College Admissions Planning: Insider Tips


Greetings Students & Families
This is a great time to assess where you are in realizing your educational goals and also begin thinking about summer 2022 plans.  This blog focuses on summer options – including collegiate summer programs and other options that can help students discover or deepen an academic interest.
As I commented in my previous newsletter, it’s also the time of year after October PSAT scores are released when sophomores and juniors find their inbox and postal mailboxes overflowing with information about universities. You may think you’ve been “selected”, but as I cautioned, please recognize that the volume of mail is absolutely no indicator of interest- it’s all marketing. In my piece about COLLEGE MAILINGS  I caution how to view the content of these mailings.
But mostly, this is the time of year when students and families should be engaged in guided ongoing conversations with teachers, guidance counselors and their college advisor to leverage personal interests and talents — become informed. It’s important to recognize that you are a consumer – searching for an outstanding educational experience on a campus you might decide to call home. Be selective! You do get to make the decision! Whether your journey is sparked through clubs at school, activities within your community, attending a summer program, or participating in a national writing contest, students should enrich their classroom experiences in ways that encourage curiosity.
  • What are some of the potential educational and career paths you may have overlooked?
  • How might you discover more about a college that is the perfect ‘fit’ for you?
  • Why is community service important in the longer term?
  • Is your teen joyful or overwhelmed?  Please Adjust!
 As a university educator and college counselor with over 30+ years of experience guiding young adults, my message is straightforward- it’s about the importance of young adults finding the joy in all that they do both within and outside the classroom.
So let’s talk about SUMMER 2022!
While I appreciate that your family and our world continue to find challenges in this ongoing pandemic – colleges and universities have set plans in motion. Whereas many summer 2020 and 2021 programs were cancelled or delivered in an online modality– universities are ready to deliver quality summer programs to high school students. While some are being delivered again online – we see that most collegiate programs will offer in-person learning.
The range of course offerings and research opportunities continues to expand with several new coures offerings and research opportunities at some of my favorite summer programs: UPenn, NYU, University of Florida, Cornell, Syracuse, Boston Pratt and other universities – there is certainly an option that fits you!
About this time last year, I shared a story about 17 year-old Wolf Cukier–an aspiring astro-physicist who discovered a planet during the third day of his NASA internship in the summer of 2019. Yes – that’s exceptional! It’s also inspirational – but internships and outcomes such as these are rare and unexpected – so let’s return to earth and talk about your teen’s summer!
Following lunch at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market pre-pandemic- these young women and I walked to Taughannock Falls together in Ithaca NY- all were participants in Cornell University Summer College across a variety of interesting fields of study.
High school students can easily become engaged in impactful volunteering, a meaningful summer job or an intriguing collegiate summer program — any of these possibilities can define a summer sparked by exploration, discovery and possibly add value to college applications.
As a parent and as an educator- I can tell you that summer is about recharging the soul and sparking discovery that continues to position our teens for finding their path. Confidence, independence and motivation can only emerge from within – but can be fostered with supportive guidance.
For Juniors (’23) thinking about the college application process and their college essays (as teachers and school GCs may begin work on college essays sometime this spring semester), summer experiences are important to further define interests and allow college admissions officers to understand how you spent your time during summers (many an essay prompt asks that very question!).

Should middle & high school students attend a summer collegiate program? WHICH ONE?

There are many benefits to be gained from attending a selective credit-bearing collegiate summer program. Let’s look at few:
Reduce College Application Admissions Guesswork:
Attendance and success at a genuine (see below) credit-bearing collegiate summer program can undo and overshadow a less than stellar high school GPA. From an admissions perspective, a prediction about each applicant’s ability to succeed as an undergraduate must be made. Successful completion of a college course with a demonstrated academic transcript reduces the guess work in your application.
The Common Application includes a question on whether you’ve completed college level coursework.  Not only will you learn new subject matter, but your admissions file is made stronger potentially expanding your competitive reach.
Every year I have students attending specific programs where 100% of students are subsequently accepted to colleges during the admissions season- ask me which college programs are partial to students who succeed in their summer sessions..
Professor Recommendation:
Many colleges require you to submit two teacher recommendations to your Common or Coalition Application. These tend to be a very insignificant part of the overall evaluation process as most recommendations are favorable (similar).
Recommendations that make a difference in college admissions and let you stand apart from your peers are those from industry leaders, congressional members and yes, academic professors / researchers.
Attending a college summer program affords you the opportunity to make a connection with a faculty member in a college of interest and garner a recommendation that goes much further than those written by any high school teacher.`
Explore and Confirm an Academic Area of Interest:
Some students seem determined to become engineers. Other students have many interests and are “flexibly undecided!” We can debate whether it’s healthy or relevant for a 16 or 17 year old person to know what they want to study. The reality, college applications often entail a supplemental essay asking to define why you’ve selected a major area of study at a given college.
Acceptance rates are higher for students with clear direction generated and inspired by academic and extracurricular experiences. Taking summer courses or conducting academic research is an opportunity to explore a variety of potential interests and perhaps confirm an existing interest. Some students find new passions and others abandon a presumed interest.
This not only helps define an interest, but helps a students articulate their academic vision on required college specific prompts.
A Different Question from COLLEGE CHOICE
College Admissions Planning: HOW TO SELECT A COLLEGE and A MAJOR That "FITs" YOU!
Let me assist you in finding the perfect balance between exploration and academic challenge within an enjoyable summer setting. With so many available summer program choices, I can help you navigate and select the most suitable program for your student and family budget (many offer scholarships).
Enhance Your Activities Resume:
Some students may attend high schools with limited extracurricular activities related to their intended major. Or perhaps- you’re a devoted athlete or accomplished musician and that commitment has limited your time for academic extracurriculars.
For example, aspiring scientists or physicians may not have opportunities to participate in national scientific research competitions. Aspiring engineers may be attending a high school lacking the budget to offer a FIRST Robotics team or even AP Computer Science.  Attending a college summer program enhances the exposure to activities and experiences that build your activities resume, add meaningful and academically relevant inputs to your Common Application Activities section and provide experiences to support the content of your college specific supplemental essays.

