Do Admissions Value Summer Programs at Elite Colleges?

Question: Do more selective colleges value summer enrichment classes and experiences that are typically offered at elite colleges? Is it a good use of a student's last summer before their senior year?

This is a question that "The Dean" has answered countless times. But, as yet a new crop of high school students starts mapping out vacation plans, it's worth revisiting yet again.

Admission officials usually agree that summer enrichment classes on college campuses count as “time well spent,” but these programs rarely serve as “hooks” to help students get admitted, especially to the more selective institutions. There are far too many students choosing this option for it to stand out in the crowd at admissions-verdict time. In fact, admission folks are usually more impressed when an applicant has held down a menial job or has undertaken a personal project (e.g., conducted independent science research, written a novel, played saxophone in the subway), or done volunteer work close to home rather than via a pricey organization overseas. So certainly don’t feel that a college-campus summer---or any summer plan that requires an open checkbook---is a prerequisite to wowing admission committees.

Nonetheless, an on-campus experience can help a teenager mature, adjust to dormitory life, and learn something about a field—or fields—of interest. So there are certainly good reasons to take this route, as long as the primary aim is not to just “look good” on a college applications later on.