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Articles / Applying to College / Are Summer Programs for Gifted Students Important Elite-College Stepping Stones?

Are Summer Programs for Gifted Students Important Elite-College Stepping Stones?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 27, 2012

Question: My daughter is a high school freshman who excels at academics as well as sports. She is kept very busy year round as she trains in the summer in track, trains as a lifeguard with a local beach safety group and usually takes online classes through Florida Virtual School. She has been invited to take summer programs including Duke TIP, Johns Hopkins CTY and most recently Stanford EPGY. She did take the PSAT early, scored very well, and another flood of emails and brochures hit her. These programs all seem very expensive and while we are flattered she has received these invitations, we wonder how important they are in the overall college application process. Some of the classes appeal to her but she could just as easily take an AP Computer Science class on Florida Virtual School for free. What is your take on this? We would rather save the money for travel and for college expenses.

Programs like TIP, CTY, and EPGY can be a godsend for students who aren't challenged in their own high schools and who desperately want to spend time in an environment, where smart = cool. These endeavors typically provide interesting, well-run experiences, which many bright teenagers enjoy. But they are definitely NOT college-admissions imperatives.

It sounds like your daughter has a lot going on already and is thriving in her various activities. Since she isn't throwing herself at your feet and begging for you to ship her off to a place where her peers will respect quantum physics more than Justin Bieber, I agree that your money will be better spent on travel and college tuition.

As you can read in many of my other "Ask the Dean" columns, admission folks have gotten pretty jaded from seeing so many summer "programs" on applications, and your daughter will not disadvantage herself by making other choices.

Note, however, that there are a few programs for gifted students that are free. For instance, looking down the road a bit, you might want to check out the Telluride Association Summer Program:


TASP is cost-free to all participants, and getting into it is probably harder than Harvard. But it's well respected by "elite college" admission officials, and it might be a good fit for your talented daughter in a couple years, if she wants to trade in the Florida heat for six weeks of Colorado mountain breezes. :)

(posted 2/27/2012)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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