College Summer Enrichment Programs

We came across a radio segment on “Public Radio International” that we figured we’d share with our readers. The segment focuses on college summer programs. For those of you who read our blog regularly, you know where we stand on the topic of fancy summer programs. We think they’re a waste. So often, parents get so excited about these programs. They say to themselves, “Luke is going to the Stanford summer enrichment program. This is going to definitely improve his odds of getting into Stanford.” Unfortunately, this parent couldn’t be more wrong. Not only does it say in explicit terms on the website for the Stanford University summer enrichment program (known as the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institute) that it won’t help a student’s case for admission, but it should also say that it can indeed hurt a student’s case for admission.

Summer Enrichment Program, College Summer Programs, University Summer Programs

Attending a college summer enrichment program can hurt — rather than help — a student’s case for admission (photo credit: Ad Meskens).

And why’s that? Let’s quote for you the words of Brown’s dean of admissions, Jim Miller, referenced within this very segment. Here’s how it goes: “But Brown’s dean of admissions Jim Miller doesn’t give any extra weight to summer programs. ‘Zero,’ he says. ‘We actually don’t know who’s been to our summer school. Some tell us. Some don’t. We have no idea what courses they’ve taken. We have no idea what their grades are.’ Miller says the university doesn’t favor anyone who’s had the resources to attend summer courses. ‘We are very conscious about drawing a pretty clear line,’ says Miller.” Read those words again. And again. Internalize them. Yes, Jim Miller explicitly states for the record that college summer programs have zero influence on admissions (why would you want to do something that has zero influence on admissions…if that’s the case, at least do something fun!). But then, more subtly, he states that Brown doesn’t favor anyone who’s had the resources to attend summer courses.

Yes, resources. Because these fancy summer programs have high sticker prices. And what these summer enrichment programs convey to college admissions officers is that mom and dad have the resources to pay to send you to summer camp. Yes, camp. The admissions process is a holistic process. You want admissions officers to root for your child. Do you think a human being is more likely to root for the applicant whose mom and dad sent him to fancy summer camp with the thought it would boost his chances of getting into Brown or do you think a human being is more likely to root for a student whose family didn’t have these resources for such a fancy program and instead chose to do a meaningful activity at no cost to his or her parents? You decide.

If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s help with shaping your child’s extracurricular activities so he or she has a hook — and doesn’t present as well-rounded (or entitled) — fill out our free consult form and we’ll be in touch. We look forward to hearing from you. And, while you’re here, check out what Ivy Coach Founder Bev Taylor has to say about fancy summer enrichment programs by watching the “Huffington Post Live” video below.

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