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Articles / Applying to College / Is Pricey Summer Program Worth the Dough?

April 27, 2012

Is Pricey Summer Program Worth the Dough?

Question: We live in the Midwest and our High School Junior is looking at a 4 week residential program at a private University in California with a focus on college level writing. Fees plus transportation costs will top $8,000. Is this worth the money?

There's an old joke about a tourist who is lost in rural Maine. When he comes to a fork in the road he spots an old codger, clearly a local. So the tourist calls out, "Does it matter which of these roads I take?" and the codger replies, "Not to me, it don't."


Your question somehow evoked that same thought. I would never spend $8K for a summer writing program for my own son. But this is a very personal decision, one that should be based on your family finances and also on what you feel would most benefit your child.

If you have unlimited resources and your child seems especially excited about this opportunity, you may find that you get sufficient bang for your buck. If your child has always been an indifferent student but suddenly seems passionate about writing--and about this program in particular--you may decide that this is the time to fuel this passion.

But there are many more cost-effective ways to study writing, and if you're hoping that this Left Coast program will give your child a boost at admissions time, it probably will not. (It MIGHT help at the host college but it depends on the school. Generally, the more selective the college, the less attending the summer program will matter at admission-verdict time.)

In terms of admissions "currency," admission folks are often more impressed by the kid who's spent the summer flipping burgers at Mickey D's than by the one whose parents wrote out a whopping check for an on-campus endeavor. And there are probably free writers' groups in your community ... or a cheap class at the local college ... that could concurrently fuel a budding Anne Tyler or Ernest Hemingway.

Hope that helps. Good luck with the decision.

(posted 4/27/2012)

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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