(Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

Libe Slope on September 5th, 2018.

September 10, 2019

For High School Students, Cornell Summer Programs Offer Window Into College Life

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When Bailey Landow ’21 first came to Cornell as a rising high school junior as part of the Cornell Summer College, she became certain of two things: that Cornell would be her first-choice college, but also that she was ready to work and live in an entirely new environment.

According to Landow, the program also helped her realize that she wanted to study psychology. During Summer College, Landow took a class on Social Psychology, learned about potential careers and even did research in the Laboratory for Rational Decision Making.

“My time in the lab showed me the research aspect of universities, which was something I was fascinated with,” Landow told The Sun. “I still volunteer in the lab to this day.”

Summer College is just one of the summer programs offered to high school rising juniors and seniors by Cornell’s School of Continuing Education. This past summer, close to 1,500 high schoolers from more than 50 countries and over 700 cities flocked to Ithaca to participate, said Jim Schechter, the program’s director.

“The goal of the program is to equip students to be academically successful in college and to enable them to better handle the transition socially into their next community,” Schechter said in an interview with The Sun. “It allows them to be exposed to people with different life histories than themselves so hopefully they are more versatile when they get to college.”

With precursors first developed over 50 years ago as a writing tutorial for local students from Ithaca, the program has since blossomed into a way for students around the world to receive college credit while studying nearly any field of study offered at Cornell.

Academics aren’t the only draw for enrollees — many spend the rest of their time exploring Ithaca and bonding with their classmates from all over the world.

“Besides class and volunteering in the lab, I went to the Farmers’ Market, the gorges, and the Commons,” Landow said. “I grew up in a big city and had never lived in a small town before, so it was nice to explore a new place. Dorm style living was also so different than anything I had ever experienced, but was a great way to meet a diverse group of people taking different summer classes.”

“I applied to the summer college hoping to learn more about psychology, have a college experience, and learn about Cornell’s campus,” recent program enrollee and Long Island high school student Emily Trachtenberg said in an email to the Sun. “I was able to achieve all of that, along with meeting many amazing people along the way. I enjoyed the new relationships I created with others at the program and the atmosphere of the summer college.”

SCE also maintains a partnership with Marble Hill School for International Studies in New York’s South Bronx, and hosts a study skills program on campus exclusively for select freshmen from the high school.

The two-week program was filled with mornings of instruction from study skills teacher Elise West, the former director of Cornell’s Learning Strategies Center. Afternoons mirrored a typical summer camp with hiking, swimming and watching movies.

The Marble Hill program began after Schechter met former Marble Hill student Kenny Duran, who was then a participant participating in Cornell’s Summer College. Now, Duran is a junior majoring in physics at the California Institute of Technology.

“I was incredibly impressed just by him as a person and as a student, and I was curious about his school,” Schechter recalled.

The hope for the study skills program, said Schecter, is that Marble Hill students who participate can acquire the skills they need to succeed academically in high school and beyond, especially if they return to Cornell for Summer College.

“They have the versatility to see themselves as functioning in a different community in the future if they want to, beyond the Bronx and New York City,” Schechter said.

Beyond that, Schechter hopes both of the summer programs help students see themselves as future college students equipped to take on the challenging steps in the college process.

“For the older students, I really want them to leave with the confidence that they can not only perform academically at a high level but that they’re socially and interculturally fluent,” Schechter continued. “They really do have the ability to live and work productively and rewardingly with all kinds of people.”