Summer Break: More Than Just A Time For Fun


by Cara

There’s more to summer break than binge watching Netflix, going to the mall with friends, and staying up late just because you can. While the summer is a good time to relax, it’s also a great time to start planning ahead for the path you’ll take after high school. Making use of your summer break by taking part in programs will look great on college and scholarship applications.

Whether you want to get an early start on the college application process or explore your academic interests, there is a program for you. The programs I attended during the summer helped me decided what to study in college, and I also think they helped me stand out in my applications.

Below are three summer programs that I think are worth checking out. The best part is all of these programs are free, and one of them even pays its participants!

Questbridge College Prep Scholarship

The Questbrige College Prep Scholarship is not a traditional scholarship because you do not receive money to pay college expenses. Instead, it is a pathway to summer opportunities and getting a head start on the college application process for current juniors.

I didn’t apply to this when I was in high school but I know a lot about the application process because it’s similar to their senior year program for which I was a finalist. Seniors can apply for their National College Match program that helps high-achieving, low-income high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to selective colleges such as Columbia, Stanford, and Yale.

Students selected as College Prep Scholars will receive free test prep, priority consideration to receive all-expense-paid college visits, early access to the National College Match application, and assistance from Questbridge to strengthen their National College Match application.

Scholars may also receive one or more of the following: full scholarships to college summer programs, an invitation to a college admissions conference, personalized college essay support, telementoring with college students, and/or Quest for Excellence Awards.

The application opens in February and will be due on March 25, 2015.

To be eligible, students must be juniors who are planning to apply to college during the fall of their senior year. They must also meet the citizenship requirement by being a U.S. citizen, Permanent Resident, or international student attending high school in the United States.

Questbrige is looking for students who have shown outstanding academic ability despite any economic challenges their family has faced. Many College Prep Scholars come from households earning less than $60,000 annually for a family of four and have also experienced long-term economic hardship.

When looking at your application they look at academic achievement, financial need, and personal circumstances. To apply you need to submit a transcript, one recommendation from a core subject teacher, an essay and short answer questions, financial information, and any test score information if you have taken any of these tests: PSAT, SAT, PLAN, ACT, Subject Tests, IB, and AP.

Most students selected have an average GPA of 3.88, an ACT score of 27 or higher, and are in the top 10% of their class. One of the great aspects of this program is that they are willing to consider your personal circumstances, so don’t let a lower GPA, ACT score, and/or class rank stop you from applying.

Carleton Liberal Arts Experience: July 5-11, 2015

I did not attend this program, but I think it is a great opportunity for current sophomores, especially those interested in attending Carleton College or another small liberal arts college. Students spend the week living at Carleton and learning about liberal art education by taking courses in science, art, social sciences, and technology.

Workshops are also held to inform participants on topics such as ACT prep and the financial aid process. The program covers all costs including living in the residence halls and travel to the Carleton College campus.

To be eligible, students must plan to attend college after high school. They must also be of African American descent or have an interest in African American culture. The application requires students to answer seven short essay questions, submit a transcript with their freshman and sophomore year grades, and submit at least one letter of recommendation from an academic teacher.

The application is available now and is due on April 1, 2015.

GopherBusiness Program: July 17-25, 2015

This program is run by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Participants compete in a business case competition, take business classes, live in the dorms on campus for a week, and visit local businesses.

The business case competition involves a different local non-profit each year. The program is free and you even earn a stipend! If you attend the Carlson School after graduating from the program, you will also receive a scholarship.

From the program website, “each year, we select approximately 45 students to be a part of the GopherBusiness program. It’s a highly selective program. GopherBusiness applicants should be:

  • Current high school sophomores or juniors.
  • Interested in business, non-profit or organizational leadership.
  • From a diverse background; a future first-generation college student; from an economically disadvantaged background; students with disabilities; females; or students of LGBT and related identities.”

The ideal applicants for the program will have a minimum 3.4 cumulative grade point average, strong math and science coursework, and demonstrated leadership and involvement.

When I applied to the program, the application required a couple of essays, a list of activities I was involved in, and a form that my counselor needed to fill out.

The application for this summer’s program will open on February 6, 2015 and is due April 3, 2015.

Getting to live on a college campus for a week during the GopherBusiness camp really helped me feel prepared to leave for college this past fall. I met so many great people and I’m still in regular contact with my roommate and people from my competition group.

If you have any interest in studying business after high school, I highly recommend this program.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about applying to these programs!

College Culture Shock


by Lucillia

Culture shock is something that a person deals with when going into a new environment. For some it could be traveling to a new country where you’re not familiar with the culture and language. Or it could be as simple as going to a new school where it’s obvious that you represent the minority, as was the case for me.

My high school – Thomas Edison High –  was very diverse. Because my norm is being surrounded by many different cultures and ethnicities, coming to the University of St. Thomas has been very different for me.

In three of my four classes, I am one of the only African Americans. To me, it’s the “elephant in the room”. While I was typing this blog, I became curious if others felt this way too. I asked my friend (who represents the majority) if she noticed how “not diverse” our classes are. She said that she isn’t really aware of it. I wonder why that is…

So anyway, how can one who looks like an outsider fit in?

For me, the adjustment started this past summer. St Thomas offers a program each summer for incoming freshman who are “under represented” called The REAL Program (REAL stands for Reaching Excellence in Academics). My group consisted of 16 mixed people, Asians, Indians, African Americans and Latinos, and the program lasted five weeks (basically my WHOLE summer!). We took a theology course (which is required to graduate), got on-campus jobs, learned about and utilized many campus resources, lived on campus, did fun activities like Valley Fair, Minnesota United FC soccer games, movie nights, etc. (all for free!).

And most importantly, I met 15 of my best friends. Programs like this help with the transition from high school to college and bring awareness to diversity on campus. Some of my high school friends laughed at me for doing the REAL Program because it took up my whole summer, but it was really one of the best experiences of my life.

Looking for these types of programs is actually super easy. I took five minutes to search for diversity programs at different colleges in Minnesota. Hamline University in St. Paul has diversity scholarships (as most colleges do), the University of Minnesota has diversity leadership workshops and Mankato State University hosts enriching educational programs and cultural activity conferences for not only students, but faculty and staff as well. These groups and activities will help you feel included on campus and get some connections started.

In my three weeks so far on campus I have joined the Hana club, which is the biggest diversity club on campus. They host activities to promote awareness of different cultures. I really enjoy this club because there is a strong sense of community, like we’re all united. My roommate also identifies with the African American community, so this has helped with my transition from high school to college as well.

Dealing with culture shock is a serious thing. It causes you to be confused, sad, lonely and nervous. However, there are ways of dealing with it. Join clubs, make friends with everybody and just remember that lots of other people are in the same boat as you.

Most importantly, try and ignore it. Being able to adapt to new environments is a skill and it can be learned. Realize that you are part of the community, too!