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How to Find a Teen Summer Program That's Right for You

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How to Find a Teen Summer Program That's Right for You

As director of academic programs for Pioneer Academics, I work with hundreds of inquisitive young people like you, day in and day out, helping them find their academic way. Frequently that means discovering the right high school summer program.

My advice: Look inside yourself. Discover your interests. Listen to your heart. Share with others. Get to work and commit to a program that helps you become the person you want to be.

Look Inside Yourself

Deep down in each of us are natural inclinations toward some things and away from others. That’s what makes us different and unique. Our natural inclinations are part of us, almost like DNA. When you listen to and nurture those inclinations, you are developing your individuality. Only you can do that, and it feels good.

For example, Savita is a high school student from New York, graduating in 2018. She was able to create experiences around her passion for science and research in a field that interests her.

“I was interested in researching how advances in science and technology have affected our society in the past and how they will continue to affect us in the future. After Pioneer reviewed my essays and interviewed me, I researched the influence that science and technology had in the 19th century,” Savita says.

Discover Who You Are

Ask yourself, what am I doing when I lose track of time? Is it reading a book about my favorite subject? Playing a musical instrument? Solving a problem like Rubik’s Cube? Is it drawing pictures or designing things? Is it writing code to create a new wiki?

Savita, for example, found a way to research a topic that she really cared about, rather than something that was assigned to her. “By finding an amazing learning opportunity, I was able to research a cutting-edge topic that interests me,” she says.

Get to Work

Go online. Spend an afternoon at the library. Read. Talk to your school guidance counselor. Find out everything you can about the teen summer program you’re considering. Look for a summer program that offers what you want.

Luccas is a genius-kind of student, always seeking academic challenges. He was very interested in economics, so he taught himself micro-economics and macro-economics for which he received full AP credit. Then he talked to his school counselor. The counselor recommended that Luccas check out Pioneer. Luccas applied, was accepted, and wrote a 25-page paper about the economy in his native Brazil. He’s now completing his freshman year at Harvard University.

Listen to Your Heart

Let your own interests and curiosity be your guide and compass. You know what’s right for you. Your goal is to find a summer program that offers the opportunity to explore your interests and develop your potential, while proving to yourself what you can do.

Karalee loved STEM and was a super-star in her school. The summer after junior year, she decided to delve into the human side of science. Though she didn’t know what anthropology was at first, she found it to be magnetic. In our summer program, she was mentored by a distinguished anthropology professor. She struggled for a while to come up with a thesis for her research paper. Inspiration struck when she noticed that that the boys in one of her classes communicated with more self-assurance than the girls, even though the majority of the class was female and the girls seemed to have better command of the material. She used her summer to research women's language patterns and how they perpetuate stereotypes.

Share with Others

A great path to self-discovery is to ask someone who knows you well and whom you respect. Engage the people who you think might have the information you need to find the right summer program. Talk to counselors, summer program managers and college recruiters. Ply them with questions: What does the program offer that sets it apart from all the others? How will it move me toward my goal? How will it enable me to develop myself? How is success measured and by whom?

Don’t forget the practical questions, too: When is the program offered? How long does it take? How do I qualify? How much will it cost? Is financial aid available?

When you find what looks like the right summer program for you, one that excites you and sets you on fire, circle back with those to whom you talked up front: peers, parents, teachers, counselors. Use them to clarify your thinking and to choose the program that’s uniquely right for you.

Commit to Your Future

You will know what to do next. Your path will be clear, at least the beginning of it. Gone will be frustration and discouragement because you have listened to your heart, applied yourself, shared with others, and committed yourself to an exciting summer program that encourages you to be you, and enables you to develop into the person you are meant to be.

Aurora applied to Pioneer to research chemistry because she was interested in medicine. After Pioneer reviewed her essays and interviewed her, she was admitted to research carbohydrate in materials and medicine under the mentorship of a professor from Davidson College in North Carolina.

“The professor began by introducing me and a few other students online to the field. Then I selected a research topic related to the field that interested me, and worked one-on-one with my professor to develop a sophisticated, college-level research project. I chose “The Optimal Design and Composition of a Carbohydrate-based Vaccine for Breast Cancer” because I have a strong passion for immunology. Pioneer was really challenging, but I found my real passion and myself during the process,” she says.



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Written by Matthew Jaskol

Matthew Jaskol is director of Academic Programs at Pioneer Academics. He founded Pioneer Academics in 2013 with the intent of offering deep, intellectual exploration opportunities to outstanding young people of geographic and cultural diversity. He believes that passionate young scholars can reach remarkable heights through intelligence, imagination, and determination.

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