I first discovered the SHAD program at the start of high school from a SHAD Fellow who attended back in the eighties. It sounded like an incredible opportunity - a summer at a university campus, exploring a new city, making new friends, and getting to pursue all the things I was interested in. I attended SHAD at the University of Waterloo in 2016. I was definitely equal parts nervous and excited, but it only took a few hours for me to realize that SHAD was going to be synonymous to home. But hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself! Before attending, I had to get accepted. In this article, I’ll walk through the application process, what my experience was like when I got there, and the perks of being a SHAD Fellow.
BUT FIRST… For those of you who don’t know, SHAD is a registered charity that provides a month long summer enrichment program for “Canada’s best and brightest.” During the course of the summer, you are living, learning, and exploring with a group of 50-70 other high school students from all across Canada. The program is hosted at multiple universities across Canada, and you spend the entirety of July living on residence at one of the stunning campuses. You can find out more about SHAD here: https://www.shad.ca/
Now, in order to get into the program, there is a rigorous application process that you must undergo. The application includes essay writing, a creative piece, and references. You write about your passions and share the reasons why you want to attend SHAD. The application allows SHAD to see why you’d be a good fit for the program, and is a chance for you to highlight what makes you unique. Although it’s a long application, I definitely felt like I was given ample opportunity to share my stories, and it is excellent preparation for other enrichment applications you may find yourself writing in the future.
TIPS FOR WRITING THE APPLICATION:
Don’t procrastinate! It seems like very basic advice, but the application is long and detailed. Give yourself time to think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to convey your message, because there is a word limit to the questions you are answering. Get strong references and give your references time to go through the form. When I applied, the reference was not your usual “send in a one page letter”, but a series of questions and evaluations about you as a student. It will take time to complete if you want a good recommendation. Be honest. Don’t fake enthusiasm for something you are not passionate about. From my personal experience, SHAD is pretty awesome at bringing together a group of people who come from a variety of backgrounds and have remarkable skills that will literally blow your mind. Whether you are a talented oboist or an award-winning debater, your story is valuable and it’s uniquely you. So share it!If you don’t get into the program the first time, don’t be discouraged and definitely apply again! You don’t want to miss out on what will probably be the best summer of your life!
While at the program, I had the opportunity to learn about a lot of things that I never would have explored on my own. From matrices to Fermi problems to the applications of Finding Nemo in the real world, every day my mind went on this incredible journey. I’m going to be honest, some of the things we talked about seemed so far beyond me and my background knowledge, but that was probably the most fun part about it. One thing that we stressed a lot at our campus was to step outside of our comfort zone and not be afraid to try new things. Throughout SHAD, you were given multiple opportunities to do so. I went camping for the first time, played pool noodle hockey, performed in front of an audience, and lived away from home for an extended period of time. Every day was filled with new adventures, deep life questions, and the chance to make life-long friendships with a group of people that you can call family. Without spoiling too much, you can rest assured that your time at SHAD will be well rounded, and provide an equal balance between academic lectures, artistic endeavours, and experiential learning.
One of the reasons I thought of writing this post was because I was scrolling through Instagram and seeing the pictures from this year’s SHAD cohort. It’s been two years, but I still stay in touch with the friends that I’ve made, and I have also benefitted from the network as a whole. My connections through SHAD got me two summer jobs that I would not have had access to otherwise, and it’s such a cool feeling when you walk into a new place and you meet another SHAD. (You can trust me on this one!)
In conclusion, it’s honestly not possible to really define what SHAD is and how it makes you feel in words. I walked in to a room with 53 strangers and walked out with 53 new family members. You will laugh together, cry together, and make beautiful memories that will stick with you long after you leave the campus behind. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
~Written By Vaneezeh Siddiqui