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Should You Attend Summer Schools? Here’s The Answer.
Written by Rayoung (Madeline) Lee | Published. 2019.08.23 17:18 | Count : 932

Summers are always busy. For as long as I can remember, every summer vacation was a testament to how well I planned out the year. From family vacations to SAT crash courses, there is always an endless list of things to do and so little time. The pressure hits the fan when you are a rising junior because summer feels like the last opportunity to experience something valuable outside of school. This is also when many renowned universities open their doors to students with various summer school programs. After much deliberation, I decided to attend the summer pre-college program at Harvard University. I could not have made a better choice. 

Applying to summer schools is similar to writing a college application. Harvard requires you to write essays on four topics: what course you want to take, what academic integrity means to you, an event or a person that influenced you, and what school club you would make if you had the opportunity. Since these essays have a word limit of 250-300 words, you have to think long and hard about what aspects of yourself you want to show the administration officers. While writing these essays, you get to organize your thoughts on your extracurricular activities and this can help you become more aware of your interests and strengths. A tip I would give to anyone who’s thinking of applying to pre-college programs is to submit your application by the early application deadline because the course you want to take might be full. For instance, I initially wanted to take Introduction to Criminal Law, but since I applied by the regular deadline, I was waitlisted and had to change my course to Democracy, Development, and Violence.

[My classmates and I in front of the Widener Library. Photo credit: Claire Macedonia]

Harvard treats you like a Harvard student even if you’re only attending a summer school. Most summer schools have a pass or fail system but an interesting rule for us was that if you were even one minute late to class, you would fail the course. On the first day, you receive your Harvard ID card which gives you access to everything including buildings, archives, and libraries. My class was from 8:30 to 11:30 am and involved great deal of reading. We were expected to read at least 100 pages a day, upload a summary of the reading, and discuss what we read with our classmates. Naturally, everyone did their homework. But after class, the school gives you the freedom to do anything. Summer programs are rigorous because an entire semester is squeezed into a few weeks. We had to cover a university course on comparative politics in two weeks, so the workload was staggering. I spent at least five hours a day in the Widener Library and sometimes in the law school library. If you’re a high schooler aiming to attend a university in America, you really get to experience what it’s like to be a college student in summer schools like the Harvard summer pre-college program. 

[Taken at the Widener Library on the first day.  
Photo Credit: Rayoung (Madeline) Lee]

[The Widener Library. Photo credit: Rayoung (Madeline) Lee]
[My roommates and I in front of the Widener Library. Photo credit: Rayoung (Madeline) Lee]

It was also a great opportunity to think about my academic interests, especially the field I want to major in. I chose my course on comparative politics and international relations because I do Model United Nations and I thought it would build my basic knowledge on global issues. I was quite surprised by the depth of knowledge my classmates had on current issues and how genuinely interested they were to learn more. I think this gave me great insight into my academic interests and what it would be like to study college-level politics.

So, to those who are wondering if they should apply to summer schools, my answer is yes. Go for it.


Rayoung (Madeline) Lee
Grade 11
Seoul Foreign School

Rayoung (Madeline) Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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