There’s only three more months of the academic year (and only 8 weeks until the first AP Exam!).  Nearly all of my students have made summer plans and applications are complete or in progress!  In this blog I’ll discuss some facts and myths related to attending a summer collegiate program.

You’re invited to schedule you  strategic educational consultation obtaining valuable pre-college academic advising with Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.   SCHEDULE A STRATEGIC CONSULTATION – SUMMER PROGRAMs

Build & refine your customized academic plan including evaluating your summer options, selecting next year’s courses, refining extracurricular activities and evaluating cost-effective campus visits this spring.

Should your high school student attend a summer college program?

There are many benefits to be gained from attending a competitive collegiate summer program. Let’s look at few:

Reduce 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.

Professor Recommendation: The Common Application requires two teacher recommendations for many colleges.  These tend to be a very insignificant part of the overall evaluation process as most recommendations are favorable (similar).   Recommendations that make a difference 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 that 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.

Enhance Your Activities Resume:  Some students may attend high schools with limited extracurricular activities related to the intended major.  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 inputs to your Common Application Activities section and provide experiences to support the content of your college specific supplemental essays.

Emotional and Academic Growth:   Moving into a college dorm 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.  The senior 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.

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.


PROGRAM RECOMMENDATIONS: 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.

Topic for a College Application Essay:  As noted, one of the two required essays at more competitive institutions focuses on demonstrating informed interest in the intended area of study.   Attendance at a summer program provides content for an essay connecting classroom lessons with high school extracurricular pursuits.

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. 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.

First Draft of your College Essay:  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!


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 have earned credit to apply towards your undergraduate degree. Avoid enrolling in programs that have a reputation as “programs of privilege” 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.
  • http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/education/edlife/leadership-t.html?_r=0

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.