CON: Not for Knowledge, Only for College Applications

With college admissions becoming more selective each year, many high schoolers will head off to elite universities to spend several weeks at summer programs in hopes that their attendance will help them get into the school of their dreams. With so many of their peers heading off to such programs, students feel pressured to do the same, but they should ask themselves, “Are these  programs really worth it?”

There’s no doubt that these colleges can provide future collegiates with valuable learning experience and exposure to aspects of college life. Programs give students the opportunity to work with world-class professors, meet people from around the world and access resources that they don’t have at home. However, many of these programs are nothing more than ways for universities to make money.

While certain programs do have educational benefits, many individuals apply not because they genuinely want to learn, but because they want something to put on their college applications. Students pour thousands of dollars into programs that they think are necessary to get them into the college of their dreams, but this is often not the case. In fact, attending expensive programs might show the very lack of initiative that keeps universities from selecting an applicant.

“If a high school student can think of nothing better to do in the summer than continue to be a traditional student in a classroom for another two months, isn’t that more likely to suggest a lack of imagination than intellectual vitality?” asked  Raymond Ravaglia, a former associate dean for pre-collegiate studies at Stanford University, in a Washington Post article.

The estimated cost of Stanford’s summer session ranges from $14,426 to $17,054. The Stanford website also states that the school does not take into account “demonstrated interest,” including summer program participation, when making admissions decisions, showing that students who pay to spend a summer at Stanford do not increase their chance of getting into the university.

For those who are truly intellectually curious, specialized programs are not essential to personal growth. If someone is passionate about a subject or is looking to find new opportunities over the summer, there are ways that they can get involved on a more local level at a far lower cost. Participating in volunteer work, working as an intern or applying for a job are activities that are significantly cheaper than flying across the country for a month and may look even better on a résumé, than a pricey summer program.

The culture of competition in which students only take part in activities to gain a leg up over their peers is not healthy, nor does it create individuals who focus on the things that they are truly passionate about. This phenomenon is propagated by summer program participation. If someone’s primary goal in going to a program is to boost their résumé, then they should rethink their motives.