Choosing Your Summer Program for College Applications

Summer programs are a critical element of every student’s college application process. As more and more schools look for an unnatural level of maturity in their applicants, it is no longer acceptable for students to just take a break over the summer or hold down a single, light, part-time job. Instead, students should be exploring their interests, demonstrating their leadership, and serving their community as much as they possibly can. The question is no longer “Should my student take part in a summer program?” It is “How do I choose which one?”

  1. Is it strategic?

As with many elements of college planning, nothing exists in a vacuum. Colleges expect to see students with a depth of experience in their intended fields of study, students who have a plan to change the world in their own small way, and the drive to make it happen. Summer programs need to be strategic, therefore, aligning with other interests the student will be developing and contributing to an overall profile rather than a motley collection of unrelated hobbies.

  1. Is it impressive?

Students love to accumulate impressive accomplishments via extracurricular activities to show schools, and summer programs should be no exception! Well-known summer programs like Yale Young Global Scholars, COSMOS, or CTY look great on any application. Be warned, however: summer programs are a lucrative business, and there are companies that associate themselves with prestigious universities in order to take advantage of those looking for impressive programs. Don’t be fooled by the name of an Ivy League school on a program; if you can’t find that program on the school’s own website, and it doesn’t have a .edu web address, that program is likely, not impressive nor satisfies the next requirement…

  1. Is it rigorous?

This criterion may in fact be the easiest to satisfy, as it can be explored during the application process. Avoid programs that are less than 3 weeks long, and ideally, target programs that are 4-6 weeks in duration. Summer applications should also be competitive. If a program’s application consists of registering personal information, paying a fee, and receiving automatic entrance, stay away! While perhaps better than nothing, such a program does not demonstrate any achievement, intellectual or otherwise, on the part of the student.

If you’ve found a summer program that checks all of these boxes for your student, well done! They are well on their way to a productive summer. Now don’t forget to get started early and get those summer applications in!

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Tags: Higher Education, College, College Counseling, College Admissions, College Applications, Activities, Extracurricular Activities, Leadership, Community Service, Internships, Research, Summer Planning