5 Answers

John Points120
The basic answer is that paid summer programs have little to no effect on admissions chances, for the reasons cited above. HOWEVER... there are some potential exceptions: For one thing, some of these paid programs offer scholarships to students who can't afford to pay for the *whole* cost of the program. A partial scholarship to one of these programs is a very strong sign that this particular college, and probably many more, will see that student as a desirable applicant. In addition, you can think of the paid (or partially paid) summer program as a form of extracurricular activity, a choice by the student on how to spend his/her time. While the fact of having attended is evidence mostly of being able to afford it, and usually doesn't help earn admission, still, the fact of having *chosen* a particular course or program within a college's summer offerings *can* serve to flesh out a student's profile as being committed to a particular area of interest. (For example, my daughter was strongly interested in Art and Design but was too academic to spend much extracurricular time on it during the school year. She took a Design course at Brown's Summer program and that, plus doing well in AP Studio Art, helped show the colleges she later applied to that she was, in fact, seriously interested in/talented at Art and Design.) Finally, there is the reality that some of these college summer courses offer college credit for their courses, and assign a grade. Surely attending Stanford's summer program doesn't really help you get into Stanford -- but **getting two A's** in for-credit courses at Stanford's summer program provides evidence that the student will in fact be able to perform very well in a challenging college environment (and will enter freshman year with an extra two courses that will be awarded credit from Stanford and many other colleges). This can provide some reassuring evidence if Admissions officers were in any doubt about the level of challenge an applicant has faced in their home high school. So, at the margins, a summer program may help in a few different ways -- but only at the margins: a carefully chosen summer program, and specific courses within it, can help an already likely admit become a more likely admit... or maybe tip a probably-deniable ED applicant into becoming a possible deferral. Definitely not worth a lot of money... but if a student can qualify for a partial scholarship to such a program, and if a point can be emphasized with his/her choice of courses... it *can* help. Here is what Stanford Admissions' FAQ has to say about this subject: "2. Would attending Stanford summer programs improve one's chances for freshman admission? We do not have a preference for students who attend Stanford specific summer programs, but overall, engaging in enrichment opportunities and advanced courses may demonstrate your enthusiasm for learning and discovery. The fact that you are taking summer or enrichment programs is not in and of itself the value-add to your application; it is what you take from that experience, how you share that experience with us through your essays and how that experience has enhanced your intellectual life that is of importance."
The short answer is "No." Any program that your family pays for so that you can participate will not benefit your admission decision. What to do then? Choose a summer program that furthers your interest/passion or explores something new. Even if it is a "pay to play" experience, you will learn more about yourself and might even come away with a piece of your application essay! Feel free to email me if you would like to talk more about summer programs and following your passion.

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