A taste of college
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Like most students, I eagerly await the care-free days of summer. Whether summer is filled with trips and relaxation or working and building a resume, summer means time to explore yourself.
In the summers before eighth grade and freshman year, I worked at a local day camp and went to sleep away camp as many others do.
During my sophomore year, I began planning for the upcoming summer ahead of time. I had heard that junior year was the most important year so I figured I would get a head start on it during the summer.
My guidance counselor told me that some colleges offer summer enrichment programs, so I looked into this option and found various universities that offered a wide variety of programs. I chose to apply to Vanderbilt University’s Summer Academy (VSA). I wanted to experience something completely new, and this opportunity offered me a way to explore my interest in medicine as well.
When July rolled around, I packed my bags and flew down to Nashville where I spent the next three weeks exploring myself and the people around me. The experience was truly amazing. I was surrounded with people with similar interests as me, but completely different backgrounds. I went to VSA without knowing anyone, but I made friends that I still keep in touch with today. It’s crazy how fast you can bond with people from across the country in such a short time. These three weeks were action packed and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Each day included class, activities, night trips, and free time. While it was pretty structured, living on campus in a dorm gave me a taste of college life. The Vanderbilt student proctors also gave good advice and an insight into life at Vanderbilt.
In addition to meeting many people, I discovered things about myself that I was able to bring home with me and apply to my life at home. Because my experience at Vanderbilt was so great, my dad encouraged me to do another collegiate summer program. Since VSA was far away and was relatively long, I decided to do a two week program at Northwestern University the next summer– before my senior year. Again, I had to choose a specific seminar and apply. This time I chose to take a seminar called Legal Interpretation and Communications to learn about the field of law.
Northwestern’s program was less structured and included field trips such as one to the federal court house downtown Chicago. Just as my experience at Vanderbilt was irreplaceable, so was my experience at Northwestern. Their program had shorter classes and more freedom, which allowed students to explore Evanston and Chicago. Similar to Vanderbilt’s program, students came from all over. My best friends from Northwestern live in Miami, Reno Nev., and Minneapolis. Not only was I learning in the classroom, but also through others. While studying over the summer may not seem appealing, both classes I took were college-like classes, meaning that they were engaging, interesting, and applicable.
Unlike many high school classes, I felt like I was learning things that really mattered for my future and helped me explore possible careers. Additionally, we did not receive a grade, so there was no pressure to complete tasks perfectly. We were there for the experience, not for our GPA, which really made learning enjoyable. Each school offers different classes—some for college credit and some for the experience.
These summer programs also helped me with my college search by giving me the opportunity to live on campus and meet some of the faculty. I can honestly say I would not be who I am today without these two summer experiences. Not only did I learn and grow in many aspects of my life, but I matured. I feel much better prepared to leave for college next fall thanks to all I learned through these summer programs. For anyone who does not know what to do with their summers, I highly recommend looking into university programs.