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College Summer Programs – Are They Worth It?

April 21, 2017

Summer College Programs - Are they worth itMany high school students wonder what college life will be like.  They wonder about the social aspects and the academic challenges that will await them.  Thanks to college summer programs that are offered by many top-ranking colleges and universities across the U.S., students no longer have to wonder what college life will be like; instead, they can experience it for themselves in the form of college summer programs.

Top colleges across the nation offer summer programs to high school students. Frequently known as college discovery or college enrichment programs, students can spend a few weeks to a few months participating in programs that focus on an array of subjects from mathematics to the arts.  Some schools even offer athletic programs for interested students. 

The college summer enrichment programs that focus on academics allow students to study with top-notch researchers in their fields.  Experts can include scientists, well-known scholars, and other noted figures from a particular field. The enrichment programs that focus on athletics or subjects such as music and the arts similarly allow students to engage with individuals renowned in their field of expertise.

But more than the opportunity to learn and work with scholars and researchers, students also get a feel for what college will be like – living on campus, going to class, and socializing with other students in the program are all aspects of the enrichment programs that attract students not only across the country but across the world.

If personal enrichment and a chance to experience college life before leaving high school is what a student is searching for then a college summer program is a great opportunity.  However, many students assume that by participating in a college summer program hosted by a selective college, they will get an advantage in the admissions process. 

This is a misconception.  It is not certain that attending a college summer program at a top-ranked college will improve a student’s chance of being admitted into that same college.  Obviously, anything in your admissions packet that makes you stand out in a positive way such as a summer enrichment program will help bolster your college application somewhat, but participating in a college summer program does not necessarily give a student an advantage in the admissions office. 

This isn’t to say that college summer programs aren’t worth attending, because they are. They can help students better determine what major they would like to pursue.  They can help match you with a mentor that might be highly important to you down the road.  They can even help you adjust better to the independence of college that many students have difficulty adapting to if they’ve never been on their own before.

But in terms of a competitive advantage over other applicants? That has yet to be seen.  If you do decide to participate in a college summer program, make sure you choose one that you’re genuinely interested in for the right reasons.  If you’re going to choose one in hopes that it means you’ll get into that same school for college, then you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.  By all means, take advantage of the college enrichment program of your choice, but do so for the right reasons, such as personal fulfillment and learning.


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