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Lula O'Donnell / Columbia Daily Spectator

Both Columbia and Barnard offer Opportunity Programs to help students access and transition into higher education by preparing them for the rigor of college curriculum and helping them become familiar with the resources available to them on campus. The Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program includes a five-week academic program that takes place between July and August of the summer right before freshman year begins.

Students have the option to take a STEM or a humanities track with four or five courses, as well as an introductory course to Barnard and Columbia. If you’re taking part in the program this summer, we thought it might be helpful for you to hear the perspective of students who have already completed it. We talked to a handful of Barnard HEOP students; here’s what they want you to know.

What are your takeaways from Academic Summer Program?

“I came from an underprivileged, low-income school, so I didn’t know what to expect when I came to college. That summer was like getting a preview to what college was without everyone on campus. It’s only about 35 students, and they’re all students who are similar to you. It’s all of your guys’ first times and you’re all learning together so it was great. We got to live on campus, walk around, take classes in actual classrooms and familiarize ourselves with college life basically. If I came into college without the summer program, then I would be so lost and really overwhelmed. [HEOP] gives you a community.” —Nabilah N., class of 2019

“The most valuable aspect of HEOP wasn’t so much the course material but more about building a community of people who understand what it’s like being low-income or first-generation or both. For example, I’m a FLIP student, and coming into Barnard as a FLIP student can be kind of disorientating because of the environment you’re in. I’ve grown up in New York my whole life, and I’m used to seeing so much diversity in my schools, especially coming from the Bronx, so HEOP was kind of a safety net for me. Like, if I didn’t make any friends, these are the people who will always be my friends, who will always understand my struggles.” —Janet, class of 2022

“It’s supposed to be a way for HEOP students to acclimate to the rigorous environment that we’re being put into by being in an institution like Barnard and Columbia. But I think that more than that, it brings together students who wouldn’t know each other otherwise and to kind of have a community of students who can relate to each other and start friendships that will actually last.” —Nilofer, class of 2021

“Some of the good things about the program was that I made a lot of good friends, and I’m still close with most of the people. As for the cons, I didn’t really like how it was so structured, and I feel like, personally for me, it didn’t really help me acclimate to college… Something they could do is have more bonding events with people, because my friends and I [weren’t] able to hang out because we have to study and our schedule was so packed.” —Samantha, class of 2022

“When I came, it was very different from high school … Although it doesn’t count, take it seriously, because when you come back in the school year you feel very relaxed, like you know everything here and you don’t feel overwhelmed. However, a negative side is that we are always busy with work so we didn’t end up building relationships. Yet even then, whenever I have any problem or I need some help, I always go back to my HEOP friends. So you find a sense of community even though you were very busy. You still feel like these are my people, they are my friends, and you can still relate to them. That’s very nice to have in Barnard/Columbia, because it is very rare to find someone with the same socioeconomic background and similar cultural background.” —Nabilah H., class of 2021

What is your piece of advice for incoming students participating in Academic Summer Program?

“Try to take advantage of the whole experience, and don’t be too worried about it. It’s okay if you feel homesick; it’s okay if you feel like you’re not doing too well in classes, because they’re not actually going to count toward your GPA. They’re just a practice round.” —Nabilah N., class of 2019

“There’s nothing that can prepare you for HEOP summer! Just remember that even your roommate is there to listen, to help. You’re both going through it together, and you’re not alone. Don’t be too hard on yourself, because it’s not for credits. It’s more for yourself. So just enjoy the material as much as possible, even if it’s boring. Just try to enjoy yourself and your time there.” —Janet, class of 2022

“Make use of your resources. Learn as much as you want to learn in the summer but don’t stress over the summer program. It’s there to help you, so you don’t have to score the best grades—just try your best but don’t stress over it. Just try to learn how to manage your time: Talk with professors and your advisors. Everyone’s there to help you and make new friends.” —Anandita, class of 2021

“The summer program, in the moment, does feel overwhelming. It was probably my first experience really thinking about mental health and how that relates to mental health on campus. Before this instance, I never thought that I’m going to this school with all these smart students. I just saw Barnard as being the fit for me. Through the structure of the program you start to realize how there is going to be a lot of work, but you just learn a lot in a holistic way.” —Nilofer, class of 2021

“My biggest advice is don’t stress too much about it, because you’ll be fine. And just have fun. Don’t skip anything but make time for your friends.” —Samantha, class of 2022

“Definitely just get to know everyone and form bonds, because they are going to be the people you are going to be with for the next four years. Do all the things you want to do, no regrets.” —Ji, class of 2021

“Be open-minded. Don’t ever question yourself that you don’t deserve to be here. Some people who came here were crying, because the workload is very hard. They kept thinking, ‘Will I be able to keep up once school starts?’ But don’t ever doubt yourself. Yes it’s hard, yes it’s very challenging, but you are here for a reason. Keep working hard; keep positive; keep your loved ones close and especially the HEOP friends because they have a similar life story. They have gone through your struggles. They will understand.” —Nabilah H., class of 2021

Congratulations to the class of 2023 HEOP students! We hope that this helped answer some of the questions you may have had and that you have a great summer where you have the chance to make lifelong friends, like all the people we interviewed. See you in the fall!

Staff writer Jazilah Salam can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

HEOP Advice Summer program First Generation Low Income FGLI FLIP
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