Summer Camp and College Admissions

Summer Camp in Admissions, Ivy League and Camp, Camp and Ivy League Admission

Contrary to the title and content of a “CNBC” article, summer camp is as unlikely a strategy as any to help you get into a highly selective college.

One of the central objectives of our college admissions blog is to demystify the highly selective college admissions process and correct misconceptions. With that in mind, we came across an article up on “CNBC” entitled “Summer camp may improve college admissions odds” written by Kelli B. Grant. We don’t even know what to do with that title! It is so completely and utterly false. Attending summer camp will hurt your chances for admission to highly selective colleges. It will not help them! Just think about it logically. Attending a summer camp means that mommy and daddy had a lot of money to send their kiddie to camp. Attending a summer camp means that you couldn’t come up with a more creative way to spend your summer. Maybe this would have included conducting a science research project at a local university. Maybe it would have included holding a job, something college admissions officers often — contrary to popular belief — admire. Attending a summer camp means that you had two months off school to pursue your passions and satiate your deep intellectual curiosity but, instead, you wasted this opportunity to participate in color war and  playing ping pong.

Now are there specialized camps for, say, athletes that can be beneficial? Yes, of course. Let’s take, for example, swim camp. A swimmer can learn a great deal by going to a swim camp taught by Bob Bowman, the longtime coach of Michael Phelps. Maybe he’ll improve his breastroke stroke count or his underwater pullout. Maybe he’ll knock a half a second off his 200 breast. What we’re saying is this: A college swim coach doesn’t care how you learned to swim fast. A college swim coach cares about your times. If you need swim camp to gain the interest of a college coach, then we’re all for that investment of your time and mommy and daddy’s money. But most of these camps are a complete and utter waste of your time and most will hurt your chances for admission to a highly selective college.

Here is a tidbit from the piece on “CNBC” that is absolutely wrong and should be ignored: “How you spend your summer vacation isn’t just fodder for first-day-back-in-school essays. It could provide a boost on college or job applications—especially if you went to camp…Parents shouldn’t immediately race for the nearest camp sign-up sheet. While there are surely college admissions officers with fond memories of lake swims and archery, the camp experience that is more likely to stand out is a specialized one that speaks to a student’s interests, experts say. Summers at soccer camp can help show a would-be college athlete’s dedication, for example, while theater camp can be an edge for someone applying to the acting program—especially if the high school’s drama program is so-so (or nonexistent).”

The article goes on: “Colleges may also find longer camp relationships interesting, even if the camp isn’t academically focused. ‘The regular camper who becomes a counselor is a good type of continuity,’ [Eric] Greenberg said. That kind of camp experience can indicate positive qualities such as leadership, resilience and good social skills, he said.” Yikes, bad advice! A camper becoming a counselor represents a good type of continuity for highly selective college admissions officers? Not. At. All. In the words of America’s youth, it’s a lame way to spend your summer.

At the end of the day, colleges don’t seek out campers. They seek out people who take the initiative to shape their corner of the world. They seek out talented students. They seek out the doers. Not the students who don’t know how to spend their summers so they go to camp to pass the time. Those are the types of students who don’t get in.

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