Experiences of a Lifetime: Summer Programs


Manu Kondapi

During the Washington Workshops Congressional Seminar, students were released to spend one of their mornings on Capitol Hill, visiting representatives and senators and exploring the area. These three students pose in front of the Supreme Court Building, celebrating the fact that DOMA was repealed only hours before.

Manu Kondapi, Campus Life Editor

This past weekend, I sat in utter confusion in front of my computer screen with my homework strewn across the table as Sunday night came to an end. I thought I’d been working all weekend, and somehow I still had an essay, translations, statistics, and government left for the next day. I backtracked and realized that every time I’d sat down to do work, I’d been distracted within minutes, catching up with a friend I’d met at a summer program, at a scholarship interview weekend, or elsewhere. Now, I’m going to mostly blame that discrepancy on senioritis, and this isn’t an attestation to my lack of focus, but rather one to the close relationships that you build with the people you meet during summer programs, whether you spend a week or a month with them.

For many, summer provides a time to spend time with friends, to relax, and to distance yourself from any semblance of an education. However, I’ve found that summertime can be better spent, providing you with means to resist wiling away your time while still having a memorable break.

Summer programs give students the ability to explore their interests, develop new skills, get hands-on experience, and make friendships to last a lifetime. Through these programs, you’re able to explore the world at a young age with other students that share your interests, and to truly get a better understanding of yourself and your passions. Applying for these programs may seem to be a hassle, but the rewards obtained from participating are completely worth it. And personally, several of my favorite memories have stemmed from these experiences.

As for an added bonus: colleges love seeing that you’ve spent your free time productively, proving that you’re committed to learning and discovering the world around you. (And when that time is spent with one of the  programs listed below, it shows that you’re both efficacious and merit oriented)

Below is a list of distinguished summer programs- both prestigious and productive, these programs are completely free for participants. Admission is largely based on the essay responses in the application and high school involvement (including GPA and extra curriculars). The commentary on each program is derived from my own experiences with them throughout my high school endeavors.

National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-y):
Applicable for: Ages 15-18
Duration: 6-8 weeks, residential
Location: One of 10 possible countries: China, India, Jordan, Korea, Morocco, Oman, Russia, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey

Sponsored by the Department of State and considered one of the most prestigious programs in the country, NSLI-y is an intensive language immersion program for students interested in living overseas and exploring new cultures and linguistics. Scholars spend two months in their country of choice studying one of seven critical languages while immersing themselves completely in the local culture. This program is part of a U.S. government initiative that hopes to promote international dialogue and support American engagement abroad, and one that I would encourage everyone to apply for. I mean, when else are you going to get a chance to learn a new language and live abroad for completely free?

Washington Workshops Foundation Congressional Seminar (Sponsored by the NSCDA):
Applicable for: All high school students
Duration: 1 week, residential
Location: Washington D.C.

This weeklong immersion is ideal for students interested in politics, diplomacy, and international relations and is sponsored by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. 50 scholars are chosen based solely on their essay response to a specific prompt and they spend a week in our nation’s capital participating in a Model Congress, touring DC, and meeting with politicians, journalists, lobbyists, and more. At the end of the week, students gather in a congressional setting to discuss and debate the bills they’ve written- when I participated, the four Model Congress teams were budget, immigration reform, energy, and gun control. This program is easily one of the most intriguing and eye opening experiences I’ve had- I met some of my closest friends here and made connections with politicians and foreign correspondents that will last a lifetime.

Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP):
Applicable for: Juniors
Duration: 6 weeks, residential
Location: Cornell University or University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

It’s often said that people who spend their summer in a TASP seminar are guaranteed admission into any college of their choosing. Perhaps the most reputed program in the nation, TASP seeks students who are intellectually curious, thoughtful, and motivated, and those who are searching for a personal and intellectual challenge. TASPers participate in seminars and complete several writing assignments over the course of the summer- past topics have included “The Battle of the Sexes in Medieval and Renaissance Writing,” “Visions of America from Abroad,” and “Race, Space, and the American Self.”

Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS):
Applicable for: Sophomores
Duration: 6 weeks, residential
Location: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor or Indiana University

As the sophomore component of the Telluride Association’s summer programs, TASS brings students together to explore African American studies in a discussion-based setting. Throughout the program, students will improve upon writing, reading, speaking, and critical thinking skills. The selection process mirrors TASP- students complete applications in December, semifinalists are chosen and are interviewed by alumni of the Telluride Association in April, and finalists are notified in early May.

Cesar Chavez Leadership Institute:
Applicable for: Sophomores and Juniors
Duration: 1 week, residential
Location: Barrett Honors College of Arizona State University

More affectionately referred to as CCLI, this program strives to improve upon academic and personal success, promote leadership skills with an emphasis on public speaking, and reinforce the importance of civic engagement, especially the idea of service and giving back to the community.

Summer Transportation Institute:
Applicable for: Grades 10-12
Duration: 3 weeks, residential
Location: Barrett Honors College of Arizona State University

This program is designed to help students gain a better understanding of engineering, with a special emphasis on transportation. It aims to show how all engineering disciplines contribute to the transportation industry, and how all types of engineers (from aerospace to software) plan and maintain systems of transportation across the state.

KEYS High School Summer Internship Program:
Applicable for: Ages 16+
Duration: 7 weeks, residential
Location: University of Arizona

KEYS is structured for those with a special interest in bioscience, engineering, environmental health, and biostatistics. After special training in college laboratories, interns spend their summer participating in research projects under professors and PhD students at the UofA. At the end of the program, students present their research to the academic community through a research showcase and presentation.

Summer Journalism Institute:
Applicable for: All high school students
Duration: 2 weeks, residential
Location: Arizona State University

Aspiring journalism students in either broadcast or digital journalism learn from industry professionals to develop an online news site and produce a newscast. In addition to daily classes, students tour the major Arizona news stations and go out into the community to conduct interviews and create multimedia packages.  The program focuses on preparing students to be successful journalists in the digital age.

Women in STEM High School (WISH):
Applicable for: Juniors
Duration: 5 months online, 1 week residential
Location: Johnson Space Center- Houston, Texas

Sponsored by NASA, WISH begins with a 6 month online course- students spend their time engaged in a rigorous learning environment, exploring new engineering and mathematical concepts, whether it be the Hohmann Transfer, the de-orbit burn, or escape velocity. They complete research papers regarding space shuttle design and complete a final project that varies from year to year. At the conclusion of the online segment, 80 of the 300 participants are invited to participate in an onsite experience at the Johnson Space Center in Texas. There, students create rovers and compete with other teams to determine which rover is the most suitable for implementation on Mars.

Summer Academy of Math and Science (SAMS):
Applicable for: Ages 16+
Duration: 6 weeks, residential
Location: Carnegie Mellon University

This program is geared towards students with a substantial interest in math and science.  Throughout the summer, students take calculus and engineering/science classes to gain experience in technical disciplines and build academic and personal skills to better prepare themselves for college. Participants are also given tutoring for the SATs and learn how to write college application essays.

Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)
Applicable for: Juniors
Duration: 6 weeks, residential
Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MITES provides an extremely rigorous academic atmosphere to assist students in developing skills that are necessary to succeed in the fields of engineering and science. Students take courses in math, physics, and humanities in addition to participating in lab tours and social events throughout the summer.