High School Students Experience a Life-Changing Wellesley Summer

Participants in the One Wellesley Summer program enjoy a day trip to Plymouth, Mass.
Photo provided by Becca Pachl
July 21, 2017

For young women around the world, Wellesley has long been synonymous with an outstanding education, vast possibilities, and a breathtaking campus. Four years ago, the College added one more description to that list: an unforgettable summer for rising high school juniors and seniors in Wellesley’s pre-college residential program.

The program, which gives participants the chance to take college courses alongside Wellesley students, has been so successful that this year, the College is introducing a one-week residential workshop for rising sophomores and juniors. Both give attendees a chance to study with Wellesley faculty and experience life on campus.

“The four-week program is designed to give students the richest possible academic and social experience and help them expand their ways of thinking. They also earn college credit,” said Corinne Frazer, Director of Summer Term, which is part of Wellesley’s new Strategic Growth Initiatives effort. “The one-week program offers a five-day glimpse into Wellesley’s faculty-taught courses, warm and welcoming residential life, and the beauty of the campus,” said Frazer.

Thirty-nine high school girlsfrom 10 states and four foreign countriesare enrolled in the four-week program, which began June 25. Participants take a required writing courseeither The Selfie in American Life or Studies in Memoirand a level-one elective course of their choosing in the arts, classical mythology, English, math, philosophy, psychology, sociology, theatre studies, or women’s and gender studies.

The day begins at 8:30 am, when participants dine in their residence hall, Stone-Davis. Then half of them head to their writing class, and the others to their elective. After lunch, students attend their second class. In the evening, they complete homework, relax with one another, explore campus, head into “the Vil,” or take part in activities planned by the residential staff. There’s always something to do.

On the weekends, participants take field trips to cultural attractions in the Boston area, such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Quincy Market, and the New England Aquarium. “We want students to have a variety of stimulating experiences both on and off campus,” said Frazer.

“It has been an absolutely incredible experience,” said Narelle Shen, a rising senior from China.

Hancine Mok, a rising senior from Illinois, agrees. “Everyone is so incredibly nice,” she said. The faculty and staff “are all so willing to help everyone and anyone,” and other participants “always say hi if you pass them on the sidewalk. It [has just been] really welcoming.”

Past participants also rave about the program. “I researched a lot of pre-college programs, and Wellesley’s stood out because of its size and because it offered the opportunity to experience what college is really like. Most of the other programs I applied to isolated the high school students from the rest of campus life,” said Meha Ahluwalia ’20, from Dublin, Calif. “At Wellesley, we took classes alongside the regular college students and had access to all of the campus facilities.”

That experience and supportive faculty pushed her to become a better writer and critical thinker. “It was initially difficult to make the transition from high school to college work, since there were fewer rigid assignments and longer readings, but I eventually became comfortable writing papers quickly, decrypting complex texts, and voicing my ideas in class,” she said. “I felt more prepared to take on college after having a chance to ‘practice’ that summer.”

“The experience, and Wellesley as a whole ... helped bring out a person within me who was always there, but too shy to fully come out,” said Tanvi Kodali ’20, of Hillsborough, N.J.

While some participants end up attending Wellesley, that is not the intent of the program, and admission to the College is not guaranteed. “Instead, the pre-college residential programs are meant to give young women a better sense of their own potential and how they might contribute to their communities in the future,” said Frazer.

The one-week workshop, which begins July 24, will welcome another 38 young women to campus. Participants will take one of three courses—Writing Flash Fiction, Writing Poetry, or The Mathematics of Metabolism, Diet, and Health. They will live in Stone-Davis and interact with the young women in the College’s new Women’s Leadership program.

Sifan “Fanny” Wang, a rising senior from Canada, offers these words of encouragement to the one-week students and future attendees: “You will learn a lot from your peers, your teachers, your RAs and RDs. I highly recommend Wellesley. You are going to feel like it is home.”