Are you considering participating in a pre-college program over the summer? Before my senior year of high school, I went to the Ivy Scholars Program at Yale University. Based on my personal experiences, here are some potential nuggets of wisdom I have to offer you. I hope that these will help you navigate your own pre-college plans!
This is a surprisingly important question. Give your pre-college program the same amount of thought you would give an actual college decision. For example, the summer program I participated in at Yale was filled with exceedingly wealthy, conservative private school students who I personally did not relate to whatsoever. As nice as they all were, unlike them, I was only able to pay the $4500 program fee thanks to financial aid, and did not have the excess funds to eat out at restaurants while forgoing our pre-paid meal plan. Make sure the general student body of your pre-college program consists of kids you can get along with comfortably.
I must say, however, that it was quite entertaining to watch a bunch of rich high school kids try and acclimate to the unofficial ghetto that is New Haven.
What are you looking for in a pre-college program? My specific summer program was titled APPLE: American Political Philosophy, Law, and Economics. While I found the history, philosophy, and legal ethics lectures extremely interesting, I found the economics lectures to be downright confusing. I remember during one lecture, the professor gave an example of a village with a flute. He asked how the village could distribute the flute amongst its people. The students formulated a bunch of increasingly convoluted systems in order to gauge who was deemed most worthy of a flute.
I raised my hand and asked, “Why don’t they all just share the flute?”
The professor laughed and called me a communist. Then all the other students laughed. And in that very moment, I told myself that I would never, ever enroll in an Economics course in college. And I haven’t to this very day.
With that embarrassing anecdote aside, decide for yourself what specifically you want out of your pre-college experience. Programs range from Fine Arts, Music, and Theater to Humanities, to accredited Science and Mathematics courses. Many of these programs can be quite selective, as they request portfolios or standardized test scores before deciding to accept your offer to pay them money.
Is your program located at a local community college, or at a prestigious university seated across the nation? More importantly, is it cheap and easily accessible, or does it require a costly commute? Is it located in a safe neighborhood, or does it take place within the ratchetest hood of all ratchet hoods? Is it rural and tame, or urban and exotic?
As they always say, location, location, location! During my stay at New Haven, I kid you not– I heard gunshots while lying on my bed at night at least a few times a week. The program coordinators advised us not to step out of our dorm without at least two buddies, and suggested we not leave the campus at all. Furthermore, Yale police watched as we crossed one street to go from our dorms to the lecture hall.
Now, I’m sure all of these amped up security measures were out of liability concerns, and actual Yale students would tell you that they are not too terribly worried about their safety. Regardless, the gunshots at night were just too much for me. Choose wisely!
Summer is the time to do all sorts of things. Whether you are relaxing at the beach every day with your groupies, volunteering at an animal shelter, or catching up on your creative writing, this is the free time within your busy year to accomplish whatever activities you want. Realize that by participating in a summer program—especially one far away– you may be sacrificing a good chunk of time you would’ve had to spend with friends and family.
On the other hand, this is also the time to expand your horizons and broaden your perspective on life. How often will you get the opportunity in life to pack your bags, spend a month at a college, and meet all sorts of exciting and engaging people? Make sure you’re confident of the path you ultimately choose!
And here lies the bonus question. Why? Although self-explanatory, this encompasses all of the previous four questions, and is the most pressing as well. Make sure you choose your pre-college program for the right reasons. It may only be a month, but make sure to make it one of the greatest months of your life!
Good luck with your plans, and enjoy your summer!