How Many Summer Program Applications Are Too Many?

As is often our prerogative at TKG, we’re going to be real with you; this is not the smartest question and if you’re asking it, you’re probably already in trouble. Consider that asking, “how many summer program applications are too many?” is the same asking “how many college applications are too many?” You’re missing the point. When applying to summer programs (and college for that matter), it’s all about quality, not quantity.

Don’t apply to 15 programs to ensure your acceptance. You would actually be better off applying to two summer programs that you’ve researched, at which you’ve reached out to the people running it so you’re connected, and are prepared to make a really strong case for why you’d be a great fit. The bottom line is, you should want to go to the summer programs to which you are applying and the odds are, you aren’t dying to attend all 15.  The other pitfall of applying to too many summer programs is that students end up spreading themselves too thin. It’s really difficult to write 15 knockout applications. In fact, what usually happens when kids overdo it on the application pool is that they tend to write 15 BS applications. We’d rather you write two perfect ones.

This Is Not a Job Search  

Often times, we see parents advise their kids to cast a wide net. Here’s the thing, parents, your kid isn’t 40 and this is not a job search. When you’ve been laid off and have a family to feed, 200 job applications aren’t always enough. In the world of summer programs, 10 is too many. Yes, college has, indeed, changed since your day. It has gotten more competitive, but you can’t just approach this like you’d approach something in your own life. Your kids are not you. They are teenagers.

Whittle It Down, Down, Down  

Now that we’ve established where you’re not going to apply, it’s time to discuss where you are going to apply. Pick your primary area of interest and get even more specific. Let’s say you’re generally interested in political science. We had a kid who loved politics, but didn’t know exactly which area of political science he was into. We had him really think for a few days about what exactly attracted him to the area of politics. It turns out, he was really interested in all of the factors around implementing new legislation. In other words, he was interested in policy. We asked him a few more questions. Did he want to learn how to write policy? Was he interested in working for some of the top policy-makers in the country? At the end of the day, he wanted to do extensive policy research. When you really get into the weeds, there shouldn’t be more than five or ten options for summer programs that really fit the bill. If you’re still on 15, you haven’t done enough whittling.

The Exception

The caveat to everything we’ve said above is if you want to do research with a professor. If you do, you should plan to email every professor in that given field at every university possible. This might end up taking 100 emails. Otherwise, don’t apply to more than five.

Need help nailing down the perfect summer program? Give us a call. We’ve helped our students secure their spots at some of the most prestigious programs in the country.