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Pre-College Program in American History

see & do & hear & find & make history

NIAHD’s Pre-College Program in American History is distinguished among peer programs for its longevity, hands-on approach to the study of history, roots in an historic region, and academic connection to outstanding undergraduate and graduate opportunities. In Summer 2024, NIAHD will teach 4 different classes during the Pre-College Program.

Here are a few of the unique aspects of our program:

Pre-College Program Aspects
More than a Seminar

Since 2002. We’ve been running NIAHD’s Pre-College Program for more than twenty years, with courses designed by faculty in William & Mary’s History department. Our class topics are developed to build upon a long tradition of undergraduate excellence and evolve to reflect contemporary research and events. Courses are 3-week, residential experiences that integrate academic instruction and seminar discussion with site-based experiences and conversations with museum professionals.  

Our approach to teaching history. In the Pre-College Program, we combine public history with social history. That means that our students make daily trips to museums and historic sites to encounter history on a human and concrete scale. Then they combine what they learn from their field experience with seminar readings and faculty-led discussions that connect to larger historical patterns and arguments. We at the National Institute of History & Democracy realize our name in our teaching: American history, and the history of democracy, is the story of many people and kinds of people, and all of these histories belong to everyone.

Where History Happened

Historic Williamsburg. Williamsburg was a colonial and then state capital for 80 crucial years, including the period in which Virginians overthrew the British monarchy and declared independence. Pre-College students explore that heritage in-depth with our partners at Colonial Williamsburg, the largest U.S. history museum in the world, steps away from our campus.

Hampton Roads and Beyond. Our classes also make use of our proximity to Jamestown, Yorktown, Richmond, the wider Chesapeake region, and sometimes beyond! We use the real places—homes, courthouses, places of worship, sites of landing, battlefields, workplaces, and more—to teach history in a way that closes the gap between present and past using a small fleet of twelve-passenger vans. Our students see much more than Williamsburg while they’re here.

Hands-on Heritage

Beyond the Coursework. Our evening and weekend programs offer further opportunities for talks with historians and community-building. English country dance and Saturday archaeological digs with our partners at the Fairfield Foundation are perennial favorites. We like to say we “see and do and hear and find and make” history, rather than simply learning it (though we do that, too!).

The Typical NIAHD Pre-College Student

The Alumni Network. The Pre-College program has more than 2,200 alumni, who’ve come from almost every state and more than a dozen countries around the world. Around a fifth of our alumni have gone on to attend William & Mary. Some of our alumni have found vocations in the cultural heritage professions and work as curators, archaeologists, museum educators, and interpreters. Other alums carry their passion for history into diverse careers using their skills of research, communication, and collaboration.

History Enthusiasts, Unite! At the Pre-College level, NIAHD students share a passionate curiosity about history—an excitement about engaging with the past in ways beyond the pages of a textbook. We welcome students every year who feel like they’ve “found their people” with fellow NIAHDers. One of them might be you!

At Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA, Pre-College students in the History 218 seminar discuss topics regarding events that led up to the Civil War.