Summer Studies at St. Paul’s Prove Rewarding

Helen Tosteson works on a piece in the ASP Studio. Photo courtesy of Rob Schrader.

Perhaps you find oceans intriguing, and marine biology is your passion. Or maybe you breathe to recite Shakespeare. Those are only two of the twenty college-level course topics offered to New Hampshire’s rising seniors at the intensive Advanced Studies Program (ASP) at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire’s beautiful campus. ASP is also highly selective, with the application process including three short essays. This summer, Hanover High seniors Katie Irwin, Helen Tosteson, Sandy Yu, Safiya Walker, Parker Gardner, and Eloise Dietz were 6 of the 269 New Hampshire students admitted.

ASP is challenging academically; however, the program is about much more than just hitting the books. Students participate in sports, ranging from soccer to badminton; participants in campus and dorm life;  and enjoy special activities such as Friday night dances. A typical weekday at ASP begins with breakfast at 7:15 a.m. before 8 a.m. chapel, a non-religious announcement time. At 8:30 a.m., students proceed to their main study program with a break for snack and a writing workshop mid-morning. Lunch is served at 12:45 p.m. and afterward students have free time until 3 p.m. when sports begin. Dinner is after practice beginning at 5pm, followed by study hours until 11 p.m.

Classes all day and studying every evening may sound similar to regular school; however, the ASP experience is nothing like what you receive in the typical HHS classroom. Participants choose a subject that interests them to study in-depth for their five-week stay. For example, senior Helen Tosteson took Studio Arts and describes the experience as being the “most dynamic,” as it included “trying a bit of everything: from raku-firing techniques to making shoes out of masking tape.”

ASP also introduces participants to advanced equipment not present in high school classrooms. Katie Irwin and Sandy Yu studied microbiology and remarked on the gel electrophoresis, micropipettes, centrifuges, and PCR machines that they, as Katie remarked, had “never used in science class before.”

ASP is a gratifying way to spend five weeks of summer vacation. When asked if she missed out on anything during the summer, Safiya Walker replied: “Absolutely not. It was definitely worth it. For me, it was an opportunity to do so many of the things I love to do [such as] discussing literature, running, meeting people who are passionate about what they do, and just overall having fun.” Katie adds that she “would have been really bored if [she] hadn’t gone.” The program only “took up about half the summer,” which was “was the perfect amount of time to be away.”

ASP brings rising seniors from across New Hampshire together in an environment cultivating lasting friendships. Helen Tosteson stressed, “the most important thing [she] learned [at ASP] was to really listen to people, [and that] everyone has struggles, but friends can help to overcome them.” On the other hand, Safiya’s favorite aspect of ASP was “living in a dorm, balancing [her] activities, [and] setting time aside for [her]self,” finding it a “great mini-college experience.”

Are you still on the fence about applying? Safiya provides the best pro-ASP encouragement: “I would recommend ASP to anyone whether you think you’re ‘smart,’ ‘studious,’ ‘intelligent’ or not. If there’s a course that looks interesting to you, apply. ASP is an opportunity for rising seniors to take those few weeks during the summer, breathe, and study something fun for [themselves] without the pressure of grades.”

If you are interested in applying to ASP next summer, or simply want more information about the program, you can visit St. Paul’s APS website at or speak to anyone who has participated in the program.

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