to get caught up with the material before they’re college ready.”

Some test-takers miss the mark by only a few points, and iPrep is designed to help those students move ahead, she said.

Math, English and other faculty members worked with deans, college administrators and advisors to develop iPrep, according to Darraj.

Elliott called iPrep “a labor of love for a lot of people.”

“It really is a true collaboration across campus between faculty and staff,” he said.

The summer program takes place the week before the fall semester begins. Darraj said iPrep has been in place for about the past six summers.

Students spend that Monday touring the campus, meeting faculty and advisors and getting to know each other, according to a schedule the presenters projected onto a screen during the meeting.

Tuesday through Thursday includes a morning math review, followed by meetings with deans and program heads, then reading comprehension and writing reviews in the afternoon.

Students spend the week learning about the HCC library and academic help resources and hearing from guest speakers, according to Darraj.

“Before they even start the fall semester, they know where to go to for help and they know who to connect to on campus,” she said.

Students have the option of re-taking the ACCUPLACER exam that Friday, which Darraj stressed is free.

She said advisors can make immediate adjustments to student schedules if test-takers are successful and “can skip out of a class or two or three.”

Results for 2017

Darraj cited a few statistics to show iPrep’s success. She said 13 out of 24 participants increased their scores on the math ACCUPLACER and got into higher-level math classes after this summer’s iPrep week.

She said the students saved a combined $7,209 in tuition, based on an in-county tuition rate of $126.48 per credit hour.

Writing scores increases for 17 out of 31 participants, and eight of them got into higher-level courses. They saved a combined $3,035 in tuition, Durraj said.

Thirteen out of 25 participants saw an increase in their reading test scores, and seven of them got into higher-level reading courses. They saved $2,656 in tuition, according to Darraj.

“Since being in iPrep I have done a lot better at math,” student Amber Harris said. She said she was able to move from a pre-algebra course to Algebra II.

“I was able to save time and money and get [an] academic review for the semester,” she said.

Michel said she could get “immediate feedback” through practice math problems.

“Although I didn’t place higher in math, I still was able to get a refresher in the areas that I needed, and I have an A in the class,” she said.

Student Tia Credle said she moved up to a statistics course.

“With iPrep I felt like I knew what I was doing,” said student Sierra Baker, who took iPrep with her twin sister, Lindsey.

The Baker sisters were at Tuesday’s presentation, along with fellow student Logan Stevens.

“I was able to come to HCC’s campus on the first day of class and feel right at home,” Stevens said.

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