Are summer programs just a quick way for institutions to make money under the pretense of getting students ready for college?
For many students, summer vacation is a time to relax and have fun with friends and family. However, a considerable number choose a different path: instead of taking two months to recuperate from the constant stress of the school year, many students sign up for summer programs.
Summer program sessions can range from a few days to eight or nine weeks. During these programs, students have the chance to experience the life of a college student while also expanding their knowledge in an area of their choice. However, these opportunities do not come cheap; the costs of these programs can range from two to thirteen thousand dollars. These overwhelmingly high costs beg the question: are summer programs really worth investing time into?
There are a variety of reasons that students choose to take part in a program in the first place. For instance, some are persuaded by their parents.
“There was the always-present parental pressure, which caused me to have to do some summer program whether I wanted to or not,” says Subin Pradeep (11).
Friendships can play a part in a decision to attend.
“I also wanted to take a summer program because of the fact that many of my friends were going to take one as well. This factor really helped convince me to take a summer program, as I wanted to do the same things that my peers were doing,” states Pradeep.
Others decide to partake because of personal motivations.
“As senior year gets closer and closer, I wanted to do more stuff that I could include in my [college applications]. [I also wanted to] gain more experience by being by myself in a college-like environment and navigating my own classes and passions,” says Valeria Estrada (11). “The program I went to allowed me to do that, as I was able to travel to the East Coast by myself and live on campus for almost two months.”
As for the benefits, there seem to be quite a few associated with attending one of these programs. “I’m applying for Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program and Kode with Klossy summer program to learn more about programming since I’m thinking about majoring in computer science,” says Aarthi Kannan (11). “These programs will help me gain some fundamental skills for a major in computer science, and it shows colleges that I tried different things outside of school in order to be more prepared for the career I want.”
Estrada mentions that she had a beneficial experience as well. “When the program I went to popped up on my emails advertising itself as ‘the best summer of my life,’ I was a little bit skeptical. However, I truly believe it may well have been,” she says. “I was able to take classes that I, for once, didn’t feel pressured to get an A in. I had time between classes to take care of myself and assess how I would do once I went to college. I got my own taste of independence and managed to meet a lot of very cool people and make a lot of fun memories.”
Pradeep asserts that summer programs are in fact very advantageous to participate in.
“I would most definitely encourage underclassmen to take up the initiative of going to a summer program this summer, as there are numerous benefits for doing so. One of the biggest benefits that come with doing a summer program is the fact that it adds to the amount of experience that you have…Experience plays a major part in job and college applications, and it is important to build upon your experience whenever you can,” he states. “Another benefit of summer programs is the many new connections that are formed along the process. For me personally, I made many new friends at the summer program I went to last summer, and many of those friendships were maintained throughout the school year. It’s connections like these that will truly help us in the future, and so it is important to always be on the lookout to build new ones.”
Estrada agrees that the relationships forged during programs can be extremely valuable in the future.
“While I obviously wouldn’t say it’s a guarantee, I think [going to a summer program] can help me get into a good college. The experiences I had can help when writing about why I’m interested in that school if I choose to apply there. The connections I formed with my professors can come in handy when researching more about applying.”
While the combination of high costs and the idea of having to do even more work after the school year ends makes the idea of attending a summer program unappealing to some, those who have actually attended one argue the opposite. They allow students to experience what college truly feels like, while also providing an educational experience.
“Overall, while some programs may be kind of pricey or very time[-intensive], I would recommend attending one, as it enhances your high school experience, and if it doesn’t get you into the college of your dreams, at least you can say you had an amazing summer,” says Estrada.