Cornell University Summer College
William Shakespeare once noted, "We know what we are, but know not what we may be." That quotation seems especially apt to me because it sums up the prevailing attitude at Cornell University Summer College, a program that I attended between my junior and senior year of high school. Although initially the prospect of spending six weeks of my hard-earned summer vacation attending college appeared rather daunting and frankly, above and beyond the call of "duty," I am delighted that I tossed my usual caution to the wind and made the decision to attend.
Cornell's Summer College is organized in a unique way. For six weeks, summer college students reside in dormitories, consume cafeteria fare (which, by the way, is rated the best in the Ivy League), and enroll in two university courses. These courses are taught by Cornell's regular faculty who make absolutely no distinction between summer college students and actual undergraduates. Although the course work was some of the toughest I have ever experienced, it provided me with a generous sampling of the rigors of college academics and a fairly accurate picture of what I could expect as a college freshman. At term's end, we summer college students took the same exams as the other undergraduates and received an official Cornell University transcript.
In addition to the regular, graded course work, Cornell Summer College provides Exploration Seminars which consist of a series of daily lectures, guest speakers, special projects, and field trips that closely examine particular careers including law, engineering, medicine, architecture, among others. My Exploration Seminar discussed the various applications within the field of engineering and, as part of that seminar, we visited Cornell's subatomic particle accelerator, the supercomputer, and the Corning Glass Works. Our guest speakers were successful, articulate people involved in all aspects of engineering. Unlike the courses, the seminar programs are ungraded but students do receive a certificate of participation.
An integral part of the Cornell experience lies in its location and breath-taking campus. Cornell University is situated atop an imposing hill overlooking Cayuga Lake and the city of Ithaca, New York. The campus boasts beautifully-maintained parks, picturesque gardens, ponds, and spectacular gorges. Along with an abundance of natural beauty, the campus architecture, ranging from old ivy-covered Gothic to the very latest that architectural technology has to offer is equally striking. Cornell provides a beautiful, inviting environment in which to live and learn.
Along with the academic benefits that I gained from my summer college experience, I also had an exciting time meeting people from different parts of this country and the world. While my roommate hailed from Brooklyn, New York, I was also privileged to become friends with those from as far away as Thailand, Japan, Switzerland, England, and Korea. Cornell made it easy to meet other summer college students by hosting concerts, mixers, picnics, films, and other social events. There was always something interesting to do and someone interesting to share it with.
In a secure, supportive atmosphere I was exposed to some of the realities and challenges of "college life," a sort of dress rehearsal if you will. After attending Cornell University Summer College, my goals were even more clearly defined and I approached the coming academic year with freshly-charged "batteries." No, this program is not for the faint-hearted or casual student. Spending a profitable summer at Cornell requires a tremendous commitment but the rewards far outweigh the investment. For me, the wealth of positive experiences, the wonderful memories, and that close encounter with academic excellence, will remain priceless. And to borrow from the bard once again, "Ignorance is the curse of God, knowledge is the wing wherewith we to fly to heaven." n
Review by J. M., Dayton, OH
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.