Summer college enrichment programs have received some attention in the press of late. As our loyal readers know all too well, we’re against students attending fancy shmancy summer programs at elite universities for a host of reasons, including but not limited to: it demonstrates a lack of initiative on a student’s part, it has the smell of privilege, and if a student ends up applying to another institution it gives the impression the school at which they attended summer camp was their true first choice. We’ve been outspoken over the years, both in the press and on the pages of this college admissions blog, about how much we think such programs hurt college applicants. And the irony of it all is that so many students sign up for such fancy programs in the hope of impressing admissions officers. Yet, so often it has the opposite effect.
In fact, why not hear it directly from the horse’s mouth? A few years back, Stanford University’s Admission and Financial Aid Dean, offered this quote to The Stanford Daily: “Richard Shaw, Stanford’s admission and financial aid dean, said that Stanford program attendees do not directly benefit in the undergraduate application process later on. ‘We would consider them an extracurricular activity and opportunity to experience what a college campus and taking college courses is like,’ he wrote. ‘There is no advantage given to students in these programs in the review. It would simply be an academic activity in which the student has participated. That being said taking part in a summer college experience is a wonderful experience for most who have opportunity to do so and a good orientation to what college is like.'”
So if these summer enrichment programs aren’t designed to improve students’ odds of admission to elite universities, why do they exist in the first place? That’s an easy one. These programs are revenue generators for universities. These schools have open beds on their campuses each summer. The schools fill some of these beds with high schoolers whose parents are paying often over $10,000 a head to send them off to camp. And that’s what it is — camp. It might be a great experience for them, sure. But, no, as Dean Shaw articulated a few years back, it’s not going to improve their odds of admission. And we’d take it a step further. If you ask us, we believe it’ll hurt their case for admission.
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