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The Summer Science Program- Should You Do It?

Engaging in extracurricular programs can be pivotal in shaping a student's college application, particularly in a highly competitive admissions landscape. In this exploration, we'll delve into the Summer Science Program (SSP) and explore its impact on a student's profile. SSP is just one of many summer enrichment programs across the US that focuses on creating exposure for high school students to experience STEM in a university environment.


Since its inception in 1959, SSP has offered a unique experience, immersing high school students in hands-on experimental science.


In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the overall structure of SSP, including its eligibility, costs, curriculum, a typical day for participants, and application information.


We'll also delve into the prestige associated with SSP and how you can make the most out of this experience.


What is the Summer Science Program?

SSP, is a summer program run by its own alumni and former faculty. With over six decades of history, it has left a lasting impact on young minds, cultivating a worldwide network of more than 2,500 alums. In 2023, SSP operated six programs in various fields:

  1. Three programs in Astrophysics focus on research in near-earth asteroid orbit determination at New Mexico State University, the University of Colorado Boulder, and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

  2. Two programs in Biochemistry, dedicated to research in fungal crop pathogens at Purdue University and Indiana University.

  3. One program in Genomics centered on research in the evolution of antibiotic resistance at Indiana University.


It's an intensive immersion experience that encourages collaboration and challenges students to push their boundaries.


Is it Prestigious?

While this program is a highly coveted experience that lists various prerequisites, it's important to note that “prestige” is also measured by accessibility. This program does have a fee associated with it, despite the academic requirements listed on the website. Therefore, its prestige may be viewed at face value on an academic profile since this is a “paid” program, however, the ability to network and engage in college-level research is a plus in terms of preparation.


What are some unique components of the SSP?

Field trips in the in-person Summer Science Program occur once or twice a week, offering participants access to various scientific, cultural, and recreational destinations.

For example, field trips at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill offer exposure to enriching experiences such as exploring the wonders of astronomy at Morehead Planetarium, immersing in the local culture at Franklin Street, and enjoying the thrill of a Durham Bulls Baseball Game.


These excursions not only provide a break from the academic routine but also offer real-world applications of scientific principles, fostering a holistic understanding of subjects beyond the classroom.


What can I expect as a participant?

You will be expected to collaborate on challenging research projects. Participants in the 2023 cycle focused on various topics including three programs in Astrophysics, two programs in Biochemistry, and one program in Genomics with 24 participants.

The program schedule features classroom and lab sessions six days a week, complemented by guest lectures and special events.


Classroom time is dedicated to building a comprehensive understanding of experimental science and the specific research topic, problem sets are used to reinforce the material.


You work in teams, with each team focusing on their unique research target. They are responsible for the entire research process, from acquiring and analyzing experimental data to reporting findings.


The faculty for each program includes an Academic Director and an Associate Academic Director, both holding PhDs in science education, a Site Director, and four Teaching Assistants and Mentors.


Who is eligible to apply?

SSP is open to current high school juniors and, in exceptional cases, some sophomores who have completed the necessary prerequisites and will be between the ages of 15 and 19 during the program. It's important to meet these requirements to ensure a successful application.


To satisfy the prerequisite requirements, applicants must have completed a relevant course for credit and received a grade by June. Advanced Placement (AP) or higher-level courses are not mandatory. Self-study needs to meet the prerequisite criteria. If the required courses have not been taken, applicants are not eligible to apply.


Prerequisites:

  • For Astrophysics: High school juniors (11th grade) should have completed physics (at any level of high school physics) and precalculus. In the absence of physics, calculus is required.

  • For Sophomore (10th grade) applicants in Astrophysics, Physics (at any level) and calculus are prerequisites.

  • For Biochemistry: Juniors or sophomores must have completed coursework in biology chemistry and possess strong algebra skills.

  • For Genomics: Juniors or sophomores should have completed coursework in biology and Algebra II.


International students are encouraged to apply, applying under the same process as U.S. citizens but with an earlier deadline. International applicants include those not U.S. citizens or green card holders and U.S. citizens studying abroad. Here are some important points for international applicants:

  1. Deadline: Make sure to align the application deadline with your school calendar to avoid holiday or break-related delays in obtaining transcripts and teacher evaluations. Meeting the deadline is your responsibility, and late applications are not accommodated.

  2. Application Status: Use the application status page to confirm receipt of your application components before inquiring about them. Wait 2-3 days for the application parts to be logged and marked as complete.

  3. Transcript Requirement: Official transcripts, listing courses and grades for grades 9, 10, and 11, are essential. If you changed schools, provide transcripts from each school. Your current school should send transcripts directly to SSP. If your transcript doesn't include ongoing coursework, provide that information. Transcripts in languages other than English, Spanish, or French should be translated.

  4. Test Scores: While not mandatory, standardized test scores like SAT, ACT, and TOEFL enhance your application. Only report math or science-related scores and national or international competition results in these areas.

  5. Visas: Most non-U.S. citizens will require a tourist visa (e.g., B-2 Visitor's Visa) as SSP is considered a non-credit enrichment program. Ensure you apply for the visa well in advance to meet the application deadline.

Note: Applying for a visa carries the risk of not receiving it in time, so be proactive. Limited spots are available for non-U.S. citizens, and demand can be high.


What is the Application Process like?

The application process is free, and while there is a program fee, generous need-based financial aid is available, ensuring that students from lower-income families can attend at a fee they can afford. In 2023, 44% of participants attended at a discounted fee, with half attending at no cost. Financial aid also covers the cost of travel to and from the program.


Here are the key dates for the 2023 application cycle,

  • Thursday, December 15, 2022: Applications open.

  • Friday, February 3, 2023: Deadline for international applicants (all non-U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens attending school outside the U.S.).

  • Friday, March 3, 2023: Deadline for U.S. citizens and green card holders attending school in the U.S.

  • Programs run from mid-June to the end of July in 2023.

You can find the 2024 cycle on the updated website!


Should you do it?

Now, let's explore ten compelling reasons why you should consider participating in SSP,

  1. There is a high rigor: SSP offers an academically rigorous experience, challenging you beyond high school coursework and preparing you for the demands of college.

  2. Gain hands-on Experience: You won't just learn about science; you'll actively engage in scientific research, from data collection to analysis.

  3. This program is selective: SSP's competitive nature ensures you'll be among highly motivated and talented peers.

  4. Engage in collaboration: SSP fosters a strong culture of collaboration, where teamwork and support from fellow participants are integral to success.

  5. Find personal and academic growth: The program transforms you, making you more efficient, optimistic, humble, and supportive – qualities valued in college and beyond.

  6. Find a sustainable network: SSP connects you to a global network of alums and faculty, providing a unique support system throughout your life.

  7. Gain career clarity: SSP helps you determine if a STEM major and career are the right fit for you, guiding your future academic and professional decisions.

  8. Learn practical skills: You'll develop valuable skills such as time management, which will benefit you in college and your career.

  9. Options for financial aid: The availability of financial aid ensures that economic barriers do not limit your opportunity to participate.

  10. Prepare and earn college preparation: SSP equips you with the tools and insights to excel academically and personally, helping you stand out to admissions officers.


Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you want to engage in research, consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Tenzing Dolma is a Masters student specializing in research following the Nechung Oracle and the historical, religious, and cognitive approaches to its presence. She has a bachelors in Neuroscience from Loyola University Chicago and is currently completing her graduate studies at Columbia University. She hopes to help students find their passions through access to programs and organizations the same way she found hers!


Image Source: Summer Science Program logo

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