PRO/CON: Summer Programs
May 22, 2018
PRO: Educational Benefits
The idea of pre-college programs might conjure up images of rich kids whose families have the means to shell out thousands of dollars for a few weeks of instruction somewhere on the other side of the country. However, underneath the haze of misconception, students can actually reap colossal benefits from indulging in these opportunities. While summer programs take up from one week to two months of vacation time, the skills and experiences gained make up for any preconceived loss.
Not only are students trained through immersive, hands-on experiences, they also have the opportunity to pursue their interest in a community of ambitious peers who share their passion. Notable educational programs can attract domestic and international applicants, exposing all participants to a healthy variety of young individuals from many walks of life.
As schools and facilities offering summer programs can be located anywhere in the country or even abroad, students can choose from a variety of new environments to acquaint themselves with.
Kids from rural settings have the chance to experience life in the big city, while those living in downtown Manhattan might immerse themselves in a foreign atmosphere such as that of the Middle East. This familiarizes young people with settings and cultures from around the globe, enhancing their understanding of the world beyond home.
Living on a college campus for a few weeks also introduces high schoolers to dormitory life and helps them determine whether a school feels right to them.
As might be expected, summer programs do put a dent in the bank account. Spending three residential weeks at Stanford amounts to almost $7,000 in all-inclusive tuition and attending a six-week NYU program can cost up to a staggering $15,000, according to the schools’ websites.
Enormous expenses are often the most obstructive hurdle for students seeking a pre-college summer experience, but this can serve as an example to show that worthwhile rewards will not come effortlessly. In fact, with the help of financial aid and additional fundraising methods, many people who do attend these programs don’t end up paying the full stated price.
Though it may seem as if students hop on the pre-college bandwagon simply to stay competitive, most don’t attend summer programs just for the sake of slapping it onto their brag sheets. If that’s the only incentive, then it truly wouldn’t be worth the price.
Students accepted by these programs are chosen for a reason: they exhibit passion for the field. Colleges can see through unmotivated application-padding, and summer program admissions boards are no fools either.
Considering all the benefits to be gained, attending a summer program away from home can leave any curious young mind with unforgettable memories well worth the monetary sacrifice.
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.