Summer break is an important opportunity for students to add credentials to their college application. Students can travel, do volunteer work, study for the SAT, or participate in academic summer programs. There are countless different summer programs out there… but they are not all created equal. So, what should you look for in a quality high school summer program?
Weigh the Options
Some offer college credit, while others do not. Additionally, some are free for students or offer financial aid, while others are quite costly. Some are very selective and require an application, while others have rolling admissions. These are some important qualities parents and students should pay attention to when picking a summer program.
Overall, we highly recommend you take the time to research the programs you are considering and understand the pros and cons of each.
Applications Are a Good Sign
In general, programs that have an application process rather than simple rolling admissions are considered more rigorous. Therefore, they look more impressive to colleges. Being accepted to a competitive program shows accomplishment within your field, rather than just interest.
Nonetheless, it’s important to be active and productive during your summer. If you want to explore a new topic or branch out for the first time, programs that do not require applications might be the better fit.
Programs that offer college credit offer unique value. Earning college credit is an accomplishment in itself; often, credits are a result of more tangible results like final projects or presentations. Not only that, college credit that can be used as evidence of the work you’re capable of.
Keep in mind, there are many highly competitive, college-credit summer programs that can be quite expensive. This is not necessarily a detractor from the quality of the program, but it’s important to make sure you’re actually getting value out of the money spent.
Caution: No Shortcuts
It is important to remember that many prestigious universities host summer programs, but these programs are not feeders into admissions to that school. Just because you went to a summer program at Harvard does not mean you’ll be accepted there for undergraduate studies. What is much more important than the name of the program or the host school is the quality of work and tangible takeaways you can get from the program.
There are also many other ways to get tangible results out of your summer such as self-guided projects and volunteer work. When evaluating summer programs, it is best to always ask yourself “what are the tangible results of participating in this program?”
High School Summer Program Examples:
Research Summer Institute
Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Tangible Results: written and oral presentations of individual research projects
Selectivity: Highly selective
Research in the Biological Sciences (RIBS)
Location: University of Chicago
Cost: $11,800 – need and merit based scholarships available
Tangible Results: Final presentations of individual research
Summer Science Program (SSP)
Locations: New Mexico Tech, Purdue University, CU Boulder, and UC San Diego
Cost: $7000 – about 50% of students receive financial aid
Tangible Results: Final project based off of individual work and letter of competition
Selectivity: Highly Selective
Summer Humanities Institute
Location: Stanford University
Tangible Results: College Credit
High School Honors Science, Math and Engineering Program
Location: Michigan State University
Tangible Results: Final presentation of research accomplished
Your Next Steps
This list is only a very small portion of the amazing academic and research-based summer programs for high school students. There are also many other incredibly valuable summer programs outside of academia like sports camps that enable recruitment and travel programs that can provide language and cultural immersion.
Interested in speaking with a counselor about what kind of summer program might be right for you? Schedule a consult with our team and learn more about how Empowerly can help you make the most out of your summer.