“So… should I look for a student research position with a local lab, or should I apply for this pre-college program in Boston for the coming summer? Which do you think would look better on college applications?”
These are common questions among high school students considering how to spend their summer. While the answer may depend on individual interests and goals, summer enrichment programs are a valuable experience for students that can offer numerous benefits.
Before moving forward, note that one of the most important activities we encourage students to do over the summer break is… take a break. It’s vital for them to unwind after a rigorous academic year. With the over-scheduling of students and lack of downtime during the school year, taking a few weeks in the summer to relax will prove helpful and have them recharged going into the beginning of the year.
Now, back to the question. While there may be a perception that some summer programs are more prestigious than others, it’s important to recognize that there is value in all experiences. When discussing summer programs with students, college counselors learn what students are interested in and whether the programs they hope to engage in are authentic to their interests. The hope is that by participating in summer enrichment programs, students will be challenged and offered the opportunity to grow and have fun.
Summer enrichment programs can also help students prepare for college in a variety of ways. For one, they offer a taste of college life, from living in a dorm and eating in a cafeteria to managing a more independent schedule. This can help students smoothly transition to college life. Additionally, many summer programs offer college-level coursework, which can help participants see the academic expectations at the next level.
In addition to academic benefits, enrichment programs also allow students to build their network of peers and professionals. They will meet other like-minded students from around the country and even the world, creating connections and friendships that can last a lifetime. They will work with professionals and experts in their field, who can provide mentorship, guidance and potential future internships or job opportunities.
Furthermore, summer enrichment programs can demonstrate a student’s commitment to a particular area of study or interest, a quality that college admission officers look for in applicants. By dedicating part of a summer to learning and growing in a particular field, students show they are driven, passionate and willing to work to achieve their goals.
Whether pursuing an academic interest, engaging in community service, or working a part-time job, there is something for everyone. So rather than focusing on which program will look better on a college application, students should consider what program aligns with their interests and goals and take advantage of the many personal benefits the experience has to offer.
If you’re curious about what types of programs are out there, browse this curated list of summer enrichment programs by LJCDS college counselors