Summer Programs: Are They Worth It?

February 09, 2016

With the summer fast approaching, plenty of students are starting to think about things to do over the long summer break. Some get jobs to make money and stay busy, while others apply for and attend academic summer programs to help them stand out on college application. Is that true? We asked our College Admits to weigh in on whether summer programs are really worth it:

mayafleming (Georgetown ‘15): During the summer after my junior year of high school, I attended Arkansas Governor’s School. It was a six week program at a college where myself and 399 other students learned about material in varying subjects. We got to hear talks from senators, writers, artists, and other influential people, and we regularly discussed reality in order to determine what was and wasn’t real. I learned more about many social issues and was able to support my opinions in a more educational way and also hear others’ opinions being shared in the same way.

Yalie: When it comes to high school there are so many things you can do during the summer. I think it is a good start to target early summer programs. There are a lot of very prestigious and competitive summer programs like TASP, MITES, and many more available for rising seniors. Not only do these programs look amazing on your college application, but they also give you a little insight as to what the college admissions process is like. I was rejected from both of those programs and still find myself attending Yale University, so do not be discouraged if you are rejected from these competitive programs. If anything, these programs taught me how to write good admissions essays. I eventually went to a summer program at the Wharton School for minorities and I definitely think it was a boost on my college application and it was a lot of fun! Do remember that many of these top summer programs are free! Do not feel like you need to spend a lot of money on a summer program to impress admissions officers! 

Want to learn more about Yalie? Check out his profile!

Additionally, it is important to note that you do not need to go to any summer program to get accepted to a good school. If you can, try to find a fun internship wherever you are in some field you are interested in. Internships are similarly impressive on a college application. If not a summer program or internship, get a job or do some volunteering over the summer. You do not want to waste your high school summers. Even if you decide to read


Casey7889987 (Purdue ‘17): I recommend looking for the free opportunities for summer activities. I know it seems like the only good summer programs are thousands of dollars, but I have done multiple free summer programs including a summer program at MIT while I was in high school and a summer program in Beijing during college. All of them were all expenses paid (and I am not exactly low income). You just have to look for these types of programs.

Sakilan: Make sure you do something interesting and to your liking almost every summer—not just to build your resume, but to give you something to talk about. Colleges require so many supplements in their application, and some may have a supplement asking about an extracurricular or an experience. Here, you can mention these summer experiences and mention specific and memorable moments. Some of my best supplements were about my time working in a lab that I was connected to through my counselors at STEP (Science Technology Entry Program). These programs also give you glimpse of the professional field. You may find interest in a career which you never knew existed, or you may decide the career you have always aspired isn’t meant for you. You also always have room to build. 

Want to learn more about Columbia? Ask sakilan!

Start researching for programs during January/February. Ask your guidance counselor, upperclassmen, and teachers for programs that suit your interest. Search the internet: colleges and universities have enrichment programs. Do not waste your money on expensive programs. Sometimes expensive programs offer scholarships. Check there scholarship policy. There are usually similar programs for cheaper tuition, sometimes even free. Museums have many internships, paid and not paid. The application process usually last from February to May, so keep a calendar with all the deadlines!


crrly (Sarah Lawrence ‘19:) Seek summer programs relevant to your interests. Many states fund programs for the arts, sciences, etc. Or, check out summer programs offered by colleges you’re interested in. Internships and part time jobs can also be wonderful, resume enhancing experiences. Not to mention, a summer job can contribute to a college fund! Explore all opportunities and pick the one that feels the most “you”.

il0918: I spent 2 of my summers attending college programs at Georgetown and Yale. The program I attended at Georgetown was 3 weeks long, I lived in a dorm with a roommate and went to classes (english, math, SAT, and a lecture series). Programs like these are closest thing to a college experience you can get before actually going to college. You not only live on campus and experience the day to day life of an undergraduate student, but you also get to explore the city/town around it. This helped me decide what I was looking for in a campus and I also discovered what I didn’t like. I wanted a campus that was big, but still walkable - I didn’t want to have to take a bus to get to class. At Vanderbilt, everything I need is within a 10-15 minute walking distance radius, and there is still plenty of unchartered territory to explore - all without the need for a car. 

The summer program I attended at Yale was 5 weeks long, and I took 1 class for academic credit that met Monday through Friday. Since Yale is less than an hour form my house, I commuted every day. This program differed from the one at Georgetown because there were both college and high school students taking classes because it was a summer session rather than a structured summer program. I would recommend this if you are trying to get ahead in your coursework or want to learn about an unconventional topic that you are really interested in. Summer programs/classes are a great way to keep your mind active during the summer, make new friends and experience what college life is like! 


Are you a college student? Let us know what your favorite summer programs are in the comments below. If you are a high school junior looking to get an early start on your college application, search our database to get a better idea of where other students applied and how they got in. Talk to a mentor and get essay help to get you into your dream school. 


About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.

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Accepted to Yale, Cornell, UMich, GA Tech, Case, Purdue, RPI, Lehigh

I am a former movie theater employee from the Midwest who now studies Mechanical Engineering at Yale University.

Accepted to Yale, Emory, Vanderbilt, Brown, Amherst, CMU, NYU, Miami, UNC, UVA

Deeply curious, love to learn, and is happiest eating.

Accepted to Yale, Tulane, Binghamton

veni, vidi, vici.

Accepted to Columbia

I'm a student at Columbia. I love writing, activism, terrible jokes, and binge-watching Netflix. Aspiring PhD students/teacher.

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