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Articles / Applying to College / Which Summer Program for Strong Rising Senior?

Feb. 21, 2010

Which Summer Program for Strong Rising Senior?

Question: My daughter already attended THINK, CTD at Northwestern U. and a volunteer service abroad program for eight weeks. What is good summer program for a rising senior with all "A's" and stellar SAT's aiming for the tier one schools?

Given that your daughter has already done a variety of summer programs, my advice is for her to hop off the program track this summer and do something different.


A couple decades back, college admission officials were delighted to see applicants who had opted for summer enrichment classes on college campuses or had journeyed to distant lands to do good deeds. But, today, these activities turn up on applications so often that many admission folks have gotten a tad jaded when they spot them.

Of course, admission officers also recognize that these opportunities can provide academic or personal growth and challenge to students who may not be getting a sufficient dose of it during the school year, and they do like it when students pursue passions beyond the boundaries of the high school classroom. But if you have to ask "What program should my daughter do?" then the answer is probably "None." If she herself isn't shoving brochures in your face and hasn't already identified some program--or type of program--that she's desperate to try, then I recommend that she take a more atypical tack this summer. This could be a paid job or volunteer post close to home. She could even create her own job by organizing a little camp, offering lessons in an area where she has skills, launching a cottage industry, writing a novel, etc.

Top tier colleges receive gazillions of applications from students who, like your daughter, are gifted students ... so many, in fact, that it can be a daunting task to distinguish among them and make the necessary tough decisions. So finding a unique undertaking on an application under the "Summer Activities" rubric can make those tough decisions a smidgeon easier. And rarely does a litany of "programs," however excellent they may be, make an application jump out of the pile.

Moreover, your daughter might find that the resourcefulness required to come up with her own summer agenda will help her in many ways in the years ahead, and not just at college-admissions time.

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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