Over the winter and spring months, many high school students will apply for one or more of the many pre-college summer programmes. Taking place in hundreds of colleges across the United States these programmes typically enable students to gain a taste of college life by taking classes, while living on campus with their peers.
It remains to be seen how the impact of COVID 19, which has caused programmes to be cancelled or moved online for summer 2020, and now for 2021, will play out. In the years prior to the pandemic the number of summer programmes, and those applying to them, grew considerably. Even with programmes being disrupted for a second summer my belief is that once universities are open to students, the upward trajectory of applicant numbers will resume.
While for some students, attending a summer programme is a way of exploring their academic interests beyond the school curriculum, for many it is seen as a way of getting an edge in the increasingly competitive application field. These programmes are rarely cheap, you can expect to pay two or three thousand dollars per week, plus travel costs. Unfortunately, in most cases, these programmes don’t have an appreciable impact on the chances of acceptance, so in this article, I will talk about how Ivy Central assess the value of different summer programmes so that we can recommend programmes to our students that will enable them to stand out.
When considering a summer programme for our students there are two things we consider:
· How competitive is it?
· What does the student come away with?
Attending a programme with a competitive admissions process that only accepts a small number of participants from around the world will show that the student already has a set of skills, ability and experiences that make them stand out from their peers. Typically, these selective programmes will make their admissions decisions based on a personal statement, recommendation letters from teachers and school grades from Grade 9 upwards. Some programmes will interview potential participants, have some essays that will explore the student’s knowledge or experiences in greater depth or ask applicants to solve a set of problems.
Ultimately the value of any summer programme should be based on what the young person attending gets out of it, and that will differ from student to student. For some, it may be the opportunity to explore something they are curious about, the chance to take their learning beyond the curriculum straight jacket or gain new skills and experiences using the resources of a top research college.
Many of the programmes Ivy Central students attend will enable them to undertake research, individually or in small groups. This can be very beneficial for those that get accepted. In addition to having a research paper to submit as part of their application, these students use the experience to undertake independent research in the months following their summer programme.
In many competitive programme’s students can earn college credits through their efforts. These college credits may be used to reduce the number of credits required to graduate when they go to college and is an indication that the level of the activities done while attending the programme are at a college level.
In just about all cases we see students return from their summer programme rejuvenated by the experiences they have shared with other young people from all over the world, ready to take their learning further in preparation for their move to college.