Not all college counselors gives the greatest advice. We know. We know. It’s utterly shocking. But when a college counselor offers advice to students that appears in the press that we believe is wrong, well, we’ve never been shy about articulating as much. So why start now? After all, a core objective of this college admissions blog is to demystify the elite college admissions process for all, to debunk commonly held misconceptions, and to make the whole process less stressful for all involved. Thus, today, we’re going to highlight a few words of advice offered by a private college counselor, Brooke Hanson, and let you know where we stand on her comments on summer enrichment programs at elite universities.
In a piece in The Columbia Spectator by Zachary Shermele entitled “Columbia’s largest high school program raked in $20 million during the pandemic, but what are students paying for?,” he writes, “Some college admissions counselors claim that although the programs do not immediately give students a leg up in the college admissions process, there are strategic benefits to going. Brooke Hanson, founder of the college consulting service Supertutor Media, said some students find ways to secure internships and research opportunities while on campus. They also submit letters of recommendation from instructors in their college applications. At the end of the summer immersion program, each student receives an evaluation letter from their instructor. ‘There is an angle on these, and there is a way that students do leverage them to get in,’ Hanson said. ‘So it all just depends on, did you develop a relationship with your professor? How much? Can you get a letter of rec, and is that letter going to be good?'”
We couldn’t disagree more strongly. If you want to secure a great research opportunity that will actually impress admissions officers, take the initiative to reach out to professors at local universities near you. Don’t try to impress admissions officers by attending an elite university. And then what happens when you apply to another elite university? Where do you think admissions officers at that university will think you really want to go? Could it be the place where you went to summer camp? The fact is, these summer enrichment programs in most cases don’t really offer great research opportunities. Sure, they expose students to different disciplines and research but rarely do students complete research of their own. Rarely from these programs do they then get published in scientific journals and the like, which actually impresses admissions officers at elite universities.
The notion that these programs can be “leveraged” to gain a leg up at the institution is just plain wrong in our view. And these colleges don’t want to hear from a professor — even their own professor — who had minimal contact with a student applying for admission. They want to hear from junior year teachers, the school counselor, and maybe a professor who actually supervised a student’s research rather than babysat them at a summer enrichment camp. So, no, we couldn’t disagree more with the sentiments of Ms. Hanson. These programs cannot be leveraged. Rather, these programs should be avoided at all cost for the aforementioned reasons and for the reasons we’ve outlined so many times before. Save your $10,000+!
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