Once an unbreakable tradition of laziness and empty days, summertime has become an irresistible opportunity for college-bound juniors and seniors to stock up on college credit and perfect their college résumés.

Students are dropping baseball bats and cool glasses of lemonade for a sturdy backpack and some textbooks to spend three to six weeks studying on a college campus.

Think this is pure madness? It's actually an exceedingly popular trend as an increasing number of top colleges open their doors to help high school students get a running start toward college success.

Why go?
Summer sessions are held at colleges such as Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Northwestern and Brown—just to name a few. Programs consist of courses taught by esteemed professors, along with prep programs for college admissions and standardized tests.

Students can receive college credit for their efforts, along with a taste of college life. One of the most exciting aspects of summer programs is that they also attract teens from Europe, Asia, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia and South America, creating an atmosphere of social and cultural diversity.

How do I get in?
Admissions directors aren't looking only for whiz kids or child prodigies.
They want students who have a desire to learn and grow in every way possible, who are aware of what their futures can hold and who are willing to work a little harder to reach the stars.

It doesn't matter if you're not perfect—as long as you have the desire to learn and can answer a few questions about yourself on the application, there's a strong chance you'll be admitted to a summer program.

What do I get out of it?
Even if studying all summer doesn't appeal to you, there's much you can gain from attending a summer program.

Not only can you receive college credit, but you'll have the opportunity to live in a college dorm and get a feel for a campus.

When college application time rolls around, a summer program under your belt lets colleges know you're serious about your education.

Oh, and don't worry about getting bored—there's usually tons to do outside of the classroom with the friends you make. Going out to eat, going shopping, or joining a game of pick-up football are just a few things to do in your spare time. Summer college really isn't as nerdy as it sounds.

All in all, if you're looking for a place where learning is fun again, try attending a summer program.

Mira Patel is a Next Step Magazine intern from Webster, N.Y. She is a senior at Webster Schroeder High School.