You may have been impressed with the fancy mailings you’ve received notifying you that “You’ve been nominated” or “You’ve been identified as a strong candidate for our selective summer program.”
Hopefully, your scam antenna is up. You are probably asking yourself why so much money is being spent on these fancy mailings. Yes, you’re right, it is a marketing ploy. We often wish we could convince these companies to reduce their marketing costs and then cut the fees for these programs.
Many of the programs are solid. Students may have great experiences, learn a lot, and enjoy being in an academic environment on a college campus away from their families – those are all points in support of these programs.
The downside is that they are very pricey, hence elite, and are typically not very selective at all. We refer to many of them as “pay-to-play” programs.
The companies and the colleges behind such programs have typically created for-profit enterprises to benefit their company or college. The programs look as if they are incredibly selective but that is usually not the case.
The big question is, “Will these programs help get you into college?
Colleges may be happy to see these programs on a student’s resume because they may indicate the student has intellectual/personal interests and commitment, but they also generally indicate that the student is from an upper-middle-class background and can afford a $3000-$10,000+ summer experience.
So, if the biggest reason you’re considering attending one of these programs is because you think it will seal the deal to gain acceptance at your dream college, think again. These programs won’t hurt you, and if your family can afford it, they can provide great learning experiences and exposure to professors and other motivated students.
The most important thing to do this summer is something that matters to you; show a college what you care about, what you’re curious about, what motivates you, what makes you different. Use your summer wisely.