The Summer Program Survival Guide: 5 VIT’s (Very Important Tips)

Sam is a 15-year old from Montgomery, NJ. She enjoys playing tennis, writing and Community Service. Her favorite subject in school is History.

As the school year draws to a close, the last thing teens want to think about is learning, right? Not exactly. College experience programs for the summer have been popping up at major universities across the nation, and even across the globe. I am a veteran of these programs, having spent my last summer at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and getting ready to spend this summer at the University of Michigan. So for those of you packing your bags and booking your flights, I can give you some tips on what to expect, as well as how to make your experience as fun as possible.

Tip 1: Be friendly to everyone: When I went up to UMass last summer, I was surprised to find that out of 90 or so teens, exactly half of those teens were from foreign countries, most from Spain, Italy, or France. These kids, as nice as they were, tended to close themselves off from my American friends and I, and speak mostly in Spain Spanish (NOT Latin American Spanish, as I learned in school), French and Italian. In response, my American friends closed themselves off from the Europeans and Arabs. Rather than join my friends, I chose to branch off and take the time to get to know a little bit about everyone. This definitely worked to my advantage, as I still keep in touch with friends in Spain, France, and even Kuwait and Bulgaria.

Tip 2: Have fun in your classes: Ashley, one of my friends at the UMass program, was one of many kids who would complain about the courses they chose and decided not to take them seriously or even skip them. Even I will admit that the offer to skip an assignment was tempting. However, the best way I figured out to block out any rebellious temptations was to try and make class as fun as possible. This may be harder to do with an SAT Prep Course, but be yourself and treat the class as you would treat a class at school. Trust me, if you maintain a positive attitude with your classes, two-and-half-hour classes can fly in minutes.

Tip 3: Follow the rules, no matter how ludicrous: Contrasting with other summer programs, the UMass program I went to allowed off-campus smoking. This rule was nowhere near as enforced as the rules on drinking. If someone were caught drinking, under the influence of, or in possession of alcohol, they had to find their own way home. In fact, two Spanish girls were almost caught after stumbling in past curfew, admitting to my friends and I that they paid townies to buy them beer. The European kids were constantly complaining on how strict drinking in the US can be. Regardless of ANY situation, do NOT break rules. Seriously, the repercussions aren’t worth it.

Tip 4: Let summer flings come naturally: At UMass, I dated a guy, Neil. Neil was a sweetheart and aspiring to go to Syracuse. He made me laugh and drove me crazy. At the end, we promised to keep in touch as friends (and still do to this day). Some teens use college experiences like mine to hook up with another guy or girl. However, this shouldn’t be your main goal while at the campus. As dreamy as those Italian boys are, girls, it is best to put making friends and having a good time first. Oh, and if you do hook up, remember to know your limits and know when to say no.

Tip 5: Acknowledge your independence: At UMass, we were given various opportunities to be on our own. Starting with Six Flag New England to a New England beach to the entire city of Boston, the RAs (counselors) at UMass gave my friends and I a lot of responsibility and trust in making the right decisions and acting like adults, or more accurately, as college students. In short, realize that you have a lot of independence on your hands that you will soon use in a few short years. Act like a responsible adult, trust your instincts and use common sense.

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