After a busy school year focused on learning, it’s tempting for high school students to want to take a break from academics during the summer months.
But it’s good for teenagers to spend at least part of their summers on academics and there are plenty of choices. Colleges across the country offer pre-college summer programs that are both educational and fun. These academic summer camps offer courses and summer activities for teenagers that boost grades and help to impress college admission officers.
Here are some more reasons you might consider an academic summer program on a college campus:
1. Spending a week on a college campus is good practice for the real deal.
Colleges that offer summer academic programs to high school students usually include living in a dorm with a roommate you don’t know, eating at the dining hall and exploring the larger campus. It’s like the short, safe version of the beginning of freshman year.
“The transition from high school to college can be a really difficult time for a lot of people,” says Nella Quasnitschka, manager of the University of Connecticut’s Pre-College Summer Program. “Having a pre-college experience helps prepare them for what college is like, so when they get to college they can focus on their classes because they’ve already experienced some of the new things that come along with living on campus.”
The UConn summer program offers a huge diversity of weeklong courses for rising juniors and seniors, from creative writing to forensic science to sports medicine. By taking a class in an unexplored subject, you just might discover a new career goal that never occurred to you.
2. It’s a chance to explore new interests or hone current passions.
High school students who plan to attend college might not have time in their normal course loads to do as much exploring of other interests as they would like during the school year. Performing- or visual-arts summer programs offer a chance for math students to try digital design or for theater students to study dancing.
Summer at Cornish, at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, for example, offers a series of one- to three-week intensive programs in art, design, theater, film and media, and music, as well as interdisciplinary courses that combine several of those elements.
“Students can explore something they haven’t done before or they could prep for a particular college program,” says Rosemary Jones, director of communications at Cornish. “We offer both opportunities.”
For performing and visual arts students, summer programs offer a chance to gain both experience and new talents. Visual arts students can build their portfolios. Theater students can gain auditioning experience. Music students can try their hand at composing. These are all important skills in the competitive world of the arts.
3. High school students meet like-minded teenagers.
Spending a week on a college campus can show students a whole new world of infinite learning possibilities that they might not encounter in high school. The coursework is challenging, but there is usually time to get to know other students from around the world, go on field trips to explore new regions, and learn about the history and culture of the area where the college is located.
“It’s an eye-opening experience to meet students who are interested in the same things you are passionate about,” says Anne Young, assistant director of the Summer Academy at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, N.M. At St. John’s, students study the great books of Western civilization using a discussion-based style of teaching that guarantees deep conversation.
4. There are opportunities in subjects your high school doesn’t offer.
At iD Tech Camps, students can take courses in coding, game design, robotics, electrical engineering and video production at about 150 different colleges around the country, including Stanford, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. iD Tech is adding a virtual-reality course next year.
“We blend the energy of a camp with an exposure to technology and to STEM discipline,” says Coray Cunningham, editorial manager at iD Tech. “What students are working towards is having a project to take home. If it’s a coding course, they go home with their first little app or their first program that they’ve written themselves. If it’s a game-design course, they go home with a copy of their game.”
5. Make real-life connections and learn how to network.
At Camp Inc. Business Academy in Boulder, Colo., summer campers are encouraged to use their high school resumes to build LinkedIn accounts and to network with other students, entrepreneur mentors and investors they meet during the 2 ½-week technology-intensive program.
Students choose from three tracks of technology: coding and technology; marketing and design; or leadership and finance. They learn the basic building blocks of their track and then pitch original ideas and form teams of three to five to launch a start-up.The teams work together to create a product that they then pitch to a team of real investors in a style similar to the television show “Shark Tank.”
“It’s completely unique, and it builds a skill set that can’t be built in other programs,” says director Josh Pierce. “It’s a huge resume-builder, too, especially for older students.”