Vassar Education Collaboration

Exploring College Summer Intensive

What is Exploring College?

Exploring College is an enrichment program for high school students with an interest in learning more about college, offering programming both during the school year and summer. Our organization originally began in 2009 with a small cohort of students from Poughkeepsie High School and has since grown into a robust afterschool program and a two-week residential summer program. From its inception the objectives of Exploring College have been to improve academic readiness, increase the number of students who attend college and build relationships between Vassar College and school districts in the surrounding area. All of our programming aims to give high school students an inside look at the college process and college itself through strong mentoring relationships with current Vassar students. Historically, through our summer intensive, up to 20 high school students have the opportunity to live on campus and participate in college level classes.

Our program has a deep commitment to making higher education opportunities accessible for students from a variety of backgrounds. With this in mind, our program is free of charge.

COVID-19 Update to Summer 2021 Programming

Due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, our summer program for 2021 will not be residential. Instead we are planning an online course using a variety of virtual platforms to support our creative and engaging curriculum. Depending on the restrictions come July, we hope to also include in-person components wherever possible.

Exploring College Summer Intensive 2021: Exploring Climate

This year’s Exploring College Summer Intensive (ECSI) will be a virtual program focused around the theme of Exploring Climate. During this three-week experience, students will have the opportunity to take a class taught by Vassar professor Pinar Batur, participate in engaging activities with Environmental professionals, execute a research project with the guidance of current Vassar student mentors, and learn more about the college application process through workshops.

2021 Curriculum

Take a class taught by a Vassar professor.

Environmental disasters, stemming from the climate crisis, affect people in different ways depending on factors such as race, class, gender, and age, as well as location. Professor Pinar Batur’s class will focus on the intersections between environmental issues and the social, political, and economic structures that shape the modern world. By situating the climate crisis within a broader context, this class will encourage students to think about the causes and consequences of climate change in a more holistic and interdisciplinary way. We will examine the impact of recent environmental disasters on our future through a variety of lenses, including

biology, history, philosophy, economics, politics and cultural studies. In light of the uncertainty and risk-ridden future, the class also seeks to develop and envision alternative modes of action and environmental policy-making. Participation in this class will include classroom readings, discussions, reflections, and lectures from guest speakers.

Choose a focus area and complete a research project.

People in all professions have a role in addressing the climate crisis that our world is facing. At the end of the first week of the program, students will be asked to select a “track.” These tracks represent just three of the many environmental industries and occupations. During the final two weeks of the program, students will meet in these groups, participate in engaging activities and lectures with Environmental professionals, and develop projects based on the academic focus of their track.

ENERGY LEADERSHIP: Buildings generate almost 40% of global carbon emissions. Constructing and powering the next generation of facilities will involve jobs in a variety of fields. As a participant in the Energy Leadership track, you'll learn from current architects, engineers, skilled trades, project managers, and consultants about the work they do to make the places we live, sleep, work, study, and play more sustainable. You'll apply that knowledge in a real-world project that makes an impact in your community.

ECO-ART: Art, like social activism, allows people to create the world they want to live in. Artists can thus have an important role in addressing our climate crisis. In the Eco-Art track, you will learn from visual and performing arts professionals about topics such as the power of dance for social change, creating sustainable “trash art,” and curating socially conscious galleries. Your work will culminate in a creative project supported by academic research.

NATURE EXPLORATIONS: In the Nature Explorations track, you will learn how nature in Poughkeepsie is being impacted by Climate Change and what we can do to keep our environment healthy. We will focus on topics that explore plants, animals, water, and land with a focus on the ecology of our backyards and neighborhoods. Pending Covid guidelines and restrictions, we will take small group field trips led by local experts to natural areas including the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve. Topics of exploration will include: pollinators, invasive species, our local creeks, the Hudson River and urban ecology.

Learn more about college life and the application process from Vassar mentors.

In addition to our academic faculty, our program is run by program administrators and summer interns who organize additional programming and serve as supportive mentors. As current Vassar students or recent alumni, these mentors provide students with an inside look at college life and can assist with coursework, study habits, writing skills, and any other needs. Aside from academic support, mentors run extracurricular sessions, including community building activities for the cohort. ECSI also offers inside advice on the college application process through workshops. These workshops are led by representatives from the Vassar Admissions office, the Financial Aid office, and by current students who recently went through the process themselves.

Who can apply?

We are accepting rising 11th and 12th graders from the Poughkeepsie area for ECSI 2021. Students are selected based on their interest in pursuing a degree after high school, desire to learn more about environmental studies, and demonstrated dedication to high school academics and activities. These qualities should be reflected in the student’s application.

Program Dates

2021 Program Dates are July 6th-July 24th. Programming will take place on weekdays, with the exception of a celebration on Saturday, July 24th.

Application Dates and Deadlines

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on May 15, 2021. We recommend you submit your completed application as soon as you are able. Following the submission of your application, you will be contacted for an interview with the Program Manager or Program Director as the final step of the application process.

March 1: Application Opens May 15: Application Deadline May 17–May 28: Interviews

How to Apply

Your application may be completed in one of two ways. You may either use our online form, accessed through the “Apply Now” link below or you may fill out the pdf version. If you would like to be send the PDF version, please contact Alexandra Hatch at

Regardless of how you chose to complete your application, it must include all of the following aspects:

  1. Your completed student and family information
  2. Your statements of interest
  3. Your personal essay
Apply now!