There was an article in “Bloomberg” recently by Mary Camille Izlar entitled “Harvard Summer Program Recommendations Come at Hefty Cost” that discusses the price parents will pay to send their children to expensive college summer programs. They do this of course to improve their child’s odds of getting into the highly selective colleges of their dreams. The article references how students are charged $10,490 to attend a summer program at Harvard and, in exchange, these students will seek out Harvard professors to write letters of recommendation on their behalf as they apply to colleges (not just Harvard).
Many parents and students really believe that these college summer programs are the admissions ticket. We’re here to say that they’re just plain wrong, and we’ve been saying this for over 20 years. Do you know what it says when an applicant attended an expensive summer program? It says that mommy and daddy are wealthy and that their child is uncreative in that he or she can’t think of anything else to do for the summer but participate in an organized program that’s not that dissimilar to attending sleep-a-way camp or a teen tour. This type of program is not all that dissimilar to going to sleep-a-way camp or going on a teen tour. How do you think that comes across to admissions officers? Are they more likely to admit the children of privilege or the underprivileged? Unless that child of privileged is a legacy or a development case, the underprivileged kid is always going to win in highly selective college admissions.
These college summer programs are a major money-maker for universities across the nation. And they’re only growing in popularity. According to the “Bloomberg” piece, “Filling the dorms for the summer is a common method for colleges to make money, said Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, an organization that works to expand student access to higher education. ‘Colleges and universities are facing lots of budget pressure, and many of these programs draw $5,000, $7,000 or $10,000 per student in a few weeks,’ Merisotis said. ‘That’s pretty good money from the perspective of the universities.'”
So if you don’t want to pay for your child to attend one of these college summer programs, don’t do it. It could hurt their chances of admission to highly selective colleges. Should they be doing nothing all summer instead? Absolutely not. They should be working, pursuing their passions (intellectual, athletic, etc.), researching, and you get the idea. They should not be sitting on the beach tanning!