Austin East and Fulton high school students arrived at the University of Tennessee’s newest dorm on Sunday, ready to experience college life for the next week.

The students will be taking college-level courses during Project GRAD’s UT Summer Institute.

C’Kara Winston, a rising junior at Austin East, said she was excited for the week to come.

“(I want to) see if I’m able to live on campus by myself,” Winston said.

She, like the other 60 students in the program, participated in Project GRAD’s Pellissippi State Summer Institute last year.

Winston said the two will be very different experiences because the Pellissippi State Summer Institute program was a month long and they had to go back home every day instead of stay in a dorm.

She also said the age range of students was a little different at Pellissippi State compared to UT. She noticed there were more fresh-out-of-high-school aged students at UT.

Dorian McCoy, co-director of UT Summer Institute, said the program is a great opportunity for the students to see the difference between secondary education institutions.

“Basically what we’re doing is socializing them to the academic norms of higher education. So, they’ll spend a week with us learning library or research skills, English, Math courses, and then they’ll engage in an academic track of their choice,” McCoy said.

He said the students will be able to follow UT college students and learn from them what it’s like at the university.

They’ll also team up with faculty and staff who will help them see that higher education, whether at a two-year, four-year, or technical school, is a possibility for them.

Kensey Zimmerman, a College and Career Access Team Leader at Fulton High, went through Project GRAD herself, including the UT Summer Institute.

She said the summer program helped her feel more confident when she started college at UT.

“What we really hope by the end of the week is that students just have a great experience, and they’re more familiar, whether they come to UT or not, that they’re more familiar with what this is like, and they can see that they can do it themselves,” Zimmerman said.

She said the Summer Institute program is completely free for the high school students.

This year, the students will stay in the newest residence hall at UT, Magnolia Hall.

Winston said she wished the program was longer, but she’s glad she’s able to participate.

“It’s really special that my school has a program like Project GRAD that we can always go to, and they’re focusing on us to go to college and there to help us in any way we need,” Winston said.

Zimmerman said about 120 students will attend the UT Summer Institute.

All-in-all, about 300 Austin East and Fulton high school students will attend one of the summer institutes.

Zimmerman said if a Project GRAD student attends both summer institutes and graduates from high school with a 2.5 GPA, they will earn a $4,000 scholarship to any college.