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7 Reasons Why You Should Participate in a Summer Program
As a middle schooler, I had a difficult meeting people who were like me. Cliques populated my school, and I, a shy 12-year old who preferred to read a book to playing soccer or going to the mall, didn’t fit in. Instead of going to lunch, I read in an empty classroom.
But I found a reprieve when I attended Summer Institute for the Gifted. At Vassar College, I took classes like creative writing and mysteries in history. I lived in a dorm with a group of girls who also deemed themselves nerds. And from the ages 12 through 15, I looked forward to going back to the program, where I could be around people who loved to learn, too.
Later in high school, I attended the University of Virginia’s Young Writers Workshop, and developed my passion for writing. In the summer before my senior year of high school, I participated in a creative writing workshop at Brown University as a commuter student, since Brown’s campus was down the street from my parents’ house in Rhode Island. My instructor was a Brown lecturer, and I still carry his words of encouragement with me to this day. Several years ago, my mother sent me his obituary, and I regretted not getting back in touch with him when I had the chance.
My experiences at summer programs influenced my adult life, too. I returned to Summer Institute for the Gifted when I was in college to work at the Vassar and Amherst campuses as a counselor and teaching assistant. Some of the friendships I formed have persisted throughout my life; two summers ago, I attended the wedding of a friend I met at a program 15 years ago.
I loved my experiences at summer programs as a teenager, and value them even more as adult. Are you thinking of attending a program this summer? Here are seven reasons why you should:
1. You’ll Form Friendships and Connections
In high school, you’re thrown together with people with whom you may or may not have much in common. Summer programs allow you to meet like-minded people. Since there are many niche programs—or general academic-oriented programs—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet people who enjoy similar activities. For instance, if you’re a math whiz, you should consider attending MathCamp. Artists should look into the Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) Pre-College Program.
Many students participate in the same programs year after year, so you’ll be able to see the friends you make there again.
2. You’ll Get a Glimpse at College Life
Many programs allow you to live on college campus in dorms. You’ll get the true college experience: eating in the cafeteria and taking college-level classes in real campus buildings. In some cases, you might even be taking classes taught by the college’s professors.
You’ll also experience the freedom of not living with your parents for a few weeks. But parents need not worry about their teenagers’ safety: they’re usually still supervised by adults.
3. You’ll Gain Experience in and Get to See Your Future Career Firsthand
Many summer programs specialize in particular disciplines or careers. Often the classes are taught by professionals in those careers, and the programs sometimes incorporate site visits to real workplaces. The Wharton School’s Leadership in the Business World is one example in which students get to see professionals in the business world in action.
These experiences can also be useful for networking, since you’ll be able to meet professionals in the field you want to pursue. (One tip: Stay in touch with the professionals you meet, because they could very well become useful connections for internships and advice.)
4. You’ll Learn New Skills
While there are many different types of summer programs, a common thread is that they’re centered around learning experiences. You might learn skills you can apply in your courses as well as extracurricular activities. For example, your knowledge might lead you to start a new club. (Here are some ideas for Clubs You Can Start Now.)
You can build on what you know now, as well as take classes outside of your comfort zone. Since you don’t need to worry about grades at these program (even if receive grades, nobody needs to see them unless you want them to), it’s a good idea to try out something you haven’t had the opportunity or wanted to try in the past.
5. You Might Receive High School Credit or Placement
You can use these experiences to get a head start on courses you need to take in high school. Additionally, if you’re having trouble with placement in a particular class, a recommendation from a summer program instructor could help you get placed in the correct level. This was the case with a friend of mine who wanted to take honors biology. After receiving a stellar recommendation from a science professor at his summer program, he had no trouble convincing his school that he should be placed in the more challenging course.
6. You Could Earn College Credit or Placement
In some cases, courses you take might earn you college credit or help you get placed in a higher level. This can save you time and expenses in college. If this is something you want to do, check with a program coordinator. Ask if others have done it, what the procedures generally entail, how colleges might determine course equivalents, and any other questions that might help you with the process. Also check out Earning College Credit in High School: What You Need to Know to learn more it.
7. You’ll Impress Colleges
Attending an academic program demonstrates that you enjoy learning—so much so that you want to spend your summer vacation immersing yourself in learning experiences. It also shows that you enjoy challenging yourself, and that you’re mature and ready for college, since you’ll be experiencing many facets of college life.
There are plenty of summer programs available, no matter what your specific niche. There are also many general academic programs. They can be a wonderful experience that allows high school students to learn new skills, engage with material about which they’re passionate, and possibly earn credit for high school or college.
For more summer program ideas and information, check out CollegeVine’s guides:
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.
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