I Didn’t Get Into a Summer Program: Plan B

Farah Weheba
Farah Weheba

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.


The old adage is “you are what you eat,” not “you are where you were accepted.” We’re serving up some perspective to untangle your sense of self-worth from any summer program rejection letters. In this article, check out growth mindset, and put together an amazing and self-driven “Plan B” summer program. 

New Perspective

Let’s gain some perspective if you start to intertwine your sense of self worth and identity with admissions. Whether we face highly selective summer programs for high school students, or colleges themselves, you are more than any one thing.  

Our hope is that these reminders help you manage your expectations and maintain healthy confidence in your abilities no matter what’s in your mailbox. In fact, a summer program rejection letter does not mean your summer is doomed. We promise. You can still design an impactful and educational summer program for yourself that can yield a comparable college admissions boost to attending a summer program. 

Without further ado, here are some “notes to self” we hope you remember.


Notes to Self

  • A summer program admitting you does not determine your worth as a person.
  • A summer program rejecting you does not determine your worth as a person. 
  • Actually, your worth as a person is actually not up for debate. 
  • You are a hard-working, goal-oriented individual. 
  • You can learn new skills this summer, and engage research or a project independently. 
  • Yes, it is always difficult to receive news that you were not selected. This goes for job applications in the future, too. A college rejection letter is hard to face but totally manageable.
  • Success is within reach and takes many forms. 
  • You are enough. You’ll be fine.
  • Better than fine, actually. You’ll do great. We just know it.
  • You don’t have to do it alone. Call us to learn more about how Empowerly.
  • College counseling can help you process a rejection letter and plan your next steps.
  • If you feel depressed for longer than a week about the news, think about seeing a therapist short-term to help you get through the disappointment and bounce back. 
  • Therapy is confidential and healthy. So ask for help if you need it so you can continue to thrive. 

Growth Mindset

While you’re here, check out Carol Dweck’s learning theory called Growth Mindset. It’s a unique model based on believing that intelligence can be developed. Therefore, learners with a growth mindset have mastered that they can gain success through key pillars: hard work, implementing good study strategies, and seeking help when needed. For students, college counseling can help lay the foundation for a growth mindset. 

In contrast, the opposite model is fixed mindset. This is the belief that you’re either born with brains or not. That’s a deterministic way to see the world, and makes sharp students with immense potential give up at the first sign of obstacle or rejection. Adopting a growth mindset, however, predicts more success in school, and way less stress! 

What can I do this summer instead of attending a summer program? 

If you are not admitted to a summer program, you can always simulate the experience! In other words, participate in similar programming on your own to parallel summer program benefits. Plus, you gain bonus points for independent initiative, resilience, and growth mindset!

Or, you can conduct independent research with a college professor or grad students. This adds incredible value for STEM-bound or other research-bound applicants. Even better, aim for research that results in a published journal paper where the student is mentioned as a co-author or credited as a research assistant! That is a huge achievement. A byline provides an admissions boost for aspiring STEM major candidates and humanities major candidates with research ambitions.

When possible, aim to pursue a research topic that will match up with the field that you plan to pursue as a college major. However, you may need to cold email several professors and/or lab directors at universities before you get a response that your research assistance is needed. Cast a wide net and don’t be disheartened.

Beyond research in a lab setting, other activities also individualize a college applicant. For example, coding a working program to completion, or building and documenting a physical prototype.

We also highly recommend that you create and use a free digital bulletin board to keep track of emails you’ve sent. Next, set deadlines within your board to track follow-up emails. You can also escalate your follow-up by calling the university’s academic department and leaving a message with the department secretary.

Research you develop can be used to enter prestigious academic science competitions:

Placing in the top 5 at a regional level or higher offers further improved college admissions odds. This furthers the rolling impact of your summer research initiative toward a competitive college admission profile. 

Also consider joining national STEM club TSA – the Technology Student Association, offering competitive events and interest-based events. Holding school leadership or higher ranking organizational leadership holds great college admissions extracurricular value. National Science Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta Math Honors Society also offer valuable membership for a STEM college admission academic profile. 

For more tips on building your extracurricular success, chat with one of our enrollment team today.

Present your research at an academic conference 

If you are given the opportunity, present! Apply to present your research and conclusions at an academic conference relevant to your research field. For STEM research, you can bookmark the IEMS conference which is held annually in March in Clearwater, Florida. Specifically, this conference presents high school students in the fields of Industry, Engineering, Management Systems, and related STEM fields. IEMS hosts professors and scholars in Industrial Engineering, and branches out into related applied fields and industries. Moreover, the conference directors uniquely believe in preparing and empowering high school students to share their innovations and network with other academics. This conference provides a rare high school and undergraduate student presenting track! The call for papers opens each winter and usually runs through early January. Preparing your research topic pitch this summer can set you up for participation next spring. 

Track fields include but are not limited to:

  • Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing and more!),
  • Automation and Modeling,
  • Business Analytics,
  • Computer Integrated Manufacturing,
  • Corporate Governance,
  • Data Analytics,
  • Engineering Innovations,
  • Healthcare Systems,
  • Human Factors & Cognitive Engineering,
  • Leadership & Diversity,
  • Quality Planning & Process Improvement,
  • Supply Chain Management, etc.

See a full list of tracks in the Call for Papers


Working with an Empowerly college counselor can also help you develop a growth mindset and bounce back from setbacks. We’re here to support your process and minimize your stress. Also, to remind you of your incredible achievements when you forget. 

Questions? Let us know!