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Articles / Applying to College / Value of Summer Programs

April 10, 2002

Value of Summer Programs

Question: What goes on at "precollegiate" camps or classes? What kind of benefits can be gained from them, and how do college admissions officers view taking part in these courses?


You can experience just about anything you want in the way of both pure academic and non-academic personal enrichment courses at pre-college camps and courses. Most colleges offer summer programs for various reasons.


First, they are good marketing tools to bring students and parents in contact with the colleges, thus possibly creating future applications for the schools. Second, they create cash flow for the colleges because many of these programs are expensive. Also, they provide a way for the colleges to give teaching assistants and junior and senior faculty opportunities to earn some extra money during the otherwise slower summer months.

The effect on your college application success can vary. If the programs you attend are non-competitive, that is, if all you have to do is pay to attend, then admissions offices will generally not think too much of them. However, if the programs are competitive (selective), they will notice that. An example of a great competitive summer program would be most states' Governor's Schools. These are very prestigious and can open some of the more difficult college doors for you, assuming that your other credentials are up to par.

Finally, one last possible advantage of a summer program would be if you can develop a strong positive relationship with your professor(s) there. When it gets to be application time, they may be willing to say a good word for you with a letter of recommendation. If they are on faculty at the college where you're applying, then the effect can be that much stronger. Bottom line: It's far better to attend any summer program than it is to lie around the pool or just watch MTV.

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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