Summer school at the University of Virginia is not just for college-aged students. New this year, high school students looking for a firsthand feel of university life spent four weeks on Grounds, taking college-level classes and getting a taste of the independence that comes with life at a university.
Twenty-eight rising high school juniors and seniors, some traveling from as far away as China, started their adventure July 13 with orientation and move-in day at Hereford Residential College.
In the UVa Advance Summer College Experience, students with a GPA of at least 3.5 in a college preparatory curriculum apply to take one of two specially tailored core courses, plus another 1000- or 2000-level Summer Session class alongside undergraduates. They take home six, transferable undergraduate U.Va. credits.
UVa Advance also offers sessions on academic skills, student support services, the college application process, finances, education abroad, choosing a major and more.
“And if that’s not enough, we also are providing some fun activities,” said Rachel Nottingham Miller, associate director of the Summer Session and special academic programs. The group visited Sherando Lake and Monticello, and attended the Heritage Theatre Festival production of “Shear Madness,” she said.
Seventeen-year-old Karan Luo first heard about the program from her high school counselor in Guangzhou, China, in the spring of 2014. She was attracted to the program because she wants to go to college in the United States. “Also, I heard that U.Va. is a very nice school,” she said. So she hopped on a plane – alone – and headed to Charlottesville.
Of the two core courses, Luo decided to take a new offering from award-winning English professor Lisa Russ Spaar, “‘Selfies’ Old and New: Self Portrayal in Poetry and Visual Art.” Students explored the human fascination with self-portrayal, its relationship to the humanities and to what it means to be human.
Luo said she was particularly attracted to the class because her high school class load is weighed down with science and math. Spaar agreed that UVa Advance gives these high-functioning high schoolers a chance to try something outside their academic focus. “The most rewarding thing to me and I think to them is to allow them to see how poetry and visual art help you to lead your life ... in ways that don’t get addressed in some of the other classes they are taking,” she said.The other core class offered by UVa Advance this summer focused on the evolution of human rights, “Human Rights in a World of States – Origins, Effects, Prospects,” taught by Michael Smith, associate professor of political and social thought.“It’s important, I think, to point out that there is no expectation that these students will attend U.Va,” Miller said. “Some of them are considering applying here, but the idea of the program is to give them a broad introduction to the university experience more generally.”
Dudley Doane, the director of the International Studies Office and Summer and Special Academic Programs, said moving forward, there are plans to make financial aid available to increase access to the program.
“We are pleased to offer this talented group of students an introduction to the University of Virginia and an opportunity to experience college,” said Maurie McInnis, vice provost for academic affairs. “They will leave the UVa Advance program prepared to negotiate the college application and selection process, equipped to transition to life as an undergraduate student and, most importantly, ready to succeed in classes.”
The dates for UVa Advance 2015 are July 12 to Aug. 7.