Pre-Collegiate Summer Programs: Academics Aren’t Everything

February 18, 2015

Many of are you are currently planning what to do during the summer. Some of you might have already applied! For those who have, read what Ethan, a sophomore from California, has to say about his unexpected experience! 

As a rising 7th grader in the summer of 2011, I wasn’t exactly that excited about going to Stanford’s Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes (SPCS Institutes) – otherwise known as an even more pompous name back then – “Education Program for Gifted Youth”.

I imagined it to be very mechanical and boring. I was enrolled for a 2-week residential program in Physics. I was a shy kid – and I still am – and I had never been to a residential camp before, so it was slightly intimidating. I imagined the camp to be just like school, only with nerdier kids and a heavier workload. All I wanted to do that summer was play video games at home instead with my best friends from school. Needless to say, I was upset, whiny and unhappy that my parents had made me apply for this program. 

Everything I imagined the camp to be turned out to be true – but I haven’t told you the whole story.

Going to Stanford was the best thing I could have done that summer. 

The program did offer a rigorous curriculum that we had to complete over the two weeks and as I had expected, it was tough and not necessarily intellectually stimulating. But what I didn’t expect was what I learned from the people I met at the program and the experience I gained by just being there. Not only was it a great way to gain a better perspective about advanced, college-style courses early on, but it also provided me opportunities to become life-long friends with people I would never have crossed paths with. 

It’s been three years since, and majority of the friendships I cultivated over the summer are still as strong as when we ran around Stanford’s campus together. Even though we all live in different parts of the world, I still talk to friends from SPCS occasionally to reminisce the old times and catch up on each other’s current lives. We’d gone to classes together, played games together, ate together, showered together (just kidding) and certainly slept in one big house together. In the course of those precious moments lost to the rest of the world, we discovered our common interests.

Although most parents intended it for a more banal academic purpose, much of the fun comes from the people you meet and the friends you make. The people that you bond with at summer camps like these can be your future college buddies, colleagues, and business partners. They are the friends that will last you a lifetime, because you’ve shared an unlikely adventure together. They are like-minded students that have aspirations similar to your very own. We share similar academic/career interests and standards, and thus will more likely cross paths with them in future than with the kid sitting next to you in a compulsory high school English class.  

More importantly, it made me realize that’s what college is about and why so many people - parents, college counselors, mentors - emphasis how important “fit” is when you begin your college search. We go to college to get a higher education, but as much learning as we get inside classrooms, we are bound to learn 10 times more outside the classrooms, on campus from the different people we come across. 

If you are allergic to the sunshine and the wide open space at Stanford, there are no lack of other programs to choose from. Similar camps include CTY, Duke TIP, SIG, and literally dozens of other tongue defying acronyms. It allows you to explore academic topics that you could never experience in a regular middle or high school, and gives you opportunities to bond with people with diverse backgrounds as well. Experiences at residential camps like these are more than worth it. I cannot express how grateful I am that I decided not to stay at home and play video games all summer. 

Browse Successful Application Files

USC ‘19

Accepted to USC, NYU, UMich, UCSD, Rochester, BC, BU, Miami OH, Loyola U Chicago, Miami, U of Minnesota, Drexel, Illinois

Typical Student from Chicago who has had the best of the American/Hispanic Culture. As well, I applied to 25 schools
Northwestern ‘18

Accepted to Northwestern, Emory, WashU, UMich

Hey everyone, I'm a current Northwestern student (Class of 2018, although I may finish up a little early) and I absolutely love it! Admissions really is a tough time, so try to keep your head up and don't be afraid to take chances.
Stanford ‘20

Accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine

Technophile and Starbucks lover majoring in CS with a passion for STEM and the arts.
Rochester ‘20

Accepted to Rochester, Rutgers, Fordham, College of NJ, Drexel

Hey! I'm a freshman at University of Rochester Class of 2020 interested in double majoring in Biology and Spanish, eventually applying to med school. I'm passionate about studying science, doing research and learning new languages.

New Posts

Undecided Major? 3 Reasons Why You Should Own It
Undecided Major? 3 Reasons Why You Should Own It
June 20, 2018

“What do you plan on majoring in?” How much do you dread that question coming up at the dinner table? Thanks to Aunt Sally, this conversation is back on the table. You don’t want...

Student Insight: Transition to College
Student Insight: Transition to College
June 18, 2018

All college-bound students have some jitters about going to college for the first time. Let’s try to help you settle in more easily with these tips from current college students. There are a lot...

Emory University: Essay Topics & Personal Statement Examples
Emory University: Essay Topics & Personal Statement Examples
June 13, 2018

Applying to Emory University this fall? If you are just getting started on your application essays, get some inspiration from these successful essay excerpts:1. Overcoming Personal StruggleEssay Excerpt from DooleypeanutsEmory University ‘22 Neuroscience and Neurobiology “The...

5 Tips to Help You Look for Scholarships this Summer
5 Tips to Help You Look for Scholarships this Summer
June 11, 2018

Summer after junior year in high school is a great time for you to start looking and applying for scholarships. Why? You’ll get more for your efforts. It’s not something most applicants are...

Load More Posts