College Summer Programs Won’t Help You Get In But Will Take Your Money

Ivy League summer programs lure in parents with disposable incomes under the notion that they may give their child an edge when applying to the university, however this is completely untrue. Elizabeth Morgan, director of external relations at the National College Access Network in Washington said, “A lot of these programs really prey on the anxiety of parents about getting kids into selective colleges. It’s a revenue strategy. It’s available to those who can afford it.”

These summer programs, for prospective college students, range from $5,000-$12,000 and while they may be good experiences for those who attend them, they may just be a waste of time and money.

Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation said, “Colleges and universities are facing lots of budget pressure, and many of these programs draw $5,000, $7,000 or $10,000 per student in a few weeks. That’s pretty good money from the perspective of the universities.”

However, attending one of these programs doesn’t give you a competitive edge. While some have used recommendations from these programs to get into other colleges, Ivy League summer programs aren’t a one-way ticket to Harvard, Columbia or Stanford.

These programs are just ways for colleges to earn more revenue with the misleading promise that they may help high schoolers gain entry into competitive undergraduate programs. However, the only thing that would give these students an edge is the kind of work they do during the course of the program. Instead of attending an overpriced college summer program, prospective students can have similar experiences volunteering at a nonprofit or interning at a company similar to their future major.

“Parents should not see participation in this program as a way to help the student get into Columbia or any other university,” said Kristine Billmyer, dean of the school of continuing education at Columbia.

Billmyer notes that over the past 12 years only only 25% of summer program attendees have gotten accepted into Columbia and that’s not even exclusively as undergraduates. That 25% of a small number of people have attended Columbia in various capacities such as undergraduate, continuing education or graduate school. That means the direct transition that these courses promise, from summer program to undergrad, is a fallacy.

As the Bloomberg article notes, “Students are far more likely to be rejected for the undergraduate schools because the summer programs tend to be a lot less selective. For example, the acceptance rate at the University of Chicago’s summer program is about 70 percent, compared with the 8 percent rate for applicants to the undergraduate program.”

This just sounds like a waste of money unless you can afford it or get financial aid. Have you ever done one of these college summer programs? Was it helpful? Was it bull?

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    1. Luisa says:

      I did one at Brown the summer before high school started. It didn't cost nearly that much! While I can't say it was some life-changing experience (or that it catapulted me to collegiate success), it did prepare me for having a little more autonomy in high school and college, and keep me busy and out of trouble that summer. Plus, in one of my classes we put on a modern-day take of the classical play Antigone, which was a lot of fun!

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