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Articles / Applying to College / Is Campus Summer Program Worth the Expense?

Is Campus Summer Program Worth the Expense?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 13, 2010

Question: I am a high school sophomore. I feel that I should do a summer school program to learn and have a college experience for a few weeks, but many of my friends are saying that it would just be a waste of money. My family doesn't have that much money and would only like to use a set limit for my extracurriculars. What would be best for me?

Are you interested in an on-campus experience because you think it will help you mature and be comfortable away from home as well as to learn something about a field that interests you? Or do you want to do it because you feel it will "look good" on your college applications later on?

If the latter is your concern, don't worry. Admission officials usually agree that summer programs on college campuses count as "time well spent," but these programs rarely serve as "hooks" to help students get admitted, especially to the more selective institutions. There are simply way too many students choosing this option for it to stand out in the crowd at admissions-verdict time. In fact, admission folks are usually more impressed when an applicant has undertaken something unique in the summer or has simply done volunteer work or held down a job (including a very menial one). So certainly don't feel that a college-campus summer is a prerequisite to wowing admission committees.

If, however, you believe that spending time away from home on a college campus would be good for your personal growth, or if you have a specific academic area that you would like to explore in depth, you may want to try to locate a program that is short and thus perhaps not extremely expensive. You can also look for one that offers financial aid, if you feel that you may qualify. "Enrichment Alley" is a good Web site for searching for summer opportunities. In the program description, you will be able to see if financial aid is offered. You should also talk to your guidance counselor. In some states, there are selective programs held on college campuses for top students that can be inexpensive or even cost-free. So ask your counselor about "Governor's Schools" in your state as well as about other possibilities.

Happy hunting!

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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