Dylan Morrill

Equinox Staff


For thirty years, the Aspire program at KSC has been offering a five-week immersive summer program for incoming freshmen designed to “enhance students’ confidence levels and academic study skills, and support access to other institutional services,” according to the Aspire program website. The program served its thirtieth group of students in 2010, yet among the general student population at KSC, it is still relatively unknown.

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The Link program, as it’s called, is offered to all incoming freshmen from every background. “Some people think that it is a program for students with disabilities, and it is not,” Maria Dintino, the associate director of the Aspire program and one of the five staff members who facilitate the Link program, said.

Dintino stressed that the main purpose of the program is to create a highly effective learning curve for incoming freshmen to be acclimated to the college. “Our real focus is to make (the transition from high school to college) as smooth as possible,”  Dintino said.

Dintino believes that some incoming freshmen may not be completely ready for the radically new experience that college is, and an immersive summer learning program can help them fill in any mental holes that may otherwise trip them up during their first year on campus.

Sometime in the spring, the Aspire program mails out a small brochure to students accepted to KSC. Those who wish to participate in the Link program simply need to mail a completed application to the Aspire office. Importantly, students who will be freshmen at other colleges can still participate in the Link program; it is not exclusive to the KSC community, though most participants are KSC students.

Link program participants enroll in three classes over a five-week period: College 101, Thinking and Writing, and a choice between Sociology Now and Introduction to Geography. All classes are worth four credits except for College 101, which is worth only one credit. The credits are calculated into a student’s eventual cumulative GPA.

The cost of participating in the link program is $3,900. The participants stay in Owls Nest 6 and receive a 14 meal plan over the five-week period.

Interestingly, KSC is one of only a few colleges who offer a summer transitional program. Lynchburg College, Virginia Tech, Salem State University, Bentley University, and a handful of other colleges across the country all offer some sort of summer transitional program but most are restricted to a certain desired applicant and have only recently been developed. KSC’s Link program is one of the most open and oldest academic transition programs in the country.

Brandeis University, a small elite research university and liberal arts college in Waltham, Mass. has been offering an academic transition program for incoming freshmen since 1968. However, unlike KSC, Brandeis’ academic transition program, called the T.Y.P. (Transition Year Program) spans an entire year and is designed to serve underperforming high school seniors who would not otherwise be able to gain admittance to Brandeis. The program has been a pioneer in the realm of academic transition and has helped prepare students to enter into a competitive academic environment that has shape talented and influential leaders like Michael Sandel, Thomas Friedman, and Deborah Messing.

The Link program at KSC, in many respects, is following the path of Brandeis in becoming its own pioneer in the realm of immersive summer college transitional programs.

However, despite the obvious success and longevity of the program, it is still not a household name in the KSC community.

“Yeah, I’ve never heard of (the Link program) before,” Kevin Altermatt, a freshman at KSC, said. “I mean, it seems like a really good idea and a really good program, but I’ve just never heard of it.”

Altermatt’s reaction isn’t rare. Dintino hears similar reactions all the time. “It’s a really well-kept secret,” she said.

Part of the reason for the Link program’s relative obscurity may be due to the fact that the program only recently shifted to servicing a cliental of traditional four-year college students.

“We had a lot more adult learners (during the first 20 years).  When the whole academic climate started to change here over the past ten years, we tried to craft this around traditional students,” Dintino said.

According to Dintino, one of the biggest indicators of the success of the Link program is the sense of community that comes out of it. “Students gain lifelong friends in Link. It’s amazing the connection and the bond that comes with being a part of this program; it’s phenomenal,” Dintino said.

Desiree Stokem and Jessica Mattia are both freshmen at KSC who participated in the Link program this past summer. Based on the friendship they made during the Link program, they decided to become roommates during the school year.

“I wasn’t sure if going away to college would be right for me, so I decided to try with Link,”  Stokem said. “It gave me a head start in a lot of ways including getting to know the campus and what services are offered, what dorm life is like, learning how classes work, and making close friends. I would recommend it to anyone.”


Dylan Morrill can be contacted at dmorrill@keene-equinox.com.


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