Planning a Great Summer

It’s hard to imagine summer when there are several feet of snow on the ground and falling temperatures.


But this is the right to time to start making summer plans.

You may have received invitations from colleges or organizations encouraging your student to participate in summer classes or programs. You may be wondering about whether those programs are worth the costs, or whether your student would have a more enriching summer staying close to home.  

This post is designed to answer some of those questions, and also to share information about some cool national programs out there.  The deadlines for some of these programs is coming up quickly, so please read on soon! If you need help with the application process, we’d be happy to help.

The first point is that, with exceptions discussed below, going to a summer program at a selective university probably won’t increase your chance of getting into a particular college.  This article explains that there is range of opinions, but in general, admissions folks at selective colleges say that going to their or another on campus program probably won’t help you get in.  

There are still good reasons to attend.  The classes may be great, the fellow students entertaining; it’s fun to be on a cool campus and it might help your student to get excited about college.  But the cost is usually very high — up to $10,000 — and you’ll probably need that money for college.  Another risk of attending a summer program at a selective college is that your student might fall in love with a school that is not a very realistic possibility for him or her, either because of super competitive admissions, or high cost of attendance.  So there are benefits, but definitely costs too. We are happy to help you discuss the options.

Some summer programs DO help students with college admissions.  These tend to be programs that are highly selective, and they tend to be free or provide ample financial aid to people who are selected to attend.  Here’s a list of some of the best of those available throughout the country.

MIT offers STEM summer programs for talented students from across the United States.  Applications are due February 1.  Three of the programs are open to juniors, and one to students for seventh through tenth grades.  These programs seem to give participants a  leg up in admissions to MIT (and participation would probably be looked on positively by other schools).  They are designed for students with a demonstrated passion for STEM and strong academic credentials.  In addition, MIT states:

We strongly encourage students from the following backgrounds to apply:
  • Underrepresented in science and engineering, defined as being African American, Hispanic/Latino or Native American

  • Underserved, defined as coming from low socioeconomic means, which may be indicated by qualification for free/reduced lunch

  • Potentially the first family member to attend college

  • Absence of science and engineering degrees in family

  • Coming from a high school with low admittance rates to top-tier colleges, especially rural or predominantly minority high schools

All applicants who meet the eligibility requirements will be considered, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Students from Latah and Whitman Counties might have a good shot at these programs if they are from underrepresented groups, low income, first generation or if few of their classmates attend very selective schools.

Telluride Association offers summer programs for juniors and for sophomores at Cornell and University of Michigan.  Applications must be submitted January 24.  These programs offer challenging content for bright students (you may have received an invitation because of your PSAT score but you can apply even if you did not).  The programs are free and the Association will offer financial assistance for student who need help with travel costs.   This would be a GREAT opportunity for the right students.  I encourage you to check these programs out, and share information with gifted students you know.

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth offers summer programs at universities around the Country.  Priority deadline is January 18 but there are rolling admissions after that.  There are programs for students from grades 9-12 and even younger.  They are open to students who already participate in the CTY program and to other bright students.  They are costly, but  financial aid is available for low income students.  I know several students who have attended these programs and the experiences have been mixed.  One public school student from this area felt like she had a transformative experience that prepared her for selective college admission.  Another student from a private school background thought the program was a bust, boring and not worth the money.  So your experiences may vary.

There are a lot of other summer programs out there, and they don’t all cost much or anything to attend.  Some are in the nature of scholarship programs:  Here’s a youth summit in Washington DC for students interested in public transportation.   Apply between by or before February 17, 2017.  (2019 information is not yet available.)  This Bank America Student Leadership Conference offers a paid internship at home followed by a conference in DC.  Applications are usually due in January.  This list has a bunch of free summer programs.  You’ll have to weed through a bunch which are offered within different states and available to that state’s residents.  But there are some cool ones in there.  You can also find programs on general scholarship sites.

You may have other programs you are considering and want to find out if they are worth it.  You can email me at and I will tell you what I know or help you dig for information.  I also find that College Confidential is a good place to look.  You can go to the page and type in the name of an organization or program and you’re likely to find a discussion within that community about the value of the program.  One thing you will learn there (and should consider) is that there are a number of programs which suggest that they are selective and prestigious that really are not.  That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be great experiences, but it does mean you should go in with your eyes open (especially because there may be a lot of expense involved).

In the next few weeks I’ll post again to talk about local programs and great options for students.