Could putting ‘Harvard’ on your resume actually harm you?
Possibly. The Ivy’s $US11,000 two-course, pre-college program is considered just smoke and mirrors for college admissions, according to some experts.
But it’s not just Harvard – any of those summer programs that promise a ‘real college experience’ for eager (and wealthy) high school students aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
“When mummy and daddy have spent $US6,000-10,000 dollars so that Johnny can take two courses, when Johnny could have taken those two courses at a local community college for under $US1,000,” it looks bad Bev Taylor, founder of Ivy Coach, a New York based college consulting firm, told Business Insider.
Taylor tells her student clients not to attend the programs. And if it’s too late and they mistakenly spent the summer taking biology courses in Costa Rica, she tells them to leave it off their applications. “We see it as a big turn off to admissions counselors,” Taylor says. “These programs are sleep away camp with a couple of courses. It looks like the kid has no imagination and couldn’t come up with something on his own.”
However, one could argue that there are major benefits of having direct access to renowned professors or being immersed in a foreign language. Last year, Bloomberg reported how a student thought her recommendations from Harvard summer program helped her get into the University of Chicago.
But all the experts disagree, saying that these programs are neutral at best and harmful at worst.
“The reality of these programs is that they’re opportunities for families who can afford them. They’re not going to magically make sure you get into an Ivy League college,” Elizabeth Morgan, director of external relations at the National College Access Network, told Business Insider.
Taylor even goes so far as to say that they can hurt your admissions chances. “Lets say a student goes to a Brown summer program and applies early decision to Brown and doesn’t get in. Now they’re applying regular decision to all these other schools and they put Brown summer program on their resume. If you were an admissions person from Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, what would you think?”
But Eric Fuda, Dean of Admissions at University of Pennsylvania doesn’t see it so black and white. Fuda told BI that it’s more important what you get out of the programs “academically, socially, physically, mentally,” rather than just the attendance of them.
When asked about their reputation as grounds for lazy, rich kids who want a resume filler (postured more elegantly), he told us, “I think it’s dangerous for us to have knee-jerk reactions at any end of the socioeconomic spectrum.
When you start getting into, I don’t want a student because their parents are working hard and gainfully employed – that shouldn’t be held against that child.”
So what’s a prep kid to do?
The thing that everyone recommended doing was something the student is passionate about, preferably in a local, inexpensive setting.
“An admissions officer would be even more impressed with a student who decided that they wanted to explore a particular discipline or take a course and found a way to do it that was free,” said Morgan. “That kind of self directed work is going to be much more impressive to an admissions officer.”
Taylor agrees. “Find a local private college, or a community college, or do some research helping a professor. We have students who may volunteer their time working in a local museum giving tours. Find something that you’re passionate about, and do that. And it’s going to have a lot more weight than going to one of these fancy summer camps.”