A group of high school students pose together on the steps of Healy Hall during their three-week summer college prep immersion.
Category: Student Experience

Title: High School Students Return to the Hilltop for Summer College Prep Program

A cohort of 42 students traveled to the Hilltop from around the country for the three-week, intensive college prep program. SCIP helps guide students who are applying to the most selective colleges and universities and who may not have the resources to assist them through the entire college application process.

The students were competitively selected out of a pool of over 90 applicants from the Cristo Rey Network and KIPP Foundation school systems. Throughout the three weeks, students participated in various class sessions, field trips, group discussions, seminars and workshops — a welcome change for many students.

A Return to In-Person Learning, On Campus 

Due to the pandemic, the majority of these students spent most of their high school career learning remotely. Many students said being able to sit together and see each other motivated them to dive into the immersive learning environment. 

Mia Cox, a former SCIP student, now works as a mentor for the program. When she participated in 2020, her SCIP experience was completely virtual due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Years after completing the program, she is now a sophomore at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and is finally able to visit the Hilltop. 

“This program has actually been one of the most impactful things I’ve ever done in my life,” Cox says.

“This program has actually been one of the most impactful things I’ve ever done in my life.”

Mia Cox

Cox describes the return to in-person learning as a game-changer. One thing that did not change, however, is her passion for education and helping others. 

“I am actually considering changing my major just because of how much I’ve loved working with the students,” she says.

With additional support for the program provided by the Marineau Family Foundation and the Georgetown University computer science department, students attended Georgetown Experience Seminars during the program, where they explored fields such as international relations, business, cybersecurity, government, STEM-related fields, liberal arts and health studies.

‘You Just Need To Be You.’

Haroot Hakopian, SCIP’s academic director, said that one of the most important takeaways from the program was conveying to each student that they are all worthy and capable of going to college.

“You make the college, the college doesn’t make you,” Hakopian says. “I tell them if they continue doing the same types of study skills…no matter where they go to college, they’re going to be successful.”

SCIP teaches students that there is more to the admissions process than GPA and grades. Mentors and professors help the rising high school seniors discover more about their interests and ambitions and effectively communicate how their unique personal journeys led them to strive for higher education. 

“The last thing I tell them before they leave me is: ‘I wish you luck, but you don’t need luck. You just need to be you,” Hakopian says. 

“The last thing I tell them before they leave me is: ‘I wish you luck, but you don’t need luck. You just need to be you.”

Haroot Hakopian, academic director of SCIP

Students said the in-person experience enhanced the learning experience and also gave Zoom-fatigued students an opportunity to make life-long connections, which can be challenging during a pandemic.

“We have seen each other grow,” says Reina Evans, a rising high school senior from Dallas, Texas. “These people will help you become a better person.”

Evans said that before participating in the program, she was nervous as to how to go about applying for college. However, now that she has gotten hands-on learning experience with SCIP, she said she feels ahead of the game. 

Onward and Upward

The students ended the program on July 14, 2022, with a celebratory dinner in Copley Formal Lounge. Students and mentors dedicated speeches of gratitude to one another and reminisced about how quickly their three-week journey flew by. 

Cox, the program mentor, describes the 2022 cohort as a second family. 

“From the beginning, we already felt like family, because we’ve grown up in similar situations and we’ve come from similar places,” she says.

After three weeks, students left the Hilltop, learning everything from how to complete FAFSA forms to understanding the holistic admissions process to land a seat at their dream school. For many of the students, that dream school lives on the Hilltop.