Are you thinking of sending your child to a summer program at an elite university like Stanford or UPenn? Are you thinking attending such a program would improve your child’s case for admission to highly selective universities? If so, we’d urge you to reconsider your plans. It’s not that we don’t understand your line of thinking. You’re probably thinking that if your daughter attends UPenn, she will not only have a great summer but she’ll be surrounded by top students, get a feel for what going to an elite university is all about, and she’ll also improve her case for admission to UPenn. It’s not as though you’re the only person who thinks this all to be true. Unfortunately, however, none of it is true. In fact, we’d argue that attending such programs will significantly hurt a student’s case for admission to all highly selective universities. Yes, including even UPenn.
Many Students Turn to Fancy Summer Programs
As Lisa Kocian writes in a piece this week for The Boston Globe entitled “Pricey summer programs raise fairness questions,” “College admissions officers say they certainly have to weigh an applicant’s internships or farflung adventures. But a student can have an extraordinary experience in variety of ways, not all of which cost money, they note. Bill Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard University, said high-priced internships can be ‘wonderful experiences,’ but ‘in and of themselves, they will not give a student an advantage in the admissions process because the playing field is not level. The substantial majority of high school students cannot afford to do these things. I think there are many people now who understand there are plenty of activities, for example, working a full-time job in the summer or volunteer activities, that don’t have to be in Tanzania – they can be right down the street.'”
Students Attending Fancy Summer Programs Is Ill-Advised
You see, in recent years, these expensive summer programs have become more pervasive. Parents are paying thousands of dollars for their college-bound children to enhance their extracurricular involvements, while students are finding more exotic places in which to perform community service. Then there are those parents who are actually paying for their children to participate in non-paid internships. What students and parents fail to grasp is that these pricey programs can sometimes — and by sometimes we mean always — do more harm than good because they highlight how the family’s privilege unfairly tilts the playing field. More than not, attending such programs inspires admissions officers to root against applicants…not for them. Parents don’t need to spend $6,000 to travel to the Fiji Islands so their children can work with preschoolers or construct nursing stations. Through their school, synagogue, church, and together with their friends, or even on their own, students can do something significant in their own community. And that would ultimately impress admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities a whole lot more.
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