Last Updated: Aug 21, 2020
This past summer, I attended a program for high school students that gave me memories and lessons I will never forget. I discovered there is so much that can be gained from these programs—with nothing to lose. I attended the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) World Leadership Congress (WLC) in Chicago, Illinois. For me, the experience was well worth the cost. (But remember, some summer programs are free and many offer scholarships.) This weeklong program gave me new insights into myself and the world.
Summer programs, like the one I attended, introduce you to new friendships, show you what college life is like, and inspire you to apply what you learned back home. They help you “know your why” (that was the 2016 WLC theme!). Here’s a little bit more about those summer program benefits.
Lifelong friendships and connections
Making new friends can be intimidating. Summer camps and programs bring you together with other people who share the same passion. They may teach you new things about the subject you love, and you might show them how to tackle a challenge from a different angle. Even though you start off surrounded by strangers, those several days at summer camp lead to close bonds and lifelong friendships.
One of my friends from WLC, Kiel Reid, said, “I have never done a summer program before…so this was definitely new for me. I do recommend summer programs for anyone and everyone; they get you out making relationships that you will remember for the rest of your life.” And you can use your summer program connections all throughout your life. Imagine, months or years later, you might see on Instagram that your camp buddy started a club at his school. If you are curious about how he did it, you can call him for advice about your new college club or business idea.
A peek at the college life
Many summer programs for high school students are “pre-college programs” that take place on a college or university campus. You might even be able to attend a pre-college program at a college of interest, which would give you a true preview of your potential future—and maybe even college credit. But even if your pre-college program isn’t at a school you’re considering going to, it can still give you a glimpse of what life is like after high school.
WLC took place at Loyola University Chicago. I slept in the dorms, ate at the dining hall, and participated in some activities in the classroom and auditorium. Many high school sport camps take place at local colleges, as athletes experience the schedule of a collegiate athlete. Even outdoor camping programs can introduce you to the college lifestyle, since you’re off on your own, learning to be more independent, and interacting with other students from all over.
Just deciding what is most important to bring to your summer program and what needs to stay at home can teach you about living more independently. (An alarm clock may be a necessity, since I have yet to hear of a summer camp that does not have an early wakeup call or lets you sleep on your own schedule!) Summer programs also show what it is like to adjust to a new routine, be away from your parents, and make new friends. In addition to the given purpose of the camp, you will also get to see how exciting (and sometimes stressful) college life is.
Get inspired to make a difference
Summer programs introduce you to new ideas and teach you to return home ready to make a difference. WLC had a variety of motivational speakers, successful alumni, and influential people share their failures and triumphs with us. I took notes on how to improve my character, ideas of what I can do to benefit my community, and where I can thrive as a leader. At the end of each presentation and at the end of the week, I was told how to take what I learned and apply it in my life, potentially transforming the lives of others as well.
Even though they are often lots of fun, summer programs for high school students can also have a greater purpose. When it comes to being the best person you can be and doing something you love, whether it’s a job or a hobby, summer programs can show you where to begin and how to be successful. It varies from camp to camp, but it’s that overarching purpose that catches my attention and gets me to send in my summer camp application. So far, I have successfully started a Random Acts of Kindness club at my high school, given 108 hours of service to my community, and most importantly, I know my “why.” Not to mention, I keep in contact with the friends I met at summer camp. Another close friend from WLC, Josh Allmon, said, “I signed up for [a summer program] hoping to learn leadership skills, but what I left with was more than I ever could’ve asked for. I left a new person, full of determination to make a difference and backed by some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I would 13/10 recommend going to any [summer program]; it’s quite frankly the best decision you’ll ever make.”
Related: How to Find the Perfect Summer Camp
Every swim camp, leadership program, and church trip I have attended has provided the steps to making a positive change somehow in my everyday life. I feel like I understand what my future may be like as a college student after experiencing it for a few days. And I remain connected to my closest friends across the nation and world. Summer programs may not be for everyone, but don’t be surprised if one catches your attention! From summer program about video game design to the Air Force Academy Summer Seminar, there is almost certainly a program out that will fit your passion—or help you discover one.
What reasons do you have for going to a summer camp or special program? Have you been to one already? Do you want to in the future? Let us know on social media @CollegeXpress!