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Articles / Applying to College / National Youth Leadership Forum or Brown Summer Program?

National Youth Leadership Forum or Brown Summer Program?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | March 31, 2011

Question: Thank you in advance for whatever help you find yourself able to give. My predicament is as follows: I am in 10th grade, and I've normally been a perfect student, but at the beginning of my second semester, I was diagnosed with insomnia... Joy (I write this past midnight). So my math grade has dropped, terribly. This is undoubtedly my last year to be accepted to anything worthwhile, in the way of summer programs. Regardless of my "career aspirations" I need to weight my college application. I've been accepted to Summer@Brown and invited to the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, and I'm unsure which to attend.

Which carries more weight with admission officers? I know Summer@Brown is an open-application-type program, and NYLFM is invitation only, and in the past 10 years, 8 students from my school have attended, some of them valedictorians, and all of them notable. NYLFM also gives college credit at George Mason, while Summer@Brown does not give any college credit.

NYLFM seems like the more prestigious program all in all, but I'm unsure, after all, Summer@Brown is still an Ivy League summer program. Can you give me ANY inkling of information about what looks better to colleges? Thanks you and have a nice, err, whatever it is for you at the moment :)

Don’t lose any more sleep over this decision. NEITHER of these programs will impress elite-college admission officials. If you are interested in attending, and the money won’t put a big dent in the family coffers, then I don’t mean to deter you. They are both reputable programs which most students seem to enjoy and find worthwhile. But don’t use them as application ammunition. Admission folks, especially, at the more selective schools, are up to their eyeballs in candidates who thought that pricey summer gigs would highlight their academic passion. When these candidates are accepted, it’s more likely to be in spite of these summer endeavors rather than because of them.

A couple other things you should know:

1) NYLFM is NOT selective. Well, okay, not everyone is “invited” or is “qualified” to go. But the admissions bar is not set high because their savvy administrators realize that many smart students (like you) want to believe that they have been culled from the masses for this special opportunity. College admission officials, however, know otherwise. Trust me, this program is not prestigious at all. In fact, some college folks may even roll their eyes when they spot NYLFM on your résumé because they’ll suspect you were duped into thinking that you’d be selected for a special honor.

2) The “credit” you receive from most summer programs will not be accepted at the majority of the more competitive colleges. It will be accepted at some places, but it is not nearly as widely recognized as typical program propaganda will lead you to believe.

Both of these programs are reputed to be well run, and they receive high praise by many of the students who enroll. So if either one offers you an opportunity to explore an area of interest in depth, then don’t cross it off your list. If you’re determined to go to one or the other, I’d vote for Brown—not because it offers any inside track to affirmative admission outcomes but because it will at least provide a chance to sample college life and perhaps will give you a snapshot of what you may want to seek—or avoid---in your “real” college later on.

But don’t waste any more of your precious potential minutes in dreamland trying to decide which of these summer stints will improve your admission odds. Taking a class (in math?) at your local community college while volunteering at a nearby nursing home or literacy center and putting in a few hours behind the fry-o-lator at Mickey D’s would actually carry a lot more admissions clout.

Good luck to you with your decision … and your insomnia.

(posted 3/31/2011)

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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