Written by Catherine McDonald Davenport for TeenLife
At the start of the school year, many students were undoubtedly asked about their summer experiences by friends and teachers. Though the ubiquitous “what did you do this summer?” might have solicited eyerolls and groans, students should know their experiences in summer programs are valuable all year long – particularly for their college applications.
As dean of admissions at Dickinson College, I hear a common refrain from high school students and their families: Summer programs “look good” on college applications. I’m here to tell you why they don’t just look good – they are good! And this is especially true of summer abroad programs.
CET Academic Programs
One worthwhile example is prestigious study-abroad organization CET Academic Programs, which offers innovative summer abroad programs in five countries in Europe and Asia for high school students, as well as a program in Washington, D.C. Dickinson is the school of record and credit-granting institution for CET’s high school and pre-college study-abroad programs. That means participants earn college credits while they’re still in high school, giving them a leg up on their college careers. Not to mention arriving at college with enhanced language and cultural skills, a more global mindset and experience with college-level coursework is an enormous bonus.
CET operates pre-college programs at Dickinson study abroad centers in France and Spain, and in 2020, we collaborated to develop the Introduction to Global Perspectives core course for CET’s summer programs. This course specifically focuses on global education, sustainability, community engagement and inclusion, themes in which Dickinson is a recognized education leader.
Global Leaders Scholarship
Better still, Dickinson so values and believes in CET’s summer abroad programs that each year the college awards one well-qualified program alumnus a four-year, full-tuition scholarship.
The Dickinson-CET Global Leaders Scholarship is designed to recognize outstanding academic performance, a global mindset, engagement in the community, a drive to confront important international issues and a strong sense of integrity and character.
The obvious academic jumpstart from summer abroad programs comes with other benefits, too. No matter where you apply, college admissions staff are always trying to build a more complete picture of applicants, using information from their essays, interviews and especially from their high school transcripts. Students who share details about their summer abroad experiences can help fill out that picture with valuable insight not only into academic achievement, but also into personal experience and growth.
Importantly, pre-college summer abroad programs demonstrate students have the motivation and curiosity to really know and understand a subject deeply, not to just learn something for the test. Summer abroad programs also allow students to try out newly acquired skills or deepen current skill sets by immersing them in language learning and new cultural situations. Navigating a new culture and learning a new language by surrounding yourself with native speakers can launch a lifetime of interest.
Summer programs also show off flexibility. They demonstrate clearly that students are year-round learners, not just focused on what happens during the school year. They show that students can learn much outside the classroom, and they prove that students can adapt to a new environment – truly a testament to future success on college campuses.
From a personal perspective, summer programs show that students have social maturity and the emotional intelligence to succeed in college and in future careers. Often, summer programs require students to get outside their comfort zones, meet and interact with new people and spend time away from their hometowns and core groups of friends. Going abroad helps students build confidence. If you can not only survive, but thrive in an entirely new environment, you will likely succeed in a new environment at college.
A summer abroad program is an excellent use of your “time off” from school. And, if you’ve just completed a summer abroad program, don’t be shy about the accomplishment! Tell your friends and teachers, and especially share details about the experience with your college counselors. Summer abroad programs are a year-round and years-long investment in your future.
Written by Catherine McDonald Davenport
Catherine McDonald Davenport is vice president for enrollment management and dean of admissions at Dickinson College, one of the top-ranked liberal arts colleges in the U.S. and the only two-time recipient of the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization. The Dickinson-CET Global Leaders Scholarship is a four-year, full-tuition scholarship awarded annually to a student who shows interest in global issues and has participated in CET high school programs for which Dickinson grants credit.