My Experience as a CSTEP Scholar
As a student who was admitted to the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) at Barnard, I participated in a five week academic summer program prior to my first year at Barnard. The summer program started in early July and lasted until the first week in August. On the first day, we received a thorough orientation that provided an overview of what to expect in the next five weeks. The program is essentially modeled after an ideal college schedule with additional resources such as luncheons with administrators, late tutoring sessions with teacher assistants, one-on-one meetings with Writing Fellows, and mid-day workshops on the vast resources at Barnard. These resources ranged from the benefits of utilizing Well Woman to simply navigating the new and improved education curriculum called Foundations.
The thought of transitioning to college in early July was terrifying (it was literally a week after my graduation!). But luckily the other students in the program were just as nervous/eager/intrigued as I was, which fueled an invaluable bonding experience for all of us. I am a CSTEP scholar, specifically for my interest in the field of law. A common misconception about CSTEP is that the program is solely intended for STEM driven occupations, which can ultimately deter eligible applicants. The summer program catered to the many academic interests and provided two tracks: humanities or natural sciences. For both academic tracks, students were required to take English and Math (your level of math was dependent on a diagnostic test or the math courses you took in high school). The humanities track consisted of two additional courses: Psychology, and Cultures in Comparison. The natural sciences track consisted of two additional courses as well, Biology and Chemistry. I really enjoyed my Cultures in Comparison course because the weekly readings involved discussions about different culture analysts, anthropologists, and philosophers that explored power dynamics through the concept of cultural values. We studied various theories and compared them across cultures to assess the multitude of perspectives on cultural phenomena.
I enjoyed my humanities courses because I was very interested in the engaging and intellectual discussions that took place in class. I felt as though I was actively joining the scholarly debate alongside my peers and it provided a taste of the wide range of academic freedom and privilege that comes with being a student at Barnard College. On weekdays, from early mornings to late nights we were constantly challenged intellectually. We were determined to succeed at our full potential through our afternoon courses and evening tutorials (review sessions with teacher assistants.) On weekends (no classes on Friday, yay!) we were rewarded with necessary down time to collect our thoughts and rejuvenate for the week ahead. As a group, we went on weekly field trips to various locations such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Google, Federal Reserve, New York Times, Condé Nast, NYU Dental School (and so much more) and ultimately ended our productive summer by volunteering at a local soup kitchen.
As scholars, we were driven to succeed not only for ourselves, but for the community of women that we struggled and persevered alongside. I emerged as an ambitious student of intellect because I was provided with vital college resources, supportive professors, an inside preview to campus life (residential dorming, dining halls, academic buildings, etc.), and ultimately felt more prepared to tackle any obstacles in the fall because I knew how to utilize the necessary academic, financial, and social resources available within this campus. During the first week we arrived, we were welcomed with a lovely luncheon with Dean Hinkson, Dean of the College, where she reassured us and gave us confidence by speaking about her own experience as a student at Barnard College. I distinctly remember her telling us that there will be moments when we will question, “Is Barnard the right place for me?” and it is completely normal, in fact quite healthy, to think that way. She reassured us that college is obviously going to be tough and tricky to navigate but due to Barnard’s small and intimate environment, it is much easier for students to feel more empowered by the supportive faculty. Weekly one-on-one discussions with empathetic administrators, such as Dean Hinkson, was exactly what we needed. We felt inspired to pursue our goals in our newly welcoming and supportive environment.
As a CSTEP scholar, I am very grateful for the five week academic program that I participated in this past summer. This program was academically challenging and the professors upheld high standards, which only further developed my intellectual capacity and determination. There were many stressful moments (all-nighters became somewhat of a norm), however, I struggled and worked towards achieving my goals all while being surrounded by an equally ambitious and fantastic group of women. The young women within my summer program displayed similar academic and financial situations as I did, which only made it more comforting to be surrounded by a group of individuals that empathized and inspired each other to strive beyond their own limitations. I am still close friends with this group of young women and as a whole; many of us felt like this summer program eased a potentially difficult transition to college. If you are eligible to participate in any of the three programs (CSTEP, BOP, and HEOP) please apply because the summer program will definitely be an invaluable and enriching experience! I am excited to bridge the gap these next few years between my academic and pre-professional goals through the many resources and enriching opportunities that are continuously provided by the Academic and Success Enrichment Program office.
If you have any questions, please email me!
*"The CSTEP program is an enrichment program [for New York State residents] designed to enable student's academic success in preparing for professional licensure or careers in the scientific, technical including social work, law, teaching or health-related fields." For more information and how to apply, visit here (https://barnard.edu/collegiate).