We've all heard it. "It's crucial that you tour the colleges you're applying to so you know what they're really like." • This is true, but sometimes even college tours offer only a selected view of the school. For a better idea of what it's like to be a college student, colleges around the country offer courses and camps over the summer. This past summer I spent three weeks at New York University for a Classical Voice Intensive offered through the Steinhardt School of Music. • Here are five insights such programs can give you:
The atmosphere. The only way to get a real idea of what it's like to be a college student is to actually be one. During my time at NYU, I learned I loved the city atmosphere in New York. I really enjoyed walking through the streets every morning with the yellow taxicabs whizzing by. That sort of atmosphere is not for everyone, though. NYU is really embedded in the city, so it doesn't really have a campus of its own. This could be a real turnoff for many students. It's important to know what kind of atmosphere you enjoy studying and living in.
The living situation. Let's admit it, we're all a little scared of living on our own. These programs provide dorm stays, so participants learn exactly what dorm life is like. You often are set up with roommates, and have to share a bathroom, just like in the real dorm world.
The classes. This varies from program to program, but more often than not you will be taking classes in a subject you're considering for a major or focus. These programs will set you up with professors in these fields and give you a realistic idea of the curriculum. This is a huge benefit in that you can discover "Yes, this is super interesting!" or "This is all right, but maybe I shouldn't major in this subject." This puts you a step ahead of the game. Don't be discouraged if you find a particular program isn't for you; not everything will be.
The responsibilities. For a few weeks you're basically living on your own as a college student. Yes, that includes doing your own laundry, cleaning your room and waking up without Mom yelling you out of bed. You're responsible for getting to class and using good time management to balance getting your work done and having fun. Most programs enforce curfews for minors, but aside from that, you have the freedom to do whatever you'd like.
The food. Let's not act like this isn't a big deal; come on, it's food! There's no avoiding college dining halls. College students are notoriously broke, so you will be forced to eat dining hall food at least some of the time. Eating out is expensive, and most freshman college dorms only have kitchens suited for cooking ramen and pizza rolls. But I have news: Dining hall food actually can be good! I'm not saying every college will have fabulous cuisine, but there is usually at least one really great dining hall on campus, you just have to find it.
Summer college programs are everywhere, just open another tab on Facebook, or Google your favorite colleges to see what they offer. Be warned these programs COST MONEY, usually lots of it, and require applications that sometimes entail essays or letters of recommendation, so it's best to get started ASAP.