Preparing for College

Is Pricey Summer Program Worth the Dough?

Question: We live in the Midwest and our High School Junior is looking at a 4 week residential program at a private University in California with a focus on college level writing. Fees plus transportation costs will top $8,000. Is this worth the money?

There's an old joke about a tourist who is lost in rural Maine. When he comes to a fork in the road he spots an old codger, clearly a local. So the tourist calls out, "Does it matter which of these roads I take?" and the codger replies, "Not to me, it don't."

Your question somehow evoked that same thought. I would never spend $8K for a summer writing program for my own son. But this is a very personal decision, one that should be based on your family finances and also on what you feel would most benefit your child.

If you have unlimited resources and your child seems especially excited about this opportunity, you may find that you get sufficient bang for your buck. If your child has always been an indifferent student but suddenly seems passionate about writing--and about this program in particular--you may decide that this is the time to fuel this passion.

But there are many more cost-effective ways to study writing, and if you're hoping that this Left Coast program will give your child a boost at admissions time, it probably will not. (It MIGHT help at the host college but it depends on the school. Generally, the more selective the college, the less attending the summer program will matter at admission-verdict time.)

In terms of admissions "currency," admission folks are often more impressed by the kid who's spent the summer flipping burgers at Mickey D's than by the one whose parents wrote out a whopping check for an on-campus endeavor. And there are probably free writers' groups in your community ... or a cheap class at the local college ... that could concurrently fuel a budding Anne Tyler or Ernest Hemingway.

Hope that helps. Good luck with the decision.

(posted 4/27/2012)