By Sophia Cetina


There’s summer camp, and then there is pre-college camp, which is what I was fortunate enough to participate in earlier this summer.

As a person who loves writing, mental challenges, and air conditioning, being accepted into the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop was better than discovering $50 in my wallet.

For two weeks I was immersed in a writer’s haven in the rolling hills of Gambier, Ohio, at Kenyon College. Gambier is a nine-hour drive from Rye, and, as was noted in my 13-person Kenyon workshop, it can be defined in three words: “Cornfields and cows.”

But these two weeks exceeded my expectations. I did, however wonder whether this was the college environment for me. Would I prefer a more urban setting? Would I be happy this far from home?

In addition to the social experiences and recreational itineraries, pre-college summer programs provide the valuable opportunity to explore a college campus, focus on a field of personal interest, meet students from all over the country, and live in a dorm away from home, a pre-curser to college life.

Another reason to participate in a pre-college program is that they provide great depth on a subject. At Kenyon, we were immersed in workshops five hours a day. We read a variety of poetry, from Bob Hicok (1960- ) to Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). Every day we were also given a prompt and once the teacher yelled, “Go,” we had 30 minutes to carve out worthy prose.

While I learned more deeply about a field I’m considering pursuing, I also experienced the social advantages these programs provide. I enhanced my own perspectives while meeting people whose lives are very different from my own. My roommate was from Seattle, and I now have friends in L.A. and Taiwan. Late-night chats with my roommate, a swimming excursion at the college’s athletic center, planned activities, group activities, free time, sightseeing, and fast friendships all lightened the long workday. I went on walks and explored Kenyon’s picturesque, medieval layout. I found out that this college was considered as the Harry Potter filming site because of Pierce, the bewitchingly beautiful dining center that resembles Hogwart’s Great Hall.

When I returned, I was enriched with memories, information, and the soul-soothing nature of a vacation experienced in rich, 24-hour cycles.  

My advice to other high school students: Explore the summer college programs out there. Find a topic that interests you, a part of the country you’d like to see, a college you might be considering. You could be a Google search away from the summer of your dreams. This summer, Kaitlyn Zion, a Rye High school senior, attended Marymount Manhattan Musical Theater summer intensive. She says, “It was amazing. I learned so much.” Greta Filor, a Rye High junior, enjoyed three weeks of government and politics at Georgetown in July. Of her experience, she says, “It was interesting to meet people from so many different backgrounds.”

While enjoying a program that indulges your interests and allows you to meet others who share those interests, you just might find the college best suited for life after Rye High School. I discovered that my experience offered inspiration, laughs with friends, writerly frustration (and progress!), many memories, and two weeks that passed by in a second.

An online search will help you find the program right for you. Start by going directly to the sites of colleges you’re interested in, or log on to collegexpress.com/lists/list/top-summer-pre-college-programs/1761.