The ticking of the clock on the wall. The nervous tapping of someone’s foot. The continual clicking of a pen. A bead of sweat slips down your face as the big hand slowly inches toward the hour mark. As someone starts whispering “summer” under their breath, your peers begin to join until finally, IT’S SUMMER.
Okay, so that may or may not have been the opening of a particular Disney musical that involves Zac Efron. Unfortunately, we all don’t have Vanessa Hudgens to spend our summer with on a golf course. (Was High School Musical an integral part of my middle school career? Heh. Heh. Heh.)
Every summer during your high school career can be an opportunity to not spend the summer staring at your Facebook page, hoping someone will post something clever. As an Oklahoman, summers were menacing. The continual 100 degree weather, the impending boredom, and lack of a body of water nearby sent me packing since the seventh grade.
The summer after my freshman year I took a Genetics Class at the University of Georgia through the Duke Talent Identification Program (TiP). I was returning for the third year to TiP, and I got to spend the summer doing stupid shit with my best friends while also learning about some Genetics. It was the best three weeks of my adolescent career. Before this program, I was an awkward Indian girl with zero ability to make friends. Now, I’m still an awkward Indian girl who can somewhat manage to get around in social situations with the hopes of coming off as “cute” and “endearing” instead.
I soon became obsessed with meeting new people (new boys?!?!?!), and I eventually went to summer programs at Harvard University and the University of Oxford. I was emerged in a situation with brand new people from around the world, and it was intoxicating. At Harvard, I spent the entire summer in Boston and I fell in love with the city. Without my Harvard experience, I honestly don’t think I would have been prepared for college. If I had never had gone to Oxford, I would have never met Bill Clinton, and I wouldn’t have known how short he is in real life. I fell in love with new countries, new cultures, new ideas. Summer programs automatically show colleges that you are willing to go the extra mile. Instead of lounging around by the pool (which is totally awesome), you’ve decided to learn about acid/base reactions and read Plato’s Republic (all 10 books because YOLO).
However, some summer programs can also be incredibly expensive. Most of my high school friends worked all summer, and made some serious CA$H MONEY. Penny Snyder, a freshman at Wesleyan University, worked as a cashier at the local natural grocers in her town. “Working during the summer was a great experience for me because it made me very thankful for the opportunities that I have had,” she remarked. “I think that it also grounded me, because even though I have the ability to go to a great school, I have to work to be able to pay for it. No one is just giving me this opportunity.” Penny emphasized the humbling effects of her job, explaining that this small summer job was an actual career for some people.
My lovely roommate and fellow Prospect writer, Lili Borland, participated in Summer Search, which paid for her to participate in one wilderness program and either an international program or University sponsored program. In particular, she said the wilderness program she participated in really helped build character. “I climbed a freakin’ mountain this summer,” she exclaimed, and therefore “I can definitely ace my Calculus test.” Programs like Amigos de las Americas and Education Without Borders provide international experiences in teaching, research, and cultural experiences whereas programs like NOLS and Outward Bound provide intense summer wilderness immersion programs. Abby Gruppuso, a freshman at Wesleyan University, went to a summer Orchestra program in Boston every summer, and also taught children how to play tennis.
Do your research. Figure out how you want to spend your summer. AND DO IT NOW. Deadlines are coming up, and you don’t want to be on the end of that train. Most programs are rolling admission, so the sooner the better.
And don’t worry peeps; you know we’ll be coming to you shortly with a list of summer programs that still have their application processes in full swing.