“What did you do this summer?”
You hear it from your teachers, your peers, your counselors, and even the occasional passerby. Sure, by G Period you might have described the long and lackluster events for what feels like hundreds of times, but there’s still no chance that you’ll be getting out of answering just one more time.
So what did you do this summer?
There’s certainly nothing like July days filled with a spattering of beach trips, vacations, and days to sleep in, but last summer I traded my beach towels and flip flops for freshly sharpened pencils and a thick stack of books. Before you laugh, hear me out; as many St. Paul’s Advanced Studies Program (ASP) alumni agree, attending a summer study program can change how you think and what career you want to pursue.
“Going to St. Paul’s really helped me to realize what I’m going to do in the future,” stated Olivia Colarusso (‘19), who studied Molecular Biology at ASP. Colarusso explained how her course involved immersive lab studies, during which she DNA sequenced a plant for the first time.
At St. Paul’s ASP, students attend classes for four hours a day, which includes a required writing workshop class and a class on their chosen area of academic focus, referred to as a ‘major’ course. After class, students attend an athletics program, then work on their assigned homework in the library or in their dorms. The program offers need-based financial aid and was able to distribute $314,000 to 114 members of the 2018 class, including full tuition to 15 families, according to their website. Tuition covers the cost of everything from books, to dining, to housing in dorms.
Living on campus was an experience that was new to me, as well as most of the other students attending the program. There was an aspect of friendly competition between dorms, which encouraged each dorm to support and stand up for each other. Even after just a few days living in the dorm, I felt like I had a whole support system of strong girls that were going to help me through whatever the program threw my way.
Many students found that living away from home was also a great way to prepare for college. Charlie Haskell (‘19), a Forbidden Fictions major at ASP explained that, “I got to experience dorm life as well as rigorous studies with students that were eager to learn.”
Connecting with other academically involved New Hampshire high schoolers was my personal favorite part of attending ASP, and many students share a similar opinion. “The people are definitely the best part. The students are all super motivated, uplifting, and excited to learn,” stated Charlotte Hambucken (‘19), a Studio Arts major.
If you aren’t hooked from the raving students that just arrived home, take it from ORHS math teacher Bill Reeves, an alum of Oyster River, ASP ‘85, and Colgate University. While at ASP, Reeves studied German as his major course.
“I liked meeting people from other schools in an academic setting. It was like a precursor to college, to see what it would be like to go away to school,” Reeves explained. “After ASP, I knew what it was going to be like to be away from home in a study environment. It wasn’t like summer camp; you had choices and you had to use your time wisely. Time management was really important. If you needed something, you had to figure out how to get it without asking mom and dad.”
St. Paul’s ASP isn’t the only summer program you can attend. There are hundreds of camps throughout the state and country that are tailored to your specific interests and availability, many of which offer financial aid or scholarships.
Sam Johnson, a senior at ORHS, has attended three summer study programs during his time in high school. After participating in these rigorous programs hosted by universities, Johnson explained how he now has skill, experience, and actual college credits from the University of Maryland. “[Summer programs] definitely help students get comfortable leaving home. I think it’s also useful for students to take college classes in the summer to get credits. You get to know what college is like and what is expected of you; I absolutely have a better idea of what I want to do after high school,” Johnson explained.
Rohit Kantipudi (‘19) attended the High School Honors Science Program (HSHSP) at Michigan State University this past summer. The program had over 300 applicants and Kantipudi was one of 24 who were accepted. He had the opportunity to work on a new research project in a lab from 9 am to 5 pm every day. “[HSHSP] teaches a lot about science and the research process, while also introducing you to a lot of incredible students,” he stated.
The summer after her sophomore year, Julianna Caldicott (‘19) attended a career-focused study program as well. Caldicott attended the Health and Careers Institute at Dartmouth, where she met with medical professionals, went to hospitals and healthcare centers, and explored the college campus. “I honestly had no idea what to expect because it was unlike anything I’d done before,” she explained. “My favorite part was probably meeting all of the people from all over the country and world that came together through a common interest we all shared. It was nice to be around like minded people and it was refreshing to meet so many new and different students,” Caldicott stated.
Although some of the rigorous summer programs that Oyster River students have attended sound daunting, keep in mind that each program is unique in its workload and expectations. And at the end of the day, summer studies programs aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But if you’re an academically motivated student that’s on the fence, know that even through late nights (or was it morning already?) of essay writing, hours of debate with fellow Law and Governance majors, and countless bowls of Cocoa Puffs (breakfast, lunch, and dinner!), I consider my summer at ASP one of the best summers of my life. The key to enjoying a program is finding something that you love and pursuing it; when you’re passionate about something, work no longer feels like a task.
And the best part is, you’ll now be able to respond to your teachers on the first day of school with a description of your summer activities other than “I slept” (a tragically common first impression). Better yet, you might even be able to shoot the question right back at them.
“What did you do this summer?”
Written by Alana Ervin, Art by Alana Ervin