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Student Voices, College Preparation Program

Rapheal Mathis

  • A summer at his "dream school"

    Rapheal Mathis

    Rapheal Mathis considers himself lucky. He attended Northwestern University — his “dream school” — before he even graduated from high school.

    In Northwestern University’s College Preparation Program (CPP), high school students like Mathis can take a real three- to eight-week undergraduate course or one of the program’s intensive seminars while living in a dorm on the Evanston campus over the summer.

    “I couldn’t believe I was in a real class with real college students,” he says. “I also had a lot of independence. It really excited and motived me about college.”

    An academic edge

    Mathis, who writes poetry and has a passion for communication, took a six-week course in public speaking. He was thrilled to discover how much knowledge and experience his professor had. He also discovered that expectations in college are higher — and there’s more personal discipline required. Mathis sees that as one of the biggest advantages to getting a taste of college early.

    “In high school, there’s a lot of hand holding and always someone telling you what to do or where to be,” he explains. “Following a college syllabus where you have to be more organized and work harder was a new challenge. Once I was in my own college, I saw that it gave me an edge over students who don’t know what to expect or are surprised by the amount of work. They’re trying to manage a lot of new things at once.”

    Time for fun and friends

    But CPP wasn’t all about hitting the books. The program organizes outings in Chicago, and Mathis saw his first Cubs game and performed his poetry in cafes. He also took in Evanston’s vibrant downtown and lakefront with a new group of peers.

    “There were a lot of people my age and from many different backgrounds,” he says. “But every night in the dorm you get to know each other, and you connect as a family. I met so many people. It was very cool.”

    Mathis is now in his first year at Lake Forest College, where he is planning to major in communications.

    “The CPP course helped me learn how to connect with an audience, and that’s what attracts me to this field,” he says. “I would definitely recommend CPP. It can be life changing.”