Competitive Summer Program
Summer programs for high school students can eventually boost your overall college application profile. But not all summer programs are created equal. So how do you choose what you want to invest your energy in over the summer? And how do you get into a competitive summer program that’s worth your while? Empowerly is here to help with your summer roadmap to success!
Most competitive summer programs for high school students are organized and hosted by universities. Programmatically, you can expect some classroom learning and coursework, and some project-based learning, too. Summer research programs provide opportunities for learning how to read peer-reviewed, published scientific research, and learning to collect and analyze data. Additionally, these programs will introduce how to use statistical or analytics software specific to the niche industry. Students can take a break from the structured routine of classes in order to immerse themselves in a different world.
What you get from the most competitive summer programs for high schoolers
Some programs guide you toward starting and finishing a tangible research product or help you build those relationship foundations so that you can easily maintain your research work throughout the upcoming school year. Definitely seize that opportunity!
On the other hand, some programs include field trips around the community and high-profile guest lecturers like notable program alumni. For example, a business program like LaunchX is all about coaching your entrepreneurial idea and helping you create an effective pitch and practicing its delivery.
For any of these opportunities, building upon the project you started within your summer program during your fall and winter semesters is an excellent way to get the most out of your time. You can evolve your project and eventually submit your findings to an academic competition, or academic conference, or earn a mention as a contributor in the final published work.
Plan your summer around how to get into a competitive summer program
Summertime is one of the most valuable times that a student can use to improve their extracurricular profile. The most effective way of using the summer is often to join a structured seasonal activity. However, the summer break can also be an excellent time for students to start a self-driven project or research. So which is a better use of your time?
Other than the top 20 summer programs, self-driven summer projects are more valuable—in terms of college admissions impact—than less selective summer programs with high admission rates. Students should consider options for engaging independent projects and research when deliberating among summer program options. For more help with your strategies for how to get into a competitive summer program, consider working with a counselor or mentor.
Top-ranked and most competitive summer programs in the US
These are the most prestigious, selective, and admissions-pack-a-punch summer programs (in no particular order):
- Research Science Institute (RSI)… Read Empowerly’s post about RSI
- Program for Mathematics for Young Scientists (PROMYS) at Boston University
- The Summer Science Program (SSP) New Mexico Tech, U Colorado Boulder, Purdue, Indiana
- LaunchX Young Entrepreneurs Summer Program: Boston, UPenn, Northwestern, Michigan
- The Research in Science and Engineering Program (RISE): Boston University
- Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) at MIT
- Stanford University Mathematics Camp (SUMaC) … Read Empowerly’s post about SUMaC
- Boys State (multi-state participating camps)
- Girls State (multi-state participating camps)
- Governor’s School (multi-state)
- Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR)
How to apply—and how to get into—a competitive summer program
Applying for one of these immersive educational experiences is great practice for packaging your narrative and applying for college. Similarly, you’ll need strong grades and test scores, cohesive extracurriculars, and compelling essays. It can be really helpful to have some guidance through this process. We’re here to help you learn how to get into a competitive summer program and the college of your choice!
Because a lot of summer programs for high school students focus on niche and advanced topics, admitted students usually have a mission-driven extracurricular profile. For example, students accepted to PROMYS tend to engage in math extracurriculars and boast accolades from math competitions at the state level. Participation in project-based clubs like a robotics club, or conducting research with a professor, are activities that read well for math summer programs.
Additionally, letters of recommendation from teachers are valued pretty strongly in the most competitive summer programs’ application process. Applicants need to ask teachers who will enthusiastically endorse them and can speak to their genuine interest in the relevant academic field. If you’re applying to a STEM summer program, try to ask at least one of your STEM teachers for a letter of recommendation.
Want to know more about choosing the right extracurricular activities? Our research team can help you out, and provide starting tips on how to get into competitive summer programs that interest you. Check out our services page here!
Summer program essays
Summer programs will usually inquire as to why you’ve selected their program, and often another essay field will ask about the history and evolution of your academic interest in the relevant field.
What’s the point of summer program essays? Well, for summer programs, the essay is actually pretty important. It can be a way to distinguish between two otherwise equally qualified applicants. Often, they’re the final sorting process for program staff. Especially at the most competitive summer programs for high schoolers, the candidates are all exceptional. At this point, your voice and character matter.
Help the program staff get to know you on a personal level.
Most importantly, essays help organize your application into a narrative and allow admissions officers to build a personal connection with you. In a personal statement, you have the opportunity to explain why you care about the topic and why you deserve a spot in their program. In other words, it’s a chance for admissions readers to see the world through your eyes for a moment. What would you like to show them?
Help the admissions officer distinguish you from other similar applicants.
Essays help the staff determine who has the most authentic ties to the program topics covered.
Vague or irrelevant ties or made-up connections indicate lesser candidates. Some may be applying to a program for prestige, to enter a career field motivated by financial gain, or just because a parent told them to apply. By using your own personal voice in the written statements, you can stand out. Similarly, typos and unclear sentences that seem written in a rush would most likely disqualify an applicant. Don’t sabotage your chances by neglecting a technical requirement. In the same way, don’t go over the word count. Taking the time to put your best self on the page will go a long way.
An exceptional essay also has the power to sway a program staffer to override a small profile weakness because of a great cultural fit with the program or demonstrated maturity.
We’ve got essay editing!
Have you heard? Empowerly offers essay editing! As an enrolled student, you can get your essays edited right in your Empowerly Portal. From personal statements to academic essays, we’ll make sure that you’re always putting your best writing out there. You’ll receive your edits and suggestions within 24 hours, and gain access to our Accepted Essay Bank for inspiration in the meantime.
Good essay topics for the most competitive summer programs for high schoolers to consider:
- How do you perceive the world around you and your role within it?
- How can you demonstrate your core values, instead of just stating them? For example, you can recount a specific memory where you experienced significant growth.
- Further, how do you respond emotionally to different situations or circumstances?
An Empowerly counselor can help you chart out a dynamic and rigorous learning experience for your time away from school. If you want to know more about the most competitive summer programs, click below to schedule an exploratory call to learn more.