Probably the best experience of my life was attending the Massachusetts Advanced Studies Program last summer. It was a six-week program held at Milton Academy for 250 incoming public and parochial high school seniors. The kids take classes in the morning and then hang out in the afternoon, do activities or sports, or even, yes, study.
The classes at MASP (pronounced mas-pea) were really intense. Classes met for a total of four hours each morning, including Saturdays. Each student takes two classes: a writing class and a concentration. The writing classes ranged from autobiography to journalism to poetry and fiction. I took Exploring the Essay, and not only did my writing improve, but I had a great time in the class. Each writing class meets eight hours a week.
The concentration classes are broadly grouped into two types: the sciences, mathematics, and computing, and the humanities. Subjects vary from astronomy to computer science to drama to bioethics to US-Soviet relations. These classes meet for sixteen hours each week and cover vast amounts of information. They also offer students unusual classes that they could not normally take in high school. My class, Experimental Biology, combined studying in-depth facts about biology with learning many lab techniques and strategies. Many of the labs took 4-6 hours of class time to complete. All the students expressed great excitement at doing real scientific experiments. Yes, it was a tough class, but it was worth it.
In the afternoons, activities and sports were held. Musical activities included chorus and band, while sports included tennis, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, running, and soccer. During the second half of the program, more unusual activities were offered such as ballroom dancing and Chinese cooking.
Another purpose of MASP is to get kids excited about college. Students live in the dorms at Milton Academy and one of the best parts of the summer was experiencing dorm life. I had three roommates and it was a little hard at first getting used to sharing my space, but we became great friends. Plus, my floor of 13 girls and one intern became like a big family. Part of the staff consisted of interns: college students or recent graduates who helped teach the classes, lived in the dorms, and gave the kids insights into what college is really like. Throughout the summer, many assemblies were held about college and the application process and each student was assigned a guidance counselor. There were also college fairs where representatives from many schools came to answer questions and provide information.
Yet another great aspect of MASP were the assemblies and huge activities. Some were merely fun, like a field day on the Fourth of July, dances on the weekends, Talent Night, and Dorm Feud (a take-off on "Family Feud," a very popular program with the MASPians). Others were moving and interesting like Cultural Night, in which students did skits, dances, and songs to share their cultures.
But probably the best part of MASP for me were the people. I made some of the best friends I have ever had despite the short time there. Many people worry that because MASP is selective, and an educational program, it will be "nerd camp." But it was far from it. The kids were very friendly and social, and just about everyone loved their time at
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.