An exclusive Q&A with Peter Davos, Founder, Hale Education Group
What summer opportunities exist for UAE students?
A meaningful summer can take many forms: an athletics camp, an online course, volunteering, shadowing a professional in a career you’re interested in, or a program deeply focused on an academic topic you love, whether creative writing, medicine, aerospace engineering, entrepreneurship, or business management. While summer is a great opportunity to demonstrate your continued commitment to your intellectual and extracurricular passions, it offers the perfect opportunity to venture beyond your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to study a subject that falls outside of your curriculum or that you have not had the chance to explore, or to try something completely new – like volunteering to build homes for Habitat for Humanity! At US universities, students can take summer classes for academic credit while also living on campus with other students from all around the world. This is a great chance to gain insight into college life at a US university campus, while also refining your academic interests and making new friends.
Is completing a summer program essential for students?
Not every student has the time or financial resources to complete a residential program in the US. Taking a free online course, volunteering, training for an athletic competition, or even working are valuable ways for students to spend their summers. If students are engaged in a productive way with something they are passionate about, they are making a good use of their summer.
How would you recommend students and parents to start looking for reputable programs?
Students can begin by looking for summer programs at universities they are interested in, as well as ones focused on specific interests they hope to explore. Most major US universities offer opportunities for high school students during the summer. Students should not take summer classes for college credit if they are not adequately prepared; most college credit courses condense a semester of undergraduate course content into three to four weeks.
How do you know if it is the right program for the student?
The most valuable summer is one that allows a student to discover his or her interests in a new way, whether that is through a community service initiative, a research program, or a service trip abroad. A program the student is not enthusiastic about would not be the right fit. Ultimately, the best programs are the ones where students will develop a sense of intellectual curiosity and passion, regardless of what the student is planning on studying in university.
How do summer programs add value to a student’s college application?
A student who completes a selective summer program that is rigorous or offers university credit demonstrates the ability to succeed in college-level work. Completing a challenging program also highlights their intellectual curiosity.
When should school students start thinking about applying for summer programs and why?
Many summer programs accept qualified applicants on a first-come, first-serve basis through May, but tend to fill up quickly. Other programs, specifically the more competitive ones, have deadlines in February and March. It is important that students understand the various options available to them, and begin their application early so that they have enough time to gather all the required materials.
Will certain programs limit students’ reputation in the US university application processes?
Not all summer programs are created equal, and some are more reputable and selective than others; a program hosted on Harvard’s campus may be run by a private company unaffiliated with the university. Such programs are open to anyone with the means to pay their fees and add very little value to the college application. Make sure to perform your due diligence and find out who is actually providing the summer program.
To families and students intimidated by this process, what would you advise as the first step?
Families should look into their summer schedule and identify what types of opportunities the student is most interested in, as well as how much they would be willing to pay – programs can vary greatly in cost and length! Students will be able to find shorter programs of just a couple of days, as well as longer programs of six weeks or more. The earlier families start looking, the more time they have to identify a suitable option, understand the application process, and gather the necessary application materials.
After a summer program is completed what should students do to evaluate their experience and ensure they are coming away with the most valuable outcome?
Students should ask: what have I learned, how have I grown, and how has this influenced the path I want to pursue in the future? It is advisable to keep a journal during the program, so that students can easily reflect on the details of their day-to-day experiences after returning home.