Spending the summer at Cornell may not sound that appealing to its own matriculating students but to some high school students in Tompkins County, it is a special opportunity to get a taste of college life. For the past five years, Cornell’s Summer College has offered a full scholarship to two academically qualified high school sophomores or juniors who demonstrate financial need and are currently attending any high school in Tompkins County.
At the summer program, the students are able to take undergraduate-level courses for college credit as well as non-credit career exploration seminars.
“We want to give local high school students the same opportunity that other high school students have when they come to the Summer College,” said Abby Eller, director of the Summer College. “We call it a bridge to the college experience.”
In existence for 41 years, the Summer College gives high school students the opportunity to live on campus and experience college life for three to six weeks, which includes dorm and educational experiences.
“We wanted some financial aid to be designated very carefully for Tompkins County students,” Eller said. “The scholarship makes a huge difference.”
According to Nicole Brooker, last year’s recipient of the scholarship and a current senior at Lansing High School in Lansing, NY, the program’s high costs can discourage some local students from participating.
“I thought it would be a great way to experience college but I couldn’t get there financially,” Brooker said.
Scholarship applicants must demonstrate academic excellence as well as financial need, as GPA and essay requirements are part of the application process. Brooker first learned of the program through her ninth-grade English teacher, June Martin.
“I think the Cornell Summer College is a great program,” Martin said. “I look at the diversity of courses that they offer … I think there’s something there for everyone.”
With eleven career and academic exploration seminars, as well as field trips, lectures and planned social events, participating students are completely immersed in college life for the summer.
“You were able to make your own choices,” Brooker said. “There was a lot of experiencing things on your own and prioritizing what you needed to get done.”
For Brooker, one of the best aspects of the program was the variety of cultures represented by the students participating in the program.
“Being surrounded by different cultures was so amazing,” she said. “Since Lansing is a predominantly white area, I was astounded by how many different ethnic groups there were [at Cornell] … that is how I hope college will be.”
Brooker feels that the six weeks she spent at Cornell are not ones that she will easily forget.
“You can really find who you are [at the program],” she said. “It was a completely overwhelming experience. You could find a new way of expressing yourself.”
Archived article by Meghan Barr