Questions from Applicants
Q. Do I have to be a genius to be offered admission to SSP?
A. Of course not. While it's true that most SSP participants rank in the top 10% on standardized math tests, it's also true that motivation is even more important! You can observe, in your own school, examples of kids who accomplish a lot not because they have the highest test scores but because they are determined to make the most of their talents. Students like that do very well at SSP. Maybe that describes you too!
Q. My family can't afford the Program fee -- or the airfare to get me there.
A. Then apply for financial aid. Depending on your family's circumstances, we can and often do grant financial aid of up to 100% of the Program fee and travel expenses. Each summer at least a third of our students receive financial aid. Financial concerns should not be a factor in your decision to apply, just as financial need is not a factor in our admission decision.
Q. I haven't taken calculus or physics yet. Is extra help available if I don't understand something or start to fall behind?
A. Absolutely! Remember, this is a residential program; the three senior faculty and the teaching assistants live on campus. They are around 24/7, and they're quick to offer help. students end up talking to them about all kinds of things: the academic material, college life, career options ... you name it. That's one of SSP's biggest benefits. And you'll also find your fellow students to be very supportive of you, just as you will be of them. [ be sure to read the comments made by recent alums ]
Q. I don't know much about astronomy, and I don't think I will want to become an astronomer. Should I consider SSP anyway?
A. That puts you in the majority by far: most SSPers have never taken an astronomy course, and only a handful from each class go on to become professional astronomers. Many become scientists or engineers in other fields, and many others choose other professions.
Astronomy is one kind of applied physics; regardless of your ultimate choices of college major and career, the math, science, and programming you learn will come in handy for many college majors and careers.
Even more importantly, you will learn something about yourself, about teamwork, responsibility, time management, even about how to learn.
SSPers typically value that personal growth as much as or even more than the academics. [ read for yourself ]
Having said all that, you should have at least an interest in learning more about astronomy; otherwise some other program would be a better fit for you.
Q. What if I don't fit in?
A. Lots of students are a little concerned about that when they arrive. The personalities of SSP students run the normal gamut from outgoing and gregarious to shy and quiet. Their educational and family backgrounds are diverse too. As the program progresses, the shared sense of mission and close contact tend to draw everyone into a close-knit community. Most students enjoy the experience of being around peers who share their intense interest in science. [ be sure to read the comments made by recent alums ] SSP'ers are interesting and intelligent people, and tolerant of one another's eccentricities.
Q. Where are the other kids from?
A. Almost everywhere! SSP encourages applications from girls and boys without restriction of any kind. We have had girls from Indonesia and boys from Tennessee. We have had twins, rock hounds, magicians, good actors and bad cooks. You can be any shape, any size, any flavor, or any shade. All you need is a desire to work and play really hard and be with a group of other kids who feel the same. The chances are you will make friends for life at SSP!
Q. I've never been to (or heard of) either Socorro or Santa Barbara. What are they like?
A. Both NM Tech and Westmont campuses are small, and quiet in the summer.
Socorro is an old Spanish mission town about an hour south of Albuquerque. New Mexico Tech is our host campus there. Weather conditions are perfect for astronomy until the "monsoon season" starts sometime in July, bringing frequent evening thunderstorms.
Westmont is in Montecito just outside of Santa Barbara, about 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles; cooler than Socorro, which is great except when the dense "marine layer" fog rolls in from the ocean.
Q. Will I have to work all the time?
A. The academic program is demanding, that's true. There are lectures six days a week, with problem sets to complete outside class. It sure helps if you enjoy learning astronomy and math. But there are lots of diversions, too: field trips, recreational excursions, movies, sports, and games. And no grades are assigned, so you won't be in competition with anyone but yourself.
Q. How can SSP help me decide on and get accepted into college?
A. In several ways. First, you'll learn a lot about various colleges by talking to the staff -- college students and professors -- at SSP.
Second, SSP will give you a visceral sense of what it "feels like" to major in science at a selective university, thereby helping you decide if that path is for you.
Third, there is a special "College Admissions Roundtable" discussion on the schedule.
Fourth, the Summer Science Program is highly regarded by many competitive colleges and universities, and will improve your application.
Fifth, you may ask the Academic Director to write a recommendation for you.
Q. May I leave on the weekends?
A. Generally, no; this is a continuous residential program.
While short times away may be arranged (for example, when parents visit or to attend local religious services), you may not be gone frequently or without permission.
We will require approval from your parent/guardian for any absence.
Q. May people visit me during the Program?
A. Family members are welcome to visit, preferably on Sunday and with advance notice.
Q. May I bring my own computer?
A. No. It isn't necessary; computers are available to you 24/7.
Q. I have more questions.
A. OK! Please email them to the Executive Director: execdir(at)summerscience.org.