Topic for a College Application Essay:

As noted above– with so many colleges asking you to elaborate on your academic interests- taking a summer class can not only expand your interests- but show you have the abilities to succeed in challenging and relevant coursework.
Students can expand about how their extracurricular activities were developed within an interesting summer course demonstrating “informed interest”.
Build Your Portfolio –
Conduct Scientific Research or
Enhance Art & Music Portfolios:
The work completed in some summer programs can be an important and valuable part of your college application.  The Common Application includes a section allowing for uploads of work. Music and art students present portfolios. Aspiring liberal arts majors can submit finished written work including essays and research papers. Potential STEM majors are encouraged to participate in national competitions in science and engineering.  Computer scientists and engineers can generate finished code and other products which demonstrate creativity and talents in the intended field of study.
Financial Aid, FAFSA & Scholarships-- College Application Help- What to Know!
Emotional and Academic Growth:
Moving into a college dorm as a freshman shouldn’t be the first time your high school student has any significant experience away from home. Being homesick can derail even the best of students.  One of the benefits of spending 4 to 6 weeks in a collegiate summer program is the inevitable gain in academic confidence and self-direction.
While summer 2022 includes both programs being offered virtually and in-person, for those students who will attend a residential program, this is an invaluable opportunity.
The subsequent year of high school feels much different after managing the academic demands of accelerated coursework on campus the previous summer. A student will learn how to study, increase time management skills and all while being responsible for laundry, money management and finding the time to eat.  Parents will observe marked maturation and even less “haggling” about time management and homework.
Summer program applications provide a dry-run and a base to build upon for the subsequent round of essays on your Common Application in the fall of the senior year. Jump start your college application!
The vast number of summer collegiate programs have an essay prompt asking students why they want to attend. The answer is an opportunity to begin to hone thoughts about an emerging or defined academic interest.
Wait for it-you’ve been wondering about that “admissions bump”?!!  There’s no guarantee of admissions in any setting. That said, the successful completion of academic coursework coupled with a recommendation from a campus professor will increase the chances of admission. Some colleges even offer non-binding Early Action to students attending summer programs.  If there is a clear first choice on your short list of colleges, attending a summer program is strategically advantageous for both the Early Decision and Regular Admissions cycles.



College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD reviewing College Acceptances

I maintain an extensive list of recommended summer programs for all potential major areas of study. I can also recommend programs that offer financial assistance and those that are unique for women and underrepresented students.
What excites me about summer 2022 are the large number of innovative ways that universities have adapted to the pandemic. New research opportunities, intriguing institutes and awesome classes are all available in addition to many of the long-standing programs my clients have attended over the years.
If a summer program just doesn’t feel right for you, let me help you put together a more local plan that involves a self-directed project, local internship or meaningful volunteer experience. Many professional organizations welcome the opportunity to allow high school students to shadow and contribute. Don’t wait until May to ask- now is the time to write your cover letter and begin networking.
Myths – Heads Up!
It’s preferable to attend summer programs leading to an academic transcript of your completed work. Not only is there an admissions boost, but you will earn credit to apply towards your undergraduate degree.
Avoid enrolling in programs that have a reputation as “pay to play” offering less in the way of academics.  Some programs are outright scams and these arrive in your mailbox with glossy paper and invitations suggesting you were selected from the elite of high school students. Sadly, this is simply untrue.
The best programs are those that can be documented thru a college transcript. In you need guidance on selecting a summer program and specific courses, speak with me! I have extensive knowledge of undergraduate degree requirements across a variety of majors. I’ll help you select courses that will be relevant to your potential undergraduate major and help you to make a seamless and successful transition from high school to your undergraduate experience.
Please don’t take a course that is offered as an AP class at your high school – search for something unique and meaningful (especially since college tuition is expensive!)
 College Admissions Officers want to know about the student- -WHO ARE YOU? That individuality guides where you apply and attend.
If you’re a Junior ’23 now is the time to be actively engaged in research on the variety of college majors. Working with your college advisor, please aim to have your balanced short-list of colleges in place by the time we reach June – and hopefully you’ll be joining me at my June Writers Block Workshop.
Spaces are limited. We hope you’ll join us! But prior to workshop- we have much to accomplish- learning about what major may be a good fit for you and becoming involved in that area of interest so you know more about yourself and can demonstrate on your applications the essential “informed interest”.



I invite you to schedule your mid-year strategic educational check-up to assist with summer plans and confirming course planning for the next academic year.
Warm regards,
Post-Pandemic In-Person
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Educational & College Admissions Consultant - Meet Bonnie R. Rabin, PhD, National Expert, 30+ Years
Meet Bonnie Rabin, PhD
JUNIORS– CLASS of 2023 –
Registration is now open for our June Writers Block Workshop
Followed by our Popular Sunday Fall Series resuming August 2021