Summer Before Senior Year

Summer Before Senior Year in HS, HS Summers, High School Summers

Spend your summer months wisely. Attending a summer program at a top college isn’t spending your summer wisely in the eyes of admissions officers at top colleges. No matter what they state publicly.

How should you be spending your summer before your senior year? You should be going to a highly selective university like Duke, Johns Hopkins, or Stanford to partake in their prestigious summer programs, right? It would seem logical. After all, if you want to go to Stanford, wouldn’t enrolling in the Stanford Pre-Colegiate Summer Institute make sense? Wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s a trap. A big trap. As we’ve said many times before on this blog, in publications across America, and on “Huffington Post Live,” these summer programs at highly selective colleges are sleepaway camps.

College admissions officers at highly selective colleges aren’t impressed that mommy and daddy spent over $10,000 for you to go to the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institute. They don’t care how selective the admissions process was for you to be able to attend. And btw, it’s not all that selective. What they see is that mommy and daddy can afford to send you to camp, that you couldn’t come up with any genuinely creative way to spend your summer, and you think attending such a program will impress in the college admissions process. Quite simply, it won’t.

But, wait, here’s how Stanford describes their program on their website: “The Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes are three-week and four-week residential programs for academically talented and motivated high school students. The Summer Institutes provide an opportunity for these students to enrich and accelerate their academic pursuits and to meet other students who share their interests and abilities. Summer Institutes participants live in supervised Stanford housing and are taught by Stanford instructors. Students engage in intensive study in a single course and are introduced to topics not typically presented at the high school level. The Summer Institutes provide a taste of college life in the beautiful surroundings of the Stanford campus.”

It goes on to say, “Summer Institutes subject areas include arts and humanities, business, computer science, engineering, legal studies, mathematics, social science, physical and biological science, and writing. The instructors are assisted by undergraduate and graduate student mentors who have expertise in the course subject areas. These mentors serve a dual role of Residential Counselor and Teaching Assistant so that the academic and social aspects of the program are tightly integrated.”

That’s nice. Think about it. They’re selling you. They want your $10,000. It’ll help build a new library. That doesn’t mean attending such a program will help you get into Stanford much less any other highly selective college across America. In fact, it could hurt your chances.


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  • James Anderson says:

    My son worked two years as a counselor for Stanford’s summer EPGY (Education Program for Gifted Youth) program. Every step of the way the program made it clear that attending these classes will not help students in the admissions process. As part of the program the students did have an opportunity to ask questions of an admissions officer. The first thing the admissions officer would always say is don’t put attending these classes on your application because it won’t help get you admitted. She would say that if they found some personal experience of importance they could write about it in an essay but attending the EPGY program per say will not help get them admitted. Unfortunately wealthy parents will believe whatever they want to believe and I am sure some thought it might help with their kid’s admission contrary to everything they were told.

    • Bev Taylor says:

      That’s great that Stanford was forthright!

    • Canden Gutierrez says:

      Not everyone who attends is wealthy. I am attending a summer institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology and I’m getting a full scholarship due to my financial needs. I didn’t apply to impress admissions officers because I just wanted to experience what it would be like to attend one of these schools. Attending these pre-college programs gives you a perspective on the school and if this school is really a school you want to attend in the near future. That’s why I did it.

  • Ron says:

    Bev, my daughter got into all three ivies she applied to. She was a top student and had done important things in our community–all on her own initiative. The two summers before senior year she was a camp counselor at a sleep away camp. She loved it. Teenagers should be free to do the things they love. They need to be happy. All the rest will fall into place. Do what you love!

    • Bev Taylor says:


      Your daughter got into three Ivies in spite of — not because of — working as a sleep-away camp counselor. Correlation does not imply causation.

  • Michael says:

    Bev, does the same apply to summer programs at top universities that are offering financial aid, in particular Yale Young Global Scholars, provided that the applicant had the opportunity to attend thanks to it?

  • Teresa says:

    Does your advice also apply to selective academic summer programs that don’t cost anything and tuition/room & board are covered by grants and scholarships? I’m thinking speaking specifically of language programs like Startalk and NSLI-Y and science programs like SSP.

  • Namcy says:

    How would it look to a college if the student was low income and raised the money himself to attend, because he really wanted to go

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