High school program participants reflect on the value of Stanford’s summer programming

Aug. 19, 2018, 4:54 p.m.

On Jun. 25, high schoolers from around the world arrived at Stanford to participate in the Pre-Collegiate Institutes and the High School Summer College (HSSC), both of which offer students the opportunity to live out the on-campus experience during the summer.  

The HSSC runs through the summer quarter and allows high schoolers to choose from among 145 courses across 30 departments. High schools students in the HSSC earn college credit, taking classes taught by eminent professors alongside undergraduate and graduate students. This year, 1,500 students enrolled in the HSSC.

The Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institute runs three-week programs for enrichment and offers intensive study in a single subject through courses such as “International Relations: the Ethics of War” and “UX Design.”

Students cite various reasons for attending these programs, such as evaluating potential college majors and future career options.     

For example, Vincent Baugh, a rising high school senior from Los Angeles and a student in the HSSC, is interested in the pre-med track.  

“One of the biggest gains from this program is that you can explore whether this is really something you want to do for a long time or go into further research,” he said.

Baugh is taking “Intro to Human Physiology” as well as “Reading and Writing the Personal Essay.”

Baugh and his family were also drawn to the HSSC because of Stanford’s name.

“My parents thought the HSSC was good because … it was at Stanford. Plus, [students] get to actually experience college life,” he said.

Ann Truong, a rising high school senior from Westminster, also cites Stanford as one of the reasons she is attending the HSSC.

“I received a scholarship to attend, so it was very helpful. And, Stanford’s just my dream school, so it’s an honor to be here,” she said.

Ann Truong is one of 15 selected Horizon Scholars, meaning she received a full scholarship from Stanford to attend the HSSC.

As for whether these programs may boost their chances for admission into Stanford, students are unsure.

“I think it could help if you actually take away something valuable from it and not just the fact that [you] attended,” Truong said.

According to Stanford Summer Session’s website, Stanford does not consider “demonstrated interest” such as attending the HSSC or Pre-Collegiate Summer Institute when making undergraduate admissions decisions. Instead, the Institute emphasizes the value of what students will learn while on campus. 

“In general, the program probably helps their chances of getting into the college that they want to get into because it’s a strong academic experience,” said Chris Wendt, Head Counselor of the Pre-Collegiate Summer Institute. “I think it is something that you can show to colleges to say that ‘I am academically engaged, I take my studies seriously,’ but yeah, this program makes it really clear that’s not really what that’s about.”

Wendt affirmed that similar to the HSSC, the aim of the Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes is to give students a taste of the college experience.

“The purpose of this program is to introduce the high school students to university life, to give them an enriching first experience on a university campus and be able to take some exciting courses from real college professors,” he said. “A lot of them are international students or come from places all around the country, so they get to experience California, too.”

Richard Shaw, Stanford’s admission and financial aid dean, said that Stanford program attendees do not directly benefit in the undergraduate application process later on.

We would consider them an extracurricular activity and opportunity to experience what a college campus and taking college courses is like,” he wrote. “There is no advantage given to students in these programs in the review. It would simply be an academic activity in which the student has participated. That being said taking part in a summer college experience is a wonderful experience for most who have opportunity to do so and a good orientation to what college is like.”

Contact Regina Ta at rta.19 ‘at’ presentationhs.org.

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