Senior Perla Grimaldo-Ramirez felt the plane pickup speed, and suddenly she was in the air and flying west. Way west. In fact, she was blazing a trail to California, where Pomona College, a top liberal arts school (and one of Grimaldo’s first choices), is situated.
“Pomona is a school I’ve been interested in for a while. It isn’t about California, it’s about Pomona, that’s why I went,” Grimaldo said of the trip.
College visits are a normal part of the trek to college, but Perla wasn’t going to Pomona in a charter bus full of her classmates or with her parents. She was going on a college fly-out program funded by Pomona.
College “fly-out” programs are growing in popularity, and isn’t hard to see why. Often extremely competitive, these programs give eligible applicants the ability to visit far away, potential universities completely free of cost.
Once on their prospective college campus, high schoolers (usually seniors) stay over night in dorms, attend classes, eat real college food, and get a feel for college life far away from home.
“It was an amazing experience. I loved exploring the campus and sitting in on the classes,” Grimaldo said.
One of her classmates, Cristina Treviño, also had the chance to attend an exclusive fly-out program. Instead of going west though, Treviño grabbed a coat and headed north to Williams College, a prestigious liberal arts college nestled in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
“It was very far and very cold. 200 people are accepted to the program, and they do it twice. In my run there were 90 kids. They were from all over the place, all over North America,” Treviño said.
Now, turn to fellow senior Maya Nunez, who has spent her life dreaming of going into international relations. For Nunez, getting into a summer program to one of her top schools, The University of Denver, was the first step in realizing her dreams. She spent a week at the Colorado campus in August, attending classes and workshops as part of a college readiness camp.
“I went in without high expectations, I wanted to see what I liked. I knew going into my senior year, I had some hard choices coming up. At Denver, I met all these amazing people and it really made me excited to go to college in general,” Nunez said about the week long program.
Denver was a big step for Nunez, but this October, she received another big surprise. She got into an extremely competitive fly-out program to her number one school, Brandeis University. Nunez will be leaving for Brandeis, a college located just outside of Boston, in two weeks.
“I was so excited when I got it – I didn’t think I was going to get it, because its a very competitive program. When I met with a representative from Brandeis, she said it was harder to get into the fly-out program than the college!” Nunez said.
Katya Wittliff, also a senior at ARS, is following behind Nunez and Trevino in their trek north. In fact, she visited Massachusetts this week on a college “shadow” program. Unlike other college “fly-out” programs, Wittliff is one of the many students at ARS who set up her own visit and shadowed a current student at her prospective college (a school she wishes to remain anonymous).
“I think it only makes sense to see what life is like at a school you’re really interested in,” Wittliff said of the journey, before she left on Wednesday. “I’m excited to sit in on a pharmacology class.”
Senior Alexis Segura also went to a college to shadow students, but under different circumstances. Segura drove four hours north, to Texas Wesleyan University, a school located in the Dallas area. Segura was at Texas Wesleyan to practice with the college’s division one cross country team.
“I had actually not been looking at Wesleyan super closely, however when I went on their campus I loved it.” Segura said of the visit. “When I met with the coach, he seemed so dedicated to his cross country team, and the girls were so supportive of each other. I even got a chance to speak with a professor in the kinesiology program, which is what I’m interested in.”
Students across ARS are getting their ‘college’ on for college week, and there’s no denying that fly-out programs are gaining traction. “You might not get in, but just apply,” Grimaldo said of fly-out programs, urging her younger sisters to apply when the times comes.
Grimaldo clearly knows what she’s doing, because she will be going on two other exclusive fly-out programs this semester. Up next, are separate trips to Scripps University and Pitzer University, both located in California. Looks like Perla, and many of our seniors, will soon be packing up and blazing new trails across the country.