Have you ever had one of those summers that you know you'll never forget? Yeah, well me too. I've actually had more than one. At this writing, I am a senior and have spent every summer since the end of seventh grade at various programs. Total, I've been to six different summer camps, most recent - Harvard's Secondary School Program.
Harvard should be paying me for what I am about to say, because frankly I believe that there is magic in all summer programs. I'll claim that it can be found at Harvard, when it can be found just about anywhere.
Harvard lasted eight weeks, which I, as a track runner, constantly thought of as an eight-lap, two-mile race. Make no mistake, it was a marathon. I had been lucky to warm up through programs of increasing length, although summer school/ camp was an entirely new experience for my roommate from Chicago. He survived, so I guess it isn't that bad.
Basically, you enroll in either two four-unit courses or one eight-unit course. You are given the option to have two-and-a-half hour classes or one-hour classes. The great thing about two and-a-half hour classes is that it really opens up a lot of free time. I took Beginning Scriptwriting and Intermediate Fiction (a class I actually had to try out for!).
I thought both my instructors were effective and insightful, and I had such a good time in the classes that I started having nightmares about high school. In the end, there was a letter grade, and now I have eight college credits. That's right, you do actually earn real credits there.
If you get accepted (this summer they had about a 68 percent acceptance rate, so don't think you don't stand a chance - you certainly do), you will receive a large booklet containing courses from Sanskrit to Cell Biology. I guarantee that if you are willing to chop eight weeks out of your vacation to study, you will find something interesting and exciting. I certainly did; I had a hard time sometimes thinking of my classes as just that - classes. They were too much fun!
Now for the fun stuff. Here are the rules: go to class when you have to, don't do illegal drugs or drink if you're underage (there were a lot of actual college students there, but most of us were from high school land), and don't disturb the people trying to sleep or study in the Cambridge are.
I regret to say that my house broke one of the rules - we were too loud in the courtyard late at night one too many times and got ourselves kicked out. The administration was not impressed with us. Other than that, however, we were allowed to do most anything. There was no curfew, no one to kick us along to our classes or our meals. And smoking was allowed in the courtyard.
If one wanted to go to Boston for the day, so be it. If one wanted to stay out and talk to a love interest all night long on one of the bridges over the Charles River, so be that, too. Magic? We had plenty of it. If you had a question, your proctor was there. The proctors were college students taking courses at Harvard as well, but who had agreed to keep an eye on us.
And Cambridge! Do I even need to tell you that it was a fun place to have lots of free time? Coffee shops, bagel shops, plays, the great Harvard libraries, the Harvard Film Archive (I have my own favorite seat in that place, I went there so much), the orchestra, the chorus, Au Bon Pain, millions of used CDs, cassettes, bookstores, the Harvard Coop, street musicians, candle stores, and lots of homeless people who always seem to want to be your friend. And (I want to mention my favorite place last) never forget Tommy's House of Pizza, where a gigantic, greasy slice of pizza only costs a dollar, the music is always cool and the water free.
Don't think, however, that the classes are something to blow off. These classes will consume your mind. I usually stayed out late because I liked talking to this girl, but I constantly saw people at four a.m. walking back to their rooms from studying for the many tests. They are serious courses for serious students who want a jump on college.
But did I have fun? Oh yes, Oh yes I did. L
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.