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High School Girls Experience an NYC Summer at Barnard

Is there any better way to beat the winter doldrums than to start making summer plans?

This year, Barnard’s Pre-College Programs (PCP) will again offer six summer experiences that not only give high school girls the chance to spend the summer in New York City, but also provide an immersive experience that, with its blend of classroom and experiential learning, is uniquely Barnard. Applications are now available. The application deadline is June 6, though many programs fill up long before then.

“The program is so deeply integrated into New York City,” says PCP director Ann Dachs ’81. “For instance, students in the Dance in the City program see professional dance performances that you can really only see in New York. Then they come back to campus and study theory and history of dance with Barnard’s own faculty, and apply their knowledge in developing their own pieces. It’s an intellectual approach you find only at Barnard.”

The newest of the programs is Entrepreneurs-in-Training, run in collaboration with Barnard’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies. Now in its second year, the 10-day intensive teaches high school girls who dream of being the next Lida Orzek ’68 (founder of lingerie company Hanky Panky) or Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo!) how to launch start-ups. Students learn about every detail of starting a business—from presenting an idea to investors to overseeing product development. At the end of the course, they pitch their business ideas to entrepreneurs who offer feedback and advice. 

The core of PCP’s summer offerings is the four-week Summer in the City program. Students take two classes, choosing from dozens with such tantalizing titles as A Brief History of Evil and Journalism and Politics in the Digital Age. The Liberal Arts Intensive is a one-week version of Summer in the City, allowing students to delve into a single subject in such courses as Discovering Old New York.

Rising junior or senior high school girls interested in developing leadership skills can enroll in the eight-day Young Women’s Leadership Institute, taking women’s studies courses and meeting Barnard alumnae and other women leaders. Finally, students who want to immerse themselves in science can enroll in the Summer Science Seminar Program and take  college-level chemistry, biology, and environmental science classes, accompanied by science-related field trips.

Close to 400 students from acround the world enroll in PCP’s summer programs each year. Among them last year was Emma Spector of Newton, Mass., who took part in Summer in the City. “When I got to Barnard College, any ideas I had about the program were surpassed by the amazing classes and excursions,” she says. “Being in New York City opened my eyes to all the incredible opportunities the city and Barnard have to offer.”

PCP awards some scholarships for its programs. In addition, it partners with community-based organizations to attract students from under-represented communities, and these organizations often fund students as well. This year, for the first time, PCP will award a full scholarship to one student in each of the six programs.

The program is closely woven into the fabric of New York City. In the afternoons students take field trips with their classes; last year, for instance, the filmmaking class visited NBC studios, and the medieval art class toured the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the cathedral of St. John the Divine. Wednesdays are reserved for “Life After College,” which exposes students to perhaps-unconsidered career paths by introducing them to alumnae in a range of fields and taking them on behind-the-scenes tours at such places as Radio City Music Hall. 

Of course, spending a summer at Barnard is not all about learning and planning for the future. PCP schedules excursions almost daily, many of them involving iconic summer-in-the city events, such as outdoor music festivals and movies in Bryant Park. “We find a way to incorporate New York into nearly everything we do,” says Dachs. “Whether it’s by going to Yoga on the Pier or a chocolate tasting at Max Brenner, so much of what we do is uniquely New York.”

The emphasis on exploring New York is much appreciated by students. “Being in New York City was like being in an ever-expanding museum,” said Constanza Matta of Santiago, Chile. “Each street has its own magic, each alley has its own history. Barnard showed me a side of New York I didn’t know.”

About 30 lucky current Barnard students have the chance to experience the program too. The residential staff, most of whom live in the dorms with the students, is made up of almost all Barnard students who, among other things, accompany the PCP participants on their New York excursions. “The Barnard students really enjoy their time with the high schoolers,” says Dachs. “They get to experience the city and perhaps expand on an interest that may have developed during the year. Or they can explore something totally new. It’s the Barnard way.”