College-sponsored summer academic programs are increasingly popular among high school students, partly because students and their parents believe that these programs can give a boost to college applications.
That's a reasonable expectation, says Senior Admissions Consultant
Deb Schmidt – but only up to a point. Moreover, the advantage gained by summer program participation is not quite the one some people think it is.
"Summer programs can be a great way for high school sophomores and juniors to earn college credit while gaining a first-hand look at undergraduate life," says
Deb. "These programs can range in length from a few weeks to the bulk of the
summer, and cover topics as diverse as architecture, theater, medicine, and
"But participation in a school's summer program is not a guarantee for later admission to the college involved,"
Deb stresses. That's partly because there is usually no overlap between a college's summer program administration and its admissions office. The two offices have separate staffs and often use different selection criteria. That means that being selected for a competitive summer program doesn't necessarily mean you'll be a strong candidate for undergraduate admissions.
"All the same," says Deb, "participation in a summer program is viewed favorably by admissions committees. It shows initiative on the applicant's part and a genuine interest in a given area of study.
"To get the most out of a summer program experience, students should make an active effort to get to know their classmates and professors. They should also make time to explore the campus and the surrounding city.
"Remember, a summer program gives students an opportunity to learn more about a target college than viewbooks, websites, or even campus visits can provide," says
Deb. That experience can be invaluable when it's time to address the 'Why College X?' question in your application essays.
– Senior Consultant Deb Schmidt was the Senior Associate Director of Admission at
Cornell and the Assistant Dean of Admission at Carleton College.
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