A Taste of the College Experience

by Jessica Ilc

Jessica's Infectious Diseases class at the Centers for Disease Control

College can be a scary thought at times, especially if you are the first person in your family to go through the college process. When my Scholar Coach told me I would be attending a summer college program, I was worried about being away from home and unsure of what to expect. After many tries, I perfected the application to the best of my ability and was excited to be accepted to the Emory University Pre-College Program. I attended a two week course called Infectious Diseases: Causes and Cures. During the course of these two weeks, I had the time of my life, learned many things, developed new relationships and grew as a scholar.

The first step was saying goodbye to my parents at the airport as I made my way to Atlanta, Georgia. Thankfully, I had another Schuler Scholar with me who made things less intimidating. Time passed by quickly and as soon as I arrived I made new friends with students going to the Emory summer college program. I loved to hear where students were from because they were from all across the country, and I even had the opportunity to meet some foreign exchange students.

Stepping foot on campus was one of the best experiences of my life. Emory University has multiple new buildings and beautiful, green scenery. My worries and fears slowly faded to the back of my mind as I fell in love with my environment and the people who surrounded me.

Once we were separated into different classes, I learned that my class was one of the largest because the topic was interesting and offered hands-on work. The class was taught by a professor named Michael Mina. He shared his college experience, personal experiences and career path. I gained incredible knowledge from his teachings. He told us to never be discouraged by the people who say, “You are not capable of doing this” or, “That is impossible.” Set your mind on something you are passionate about and give it your all. In addition to this advice and life lessons, I learned many things about infectious diseases that I never thought I would learn in only a two-week span. We also had the opportunity to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hard work and time were required to finish the homework assignments, but there was also a social component to the “college experience”. I was away from my parents and on my own. I decided how to manage my time and made room for fun activities, like exposures to different parts of the city. I developed strong relationships not only with my professor, but also with other students. There are a couple friends I still talk with to this day. The summer college program turned out to be a great success in convincing me that college is not that scary. I know now that college offers academic gain, creates new relationships, and transforms students into scholars. 

Jessica Ilc is a member of the Maine East High School Class of 2015.


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