“I learned resilience, both of body and mind. If my feet were wet for days, I would live. If I was thigh-deep in mud, I would manage. If I had to hike 17 miles in one day with a 40-pound backpack, I could do it. My experiences endowed me with a sense of self-reliance, and realizing I could survive in harsh conditions gave me confidence in my coping abilities. Each summer, as I stood atop a new peak, I felt increasingly prepared for the difficulties of life – or at least adolescence.”
The quote above is extracted from Simone D’Luna’s College Essay to Dartmouth. Simone is not alone; virtually every A.T. student uses their Adventure Treks experience as the basis for their college essay. It seems to work! It’s another banner year of college acceptances: two Morehead – Cain Scholarships (out of a total of 61), three students off to Dartmouth, and then there is Princeton, Yale, Stanford and the list goes on. Far more important than the “Star Power” of the school, however, is finding the right match. Many of our students look for a college that will enable them to spend time outdoors. We are big fans of that!
Though it’s not our intent, we could make the case that Adventure Treks has a stronger college placement record than virtually any prep school. And we will argue that while academics are extremely important for success in college and beyond, colleges are more impressed with character. In her essay, Simone goes on to share some personal challenges and concludes “when things were at their worst at home, I remembered I was the girl who had climbed Mt. Shasta and found new strength to continue… Over time, the problems in my life resolved themselves, but not before I had the satisfaction of knowing my own mental strength had triumphed over the strain they caused me. Maybe someday I’ll need to climb Mt. Everest. If I do, I’ll be prepared.”
Far more important than getting into college is the ability to thrive in college. Currently, only 46% of US College students actually get a degree. The rest drop out. This puts the US in 18th place below Slovakia.
While we are not advocating that one should choose Adventure Treks as a resume builder for college, we know colleges are alarmed at the dropout rate and are looking to accept students with the character to graduate. We don’t think there is a more fun way to build resilience, develop character or improve your communication skills than an Adventure Treks summer.
Recently, I talked with several of our former A.T. students (currently freshman or sophomores at college) about their college experiences to learn how their time at A.T. prepared them for success during college. Below are some responses:
“A.T. was a huge help in college – many of my college friends had never really been far away from home before. With A.T., I had already traveled on my own. I learned to open up to others, and to trust them, this made it easy to make friends at college.” —Kate, Vassar College
“A.T. did a phenomenal job preparing me for the transition to college. I had the ability to adapt to new and changing situations. I knew how to meet people and how to work with different kinds of people. I have seen many of my friends struggle with the transition, but it’s been easy for me.” —Christopher, University of Richmond
“A.T. made me more comfortable in my skin so when I got to college I didn’t have to try and be anybody but myself – It was refreshing and empowering.” —Max, Stanford University
“At Adventure Treks you learn how to help out and look out for others, how to thrive when things aren’t easy and to see a bigger picture beyond yourself. AT gave me the confidence to lead a school organization my freshman year and it means I am always the one doing more than my share in our apartment and in project groups.” —Jake, Ohio State University
“College was easy because I already had great experience joining groups of people. I knew how to work and live in a community so dorm life was simple. I watch many of my non A.T. friends struggle with this and find myself wishing that others had the consideration and thoughtfulness that AT kids have.” —Rachelle, University of Florida
“Actually A.T. seems a lot more helpful than college. I better learned how to interact with different people at A.T. than college. At Adventure Treks there are real day to day consequences from your actions – the consequences are small but they are real – like not eating dinner or sleeping wet if your tent isn’t put up correctly. It helps you make sure you get things right.”
—Sierra, University of Puget Sound
“A.T. built my confidence and got me out of my shell. I learned that people liked me for who I was so when I went to college, I didn’t try to be anybody other than myself. I learned how to be a strong member of a community and was able to apply that to my college communities. I learned to thrive without electronics and don’t get sucked into the video games and partying that many of my peers play.” —Sam, Iowa State University
It was refreshing to check up on our recent students and affirm that the skills learned through their Adventure Treks experiences help set them up for future success. There is a reason the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Organization emphasizes the skills students learn at Adventure Treks over subjects taught in traditional schools. Our goal is to enhance character and have a lifelong impact. And by the way, Adventure Treks happens to be an incredible amount of fun!