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Making the Most of Your Summers 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It may still be winter, but it's probably not too early to start thinking about what you want to do this summer. If you wait too long, you may find yourself sitting on the couch all summer or working at a job you don't really like. A little research and some planning ahead could help you make your summer a really valuable experience... and a big plus on your college application.

First off, it's important to take some time to consider what you want to get out of the summer. Do you want to make some money so you can put a little aside for college? Do you want to look for an exciting internship, getting a taste of the working world and exploring your career options? Do you want to take summer classes at a college campus, feeling out what university life is like?

For many of you, a summer academic program may be on your radar screen. No, we're not talking about summer school, where kids retake classes they may have failed the previous year. We're talking about hands-on academic experiences where you're likely to learn inside and outside the classroom. These summer programs can be a great option and offer some major benefits.

A Taste of College

Summer academic programs can be a great way to see what college life is like before you set foot on campus as a freshman. Many take place on major college campuses, have you living in actual college dorms, and taking classes from real college professors. It's almost like you get to take a test drive of college. You'll likely be tackling challenging academic topics and gaining a much better sense of the additional demands placed on college students. It's also a great way to really delve into an academic area like biology, photography, or business that you are passionate about.

A Real Plus on Your College Application

High school transcripts, admissions essays, SAT scores... they are all used by college admissions committees to determine if you will be a student who will excel at their college. But what better way is there to show you can do well in a college academic setting than by doing well in a college academic setting? Taking on the challenge of a college summer program may help you overcome an SAT score that is on the low end of the scale for a college or a little stumble on your high school transcript.

Actual College Credit

Not only could a summer program help you get into college, it may give you a head start once you get there. Many summer programs offer academic credit at the host college. You will need to check with whatever college you end up attending to see if you are able to transfer this credit.

Cost Can Be an Issue

Cost can vary pretty significantly from program to program. A summer college program can often cost thousands of dollars. But don't be discouraged if you can't afford that price tag. Many programs offer need-based scholarships. You might also take a look at Governor's Schools that many states have. These are typically free or very affordable summer residential programs for high-achieving students. Upward Bound programs might also be great options for lower-income students.

Summer Program Resources

We've provided links to a few sites that may be helpful in your search for some great summer programs:

We've also included links to summer programs at some of the top colleges:

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