Juniors: It's a Myth that some Summer Programs Can Enhance Your Chances of Admission

As you look ahead to how you will spend your summer, we have some advice for you about leadership training or enrichment programs and on-campus academic programs. It is a myth that some of these programs can especially enhance your chances of getting into college.

Leadership training and enrichment programs— for example, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council or the National Young Leaders Conference— position themselves so that when the “invitation” arrives in the mail, students might think they have been specially selected to participate. But even if there are baseline GPA requirements and teachers are required to nominate students, these programs are not selective and have a hefty price tag of thousands of dollars. Undertake such an activity only if it aligns with your interests and is something you’d do even if colleges were never to learn about it. Participation will usually not be a plus factor in an admission decision.

On- campus academic programs and camps can also be excellent experiences for students if they align with the students’ interests, affording them an experience of independence and a taste of college life. But use caution! Many of these programs simply use a campus as their site. Students are not in classes normally offered by that college and are not being taught by the school’s teachers.

Like many of the leadership programs, most of these on- campus academic programs are not selective. They do not usually have an affiliation with the admission office where they are being hosted and won’t give you an advantage when applying. Even when a representative from the college’s admission office may make a presentation as part of the program, there is still no formal tie to or leg up in that college’s admission process.

The bottom line is: The absence of any of these programs from a list of activities in an application is not at all detrimental.

However, while most of these programs are not considered distinctive by college admission officers, there are a handful that are highly selective and may figure in an admission decision, such as the Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MITES program for minority students. For more such programs, see the "Selective Summer Programs" section of our Resources list here.


For more information about how colleges regard the time you spend outside of the classroom, check out Chapter 6, “Extracurricular Activities,” in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step where you’ll find a broad discussion of what colleges are looking for when they look at students’ activities, including what they mean when they talk about depth versus breadth, passion, leadership and hooks.

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