Fly-In: A Fantastic Option to Explore College Options
By John Kim
Colleges know that during summer break and the school year, students all over the country visit campuses. While some may say that virtual tours, offered by many schools on their websites, have made college visits diminish in value, nothing beats visiting a school’s campus. However, college visits are time consuming and many students end up attending out-of-state schools. The costs of gas or airplane fees are not manageable for most.
Fortunately, colleges understand and offer ways for students to visit. Known as “fly-ins,” many colleges offer specific programs for students who meet a certain criteria to earn a fully-paid, several day trip to their campuses. These two to three day programs usually have specific activities unique to the experience, such as offering the chance to shadow a current student on campus for a day and sleep in their dorms. These quirks makes fly-in programs attractive to many students, making trips very selective. Schools include requirements such as GPA, test scores, socioeconomic status, and a supplemental essay in the application and prioritize students who meet certain requirements.
University of Pennsylvania, better known to students as Penn, offers such a fly-in program. Known as PEEP (Penn Early Exploration Program), students selected get a chance to experience a three day, two night preview of the academic and social life at the University. With costs associated with food, housing, and transportation to Philadelphia all covered by the school, this is a fantastic chance to visit this prestigious Ivy League institution. Without surprise, this program is very selective, with the application requiring an unofficial transcript, test scores, extracurriculars, a letter of recommendation, and an essay about why one feel that they deserve to be part of this experience.
This year, three Northside students were chosen for this program. Oralia Quinones, Adv. 904, Lauren Kim, Adv. 905, and Jennifer Tegegne, Adv. 907, visited the University of Pennsylvania from Oct. 7 to 9 and got a snapshot of what life at one of the most prestigious institutions around the world looks like. A typical day at PEEP began at 6:30 am with activities starting at 7:00 am. After meeting and getting to know other students selected for this program, they had the chance to pick workshops in order to get a better sense of the Penn experience. Quinones said “I went to an Intro to Biology class and while I expected it to be a lot of intensive science, it was actually very fun and interactive, getting a chance to shake a container and make butter for the workshop.” She also had the chance to eat at the school cafeteria. On the last night, the Penn staff hosted a farewell dinner reception and karaoke session for all the students taking part in the program. According to Quinones, one downside of this otherwise fun and busy schedule was the fact that the curfew was at 11 pm, which left little to no time to complete homework.
Compared to visiting the campus with your family, Quinones said “This program gives you a real college experience. Dorming with another undergrad and eating in their cafeteria gives you an authentic feel for what your life could potentially look like. You also get to see things for yourself instead of having someone try to sell you their college. Since it’s typically spread out into a weekend trip, you get more time to explore the city and the campus.” When looking at colleges, most students overlook the social aspect of it. Since you are most likely going to live there for four years, merely doing college tours may not give the necessary snapshot of social life at the school. PEEP and other fly-in programs allow students to stay with a current student attending the school, making it more accessible for students to ask about the environment of the school and get more honest pros and cons of the school. Additionally, the PEEP program gave their students a chance to go on a Philadelphia bus tour walking up the iconic steps from “Rocky” and experiencing the Latin-infused music scenes of Philadelphia, something that was of big importance to Quinones.
Including University of Pennsylvania, there are 72 schools that offer fly-in programs to students ranging from Amherst College to Dartmouth College. The full list of the 72 schools and their respective application deadlines for the fly-in program can be viewed under the “Academics” and “Counseling” tab on Northside’s website. Even if you may not have a school in mind out of the 72, feel free to apply to as many as you can because you might just find the perfect college for you during the fly-in experience. As for tips about applying to fly-in programs like these, Quinones said “Apply to as many as possible that you are remotely interested in as you will get a great experience and it is free to apply. Also, make sure you really think through about the essay and stress how the school will benefit your academic endeavors and how the school will benefit from you.”