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3 min read

A Guide for High School Students: Evaluating College Summer Programs

A Guide for High School Students: Evaluating College Summer Programs

It's never too early to plan for your summers during high school! ☀️ This is especially true for high school juniors. If you’re considering attending a college summer program, now is the time to make some decisions. 

Already Know What To Look For?

You can now discover and sign up for Programs right in Scoir! Filter by season, academic focus, financial aid/scholarship offerings, and more. 
Discover Programs

What is a College Summer Program?

During a college summer program, you’ll experience college life and take classes in a particular subject area. The programs last anywhere from 1 to 7 weeks, and while they can be a fun experience, they often require an evaluation of the value they will provide you.

Before you fill out any applications or make any payments, let's walk through how to evaluate summer programs.


How Summer Programs Provide Value

Here are some of the most valuable aspects of summer programs:
    1. Friendships and connections
    2. An early experience of college life
    3. The opportunity to develop a new skill 
    4. Firsthand exposure to a career path

If you know anyone who attended a college summer program, it’s likely that they reminisce about the overall experience.

There is a lot to be said for the value of this. However, if you’re an astute consumer, you might quickly notice that these words come up a lot when researching summer programs: "experience, opportunity, and exposure."

The vast majority of summer programs will provide you with an enriching experience, but they may or may not help you stand out from the crowd when it comes time to apply to college. 

P.S. Did you know that Scoir now allows students to search for summer and pre-college programs? Log in to Scoir and see if the colleges on your list offer summer programs by navigating to Discover > Programs!


Summer Programs to Prioritize

College summer programs can be wonderful experiences. However, they may or may not provide:

    1. High school or college credit
    2. Impact on your application 

If you’re looking to save time and expenses during college, simply gaining experience may not be what you need. If that’s the case, you’ll want to ensure that you’re researching summer programs that will allow you to receive high school or college credits. Don’t assume that signing up for a program entitles you to credits of any kind, or increases your chances of admission to that college down the line.


Will Attending a Summer Program Increase My Chances of Admission?

While it’s true that many colleges and universities take summer activities into consideration during the application review process, that doesn’t mean that you should rush out and sign up for any program that catches your eye. Take into consideration the following: 


Do I just have to pay to get into this program, or do I have to demonstrate merit? 

Merit-based summer programs are those that select students based on merit or academic performance. These programs are often a sure way to demonstrate dedication to admission representatives, compared to other programs that are not as selective.


If I’m admitted, how much will it cost me to attend?

If you’ve worked hard to signal your merit, the cost to attend could be little to none. 


Is the college transparent about how/if this program will affect application assessment? 

The best summer programs will offer a clear answer to the question: “How will attending this program factor into my admission decision?”


Planning for Uncertainty 

As you begin researching summer programs, be sure to ask about contingency plans in case something pops up. If you can't attend the program of your choice, what will you do with your summer instead? Be sure to give thought to your secondary plan. 


Bottom Line: Are Summer Programs Worth It? 

Few people can summarize an answer to that question like former Dean of Admission and Scoir Strategic Advisor, Peter Van Buskirk: 

“When contemplating summer programs and other out-of-school activities, choose for self-enrichment, not to make an impression—choose as though college is not in the picture. Instead, let your authenticity shine through. Your choices will reveal the real you.“ - Peter Van Buskirk 

The choice to attend a summer program or spend your summer interning, working, or volunteering is entirely yours. Don't get too stuck in thought about how your choice will impact your future college admission outcome; instead, focus on doing what brings you joy. When your focus remains on what you enjoy, your path ahead will become clear!

This article was originally published on January 20, 2021. It was updated on December 21, 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Learn the next steps in your college journey - Scoir College Planning Guide
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