Though what students do during the academic year is important, there are also 3 months out of the year where students aren’t in school. These months are additionally important because they illustrate how students use their free time. Colleges consider this chunk of time an opportunity, as do we. As should your student. Many top tier colleges offer summer programs for students to participate in and we often get the question: “Does attending Brown’s (Harvard, Penn, Princeton, etc.) summer program increase his chances of getting in?”
Let’s review how schools view summer programs vs. how students view summer programs put on by colleges. For colleges, they are a moneymaker. Over the summer, every college has tons of empty dorm rooms that are costing them money. Summer programs fill the dorm rooms and help them make up the money that they are losing over the summer. If you pro-rate the tuition of a college, you will get the cost of a summer program. It’s smart business. From the consumer perspective (you), you’re thinking, “why not take a class at a place that will look good on my resume. Maybe Harvard will even think higher of me because I spent the summer there and am familiar with the campus.”
Spending the summer at Harvard doesn’t quite count as demonstrated interest. They are completely separate entities, the undergraduate programs and the summer programs. It’s helpful to think of them as two different places. While there is an application, we’re going to be real with you and tell you that taking a summer course at Harvard basically says that you can pay for a summer course at Harvard. That said, taking a course at Harvard would never hurt you, regardless of where you’re applying. Particularly if it’s a rigorous academic course of choice.
The way that we guide our students to the right summer program is by making sure that they are attending programs that suit their interests. If you’re going a summer program, just any summer program won’t “look good” on your resume. But if you’re pursuing and completing a challenging, academically rigorous, complex academic program at any institution, it’ll stand out on a resume. Not the where, but the what. Take a program that will help you expand and hone your skills in a particular area. Enroll in a program that you can actually get something out of. Don’t just go to Yale to go to Yale. Go to Yale to take a specialized Engineering class that will help you complete a long-term project that you started at the end of your AP Physics class. Go to Princeton to take a high-level Economics course so that you can complete a comprehensive business plan to submit to a competition.
Use these courses to your advantage, and don’t just go for the name. Colleges know that the point of these summer programs is to make money, but you can use them to help you advance further. Be smart about which programs you choose. If you need any help at all selecting or narrowing down summer programs, let us know. We’re quite familiar with a large number of them and can help you figure out how to use your knowledge to create an incredible project. Think about a summer program as a jumping off point and think critically about what you can do with what you learn there. Bottom-line: a summer program alone can’t get you in, but how you use what you learn during a summer program can.