Life-Changing College Experiences

Leeanne and friends at the last dance

Duke University has a three week long academic program called Duke Tip for students in grades four through 12. It is not pre-collegiate and students applying have to take the SAT or ACT to get in, it’s academically selective.

One day senior Alexandra Bonat was reading the Alumni Magazine with her mom, who attended Duke and found out about the program.

Bonat chose Human Dimensions of Bio Technology as her course, but students do not receive credits for all classes.

“You get to pick classes you are interested in and learn topics that are not offered in high school. It wasn’t a stressful environment and got help from the teacher or teacher’s assistant in class,” Bonat said.

The only thing Bonat did not like about the experience of living in the dorms at college was the bathroom situation.

In their free time the students in the Duke Tip program would go to minor league baseball games, go to the student center, hang out in the common room, watched or participated in a talent show, and they had dances every week.

Bonat has gone every summer for the past four years and last summer was her last year attending.

“The last dance was my favorite, it was pouring rain, and I was outside with friends. It was the end of the program,” Bonat said.

Bonat described it as an amazing experience and if you have the opportunity to go. You meet a lot of people in a short amount of time and even make some best friends for life. Although it is $4000 there is financial aid offered or you could take online classes.

My Experience at Stanford University (HSSC)

My experience at Stanford was similar. It definitely is a life changing experience to go and live on a college campus for eight weeks. I also hated the bathrooms and shower rooms. The bathrooms and shower rooms were all gender and its weird using the bathroom with guys. You definitely have to be very mature and be academically ready for these types of programs.

Stanford’s High School Summer College program (HSSC) is not only academically selective, but students have to have personality and a motive to achieve the best grades possible while there. Stanford has different types of summer programs, but I chose the eight week because it is pre-collegiate and it was the longest.

The program can cost between $10,000-20,000 depending on how many units you take and if you choose to get the medical insurance or not and including travel and personal spending money.

We had many activities going on and you are free to leave campus and live as an adult. In the program fees it includes all the field trips you can go on, such as the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, San Francisco Zoo, Alcatraz, and many more. I tried to go to all the field trips with my friends and we created memories we will keep forever.

In the span of eight weeks I made five amazing best friends. I got to know so many people in a short amount of time and you really do learn who true friends are. I wish I got to bring all of them back to Iowa with me. You wouldn’t think you could make close bonds with people in the span of eight weeks, but you do. Even making friends with the college students who are your mentors.

There was so much to do on campus and it was absolutely gorgeous. Students learn a lot by going to these types of programs. I feel so much older than I am and have changed a lot. I learned how to budget money, get around on my own with maps, handle a busy schedule, manage time with fun and important things I need to do.

I learned a lot academically too. I learned some computer coding along with human rights. I took eight units and they were two classes, Abnormal Psychology and Human rights with World Literature. The psychology class was a lecture and the Human Rights was a seminar.

Seminar classes are not for me I learned. You sit around and listen for two to three hours and you read so much material in such little time. Lecture classes are great if you learn better with notes. I learned a lot about the world and laws and things going on that you wouldn’t think would happen in my Human Rights with World Literature class.

It was common for other students and myself to get discouraged with grades, but we were always reminded that Stanford chose the best of the best of high school students that applied and only 500 were selected. We were also reminded that these are higher level college courses we are taking that the average gets a C.

Stanford offered SARC which is a tutoring program if you needed help at any time of the day. My friends and I all passed with really good grades and my friends and I went often. I got a B+ in my Human Rights with World Literature class, I expected to do a lot worse, and a B in my Abnormal Psychology, the group project didn’t go so well. I am really happy with the success I have made though.

The dances and talent shows were amazing and a great time to let loose with friends. You meet so many diverse and interesting people along with cultures. Being there I did not meet one person that was the same everyone was so unique.

You learn a lot about yourself too. I loved diving into other cultures and sharing my own. I figured out how to use bus systems and maps. It is really confusing at first and we did get lost along the way, but eventually we got the hang of it. I wasn’t afraid to try things there and a lot of insecurities went away. I discovered interests I didn’t know I had while I was there and I found what out what I will be double majoring in, Research Psychology and Law.

These opportunities colleges offer to high school students are amazing, but we don’t really know about them. I did not know that colleges offered this until my counselor, Lori Clore, gave me the information about Stanford’s program. I think students should look into these and apply to one before they graduate.

You learn a lot about what is like to be a college student. It truly is completely different than high school and way better. Coming back to finish my senior year was the worst because I already love college and high school sucks. Take these opportunities and make the most out of them. Money isn’t everything you can always get financial aid.


Photo By Maki Asrat
From Left to right Leeanne Mehring-Cruz, Amal Suri, Elisha Sidhu, Gabby Tan, and Gabby Rumasuglia having a photo shoot in front of the Florence Moore Hall before the final dance
Photo Courtesy of Alexandra Bonat
Alexandra Bonat and RC group spray painting on a tunnel on Duke East campus. The graffiti wall has been there for at least 30 years and students are allowed to paint there within certain boundaries
Photo By Leeanne Mehring-Cruz
The Main Quad at Stanford University
Photo By Leeanne Mehring-Cruz
The Monterey Bay Aquarium field trip and we stopped by an expensive candy store
Photo Courtesy of Alexandra Bonat
Alexandra Bonat sr. (Right), with friend at Duke University
Photo Courtesy of Alexandra Bonat
Alexandra’s Human Dimensions of BioTech class