Summer is the time of freedom: you are free from classes, teachers, and homework. It’s time to lie on the beach in the warm sun and never think about classwork again… until you chose a summer program?! Why on earth would anyone use their summer to voluntarily go to class or spend time at a university?
The truth is that there are lots of different kinds of summer programs. They can be long or short; they can be on a university campus or a school campus; they can be intensive or more relaxing; they can be about all different kinds of topics. But they have one unifying characteristic: they exist to help students discover and develop their academic interests in a non-school setting — which, admittedly, makes it so much more fun.
I spent every summer in high school doing some kind of academic program (and sometimes more than one!): French immersion camp; a Tufts University program where I lived in France with a host family and took International Relations classes over the summer; a Jewish literature program, a philosophy program at Yale, and a Jewish arts program at Brandeis University. Even in college I’ve done something every summer!
In high school, the beauty of these summer experiences was that they gave me the opportunity to discover what I was interested in. For example, before going to France on Tufts University’s Summer Summit for High Schoolers, I was convinced that I wanted to study International Relations (IR). After taking a summer class on the topic, however, I learned that I was wrong before even beginning college! I had a great time in France, though, and improved my language skills and did gain fundamental knowledge in IR, which has helped me ever since, even if I don’t want to study it.
Summer programs in general are a fantastic chance for students to see what they like and don’t like, what they are good at and aren’t good at — without the pressure of grades and exams. Also, in many cases, they give students a taste of college coursework before they even get to college! I still think fondly of my time in France — “ahhh, what a time it was,” I say. “I learned about International Relations (enough to know I didn’t want to study it, anyways), was exposed to new and exciting ideas, all outside the pressure of school. And I even went to the beach while I was at it!”
This is a photo from a summer program I did at Brandeis University in 2015!