“Being here in the summer totally solidified the fact that I wanted to be here. I love Cambridge. I love the square. I love everything about being here.”

Cassandra Luca

Harvard College Freshman

WHERE I’M FROM: Massachusetts
FAVORITE SUBJECT: Foreign languages
FAVORITE BOOKS: Atlas Shrugged; Pride and Prejudice
PROGRAM ATTENDED: Secondary School Program
COURSES TAKEN AT HARVARD: Elementary Japanese (2015); Intermediate Japanese (2016)

Sandra Luca

Describe an average day in the Secondary School Program.

I commuted to campus daily from my home in Massachusetts, where I live with my parents. I was on campus every day, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, then I would come home in the afternoon. I would eat, do my work, and then make sure that I finished at a certain time so I could go to the gym or read a book.

It was really nice because the program didn’t consume my whole day. My first half of the day was taken up with class and homework, and then I’d be free to do whatever I wanted. I was still able to see friends and do other things that fulfilled me.

Did you participate in any activities?

I went to the talks about college admission. It’s a good talk because it gives you some insight on how admissions works.

I also went to note taking strategies and writing strategies. Those are great. People should definitely go to them. They’re the same ones that they offer at the Bureau of Study Counsel at Harvard College.

How did your experience in the Secondary School Program prepare you for college?

Since my course was an 8-credit course condensed into four weeks, it was a lot faster and met more often than other Summer School classes. It was constant: Take a quiz. Learn new vocabulary. Learn new grammar. Practice the grammar. Take another quiz.

I had to learn how to keep up with the pace of class and figure out the most efficient way to study. For me, writing everything down is super helpful. I wrote everything down in class. I wrote notes on the textbook—that helps my brain figure it out. When I’m approaching a big exam, I’ll type things out so I have nice and clean notes.

It’s so important to know how you study best. If you get to college and you don’t know if listening, writing things down, or reading is the best study method for you, you’re going to get lost really quickly.

What would you consider the value of attending a college program designed for high school students?

It’s really great because you get to study something that you’re interested in. The Secondary School Program has so many options. My high school doesn’t offer Japanese so I was never able to take it. I couldn’t wait to come to Harvard in the summer.

People have asked me, “Which course should I take. What should I do?” My advice: just take what you’re interested in. And, if you do that, the program doesn’t feel like work.

How did your Secondary School Program experience help you make your college decision?

Being here in the summer totally solidified the fact that I wanted to be here. I love Cambridge. I love the square. I love everything about being here.

The amount of resources Harvard has just blows your mind. I was able to study audio recordings in Lamont Library, which was incredibly helpful for my class. At the time, I had barely finished my sophomore year of high school, so seeing all the library had to offer was far beyond my expectations.

I also got to know my professors during my courses. It was comforting to know they were available for extra help whenever I needed it. The professors actually took us out for dinner at the very end of the course during my second year, which was amazing. I hadn’t ever had the chance to know someone in that position outside of the classroom. I got to know them as people, instead of just my professors.

These resources and opportunities combined with the environment here in Cambridge made me want to attend Harvard even more.

Was there anything missing from your experience in the Secondary School Program?

There were times when I wished I had stayed on campus. But overall the whole experience was very fulfilling for me.

While part of me wanted to live here, the other part of me really enjoyed being at home with my parents and being able to see my friends. Harvard did a good job of fulfilling my academic goals and the rest of my time I could fill with whatever I wanted.