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New Exonians use Exeter Summer as crash course

Patrick Garrity

Three students who will enter the Academy this fall get a sneak peek of what's ahead during summer session. 

July 27, 2018
Michael Carbone '20 (from left), Scarlett Lin '21 and Dilan Cordoba '22 are taking advantage of Exeter Summer courses to get ready for regular session.

Every summer, hundreds of learners from around the globe descend on Exeter's campus for a five-week immersion in Harkness learning, independent living and a rich exchange of cultures. And each summer, a handful of Exeter Summer students use the experience as an improvised orientation ahead of enrolling full time at the Academy in the fall.

This year, 10 students — ranging from incoming preps to a rising senior — are soaking up everything they can before Exeter Summer ends and before the regular session commences in September. We caught up with three to see how the crash course was going.

The missing puzzle piece

Welcome to Scarlett 2.0.

That’s how Scarlett Lin ’21 refers to the coming three years. It’s the next phase in her evolution as a student and as a person.

“I’m taking my shape,” she says.

Having recently finished ninth grade at Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts, Scarlett will enter PEA in the fall as a first-year lower. She hopes attending Exeter Summer helps her make up for at least some of what she missed as a prep.

“It’s like the missing puzzle piece. I want to have the full high school experience. I know I can’t make up for (prep year), but I can at least get a taste of it.”

 Just as important to her in her summer-session experience: The chance to try something new.

“What I do in the summer isn’t what I have to do in the fall. It’s almost like a tryout,” she says while sitting in an Adirondack chair in the shade behind the Academy Building. She’s just come from “Great Books, Great Reading,” one of a dozen English class offerings in the Upper School course catalog.

“I’ll give a specific example. I’m a runner, cross-country and track. I’ve done that for three solid years. I have not changed. But, here, I wanted to open a new window for myself and try something new. So, I tried crew. It was phenomenal.”

Scarlett first visited campus last summer, returned for her interview in the fall and was back again during Experience Exeter in the spring. Each visit stoked her curiosity, particularly her interest in the Harkness method.

“I still remember when I first saw the table in the library. That was like the beginning of my journey,” she says.

She admits her Harkness skills are raw — “I’m getting the hang of it,” she says — but even after just a few weeks around the table, she sees the value in collaboration and a shared responsibility for learning.

“Everyone has their own vision of how things should go. For me, I’m always an active participant and always want to push out my opinions. But now I feel like, when you take a step back and really think about it, there’s a lot you can get out of it.”

When summer session ends, she’ll go home to Massachusetts, spend time with her little brother and then maybe take a vacation. But she’s eager to return to campus and resume her journey.

“It’s great to start Scarlett 2.0,” she says. “The world is so big; there’s so much out there.”

An independent streak

Michael Carbone ’20 has seen some of the world, and that’s why he’s not homesick — even though home is three time zones away.

“Since I was young, my family has taken me traveling around the world. So, I’ve been exposed to different places and new cultures,” says Michael, a resident of California’s Bay Area who will enroll at the Academy in September as a first-year upper. He spent two months on his own last year, first in Italy, then in Montenegro. That only fed his wanderlust.

“I kind of wanted to be by myself, be more independent and learn how to take care of myself,” he says.

Michael was steered toward the East Coast and Exeter by his father, who recalls many of his Columbia University friends having eastern boarding school backgrounds. Michael spent last fall working on SSAT scores, gathering teacher recommendations and writing essays. “A lot of revisions,” he says.

He placed a bet on himself by registering for Exeter Summer even before he found out he had been accepted at the Academy. He figured if he got in, he would need to dive in headfirst. He has spent the summer enrolled in the selective Charles J. Hamm ’55 Leadership Program.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” Michael says. “For me, I’m trying to adapt to the environment of constant discussion. I think the crash course in Harkness has shown me I really need to up my game and get ready for the actual school year.”

An avid water polo player, he will fly directly to Montenegro after Exeter Summer work out with a renowned coach there until he returns to campus for preseason training with “Bear Polo.” He won’t see California again until winter break.

He lives in Main Street Dorm for the summer session but in the fall will move into Kirtland House, one of two all-gender residences taking part in a two-year pilot program.

“The school I attended in California was an all-boys school, so I’ve been conditioned in that environment,” Michael says. “I really want to try to experience what it’s like to live with people who aren’t just like me.”

The king of Queens

If you’re an aspiring independent school student and you're looking for advice about the essay portion of the application, connect with Dilan Cordoba ’22. He applied to 28 schools last fall.

“An extensive process, that’s what I would call it,” he says.

Not every school said yes, but he stopped keeping track when he heard from Exeter — even before he came to visit campus during Experience Exeter last spring. And while he was already hooked, he also sensed the need to learn more about the school before the fall. Cue, Exeter Summer.

Only one day in, Dilan feared he’d made a terrible mistake. His New York City home felt a long, long way away. He sorely missed his friends and playing soccer in the park. Summer school? Really?

“I didn’t know what I was going to do for a whole month,” he recalls. “But now, there’s a week to go, and it feels like it’s gone by in three days.”

A course load comprised of classes in journalism, biology and Italian in the ACCESS EXETER program has filled his calendar. He has settled into Wentworth Hall — where he hopes to live this fall — and he’s embraced Harkness.

“Harkness involves everyone,” Dilan says. “You need to be prepared for class, but not just for what you’re going to say. You need to be prepared to listen to other people.”

As for learning more about Exeter, he is pleased with what he's found.

“I feel like I’ve learned it’s not just a school,” he says. “It’s more like a family, a diverse group of students who want to do well. It’s such a good school, but it doesn’t only focus on that, it’s about being a community."

There’s still the matter of summer vacation, however. Dilan intends to soak up what’s left of it back home in Queens before returning to Exeter in a month.

“I think when I come back it’s going to be much easier. I’m going to know some people, and I think I’m going to know the school better,” he says. “I think I’m going to be prepared for what’s coming.”

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