Insider Advice: How Summers Serve the Pre-College Process

For those families stumbling through the increasingly stressful pre-college process for the very first time (or perhaps the second, third, or fourth), a little insider information could go a very long way. However, while we can’t all be born into the admissions office, the New York Times recently published a wonderful article consisting of the advice that College Admissions Officers give to their own children.

At Everything Summer, our goal is to take kids from camp to college to career – and we truly believe that summer is a vital time that, utilized well, can rejuvenate students, and set them up for the self-discovery that is crucial during the college admissions process. While reading the New York Times article, it was refreshing to see common themes, echoed by various admissions officers, that we have been using to inform families when choosing summer programs with an eye to the future.

For example, one point of emphasis that was espoused by all the admissions officers interviewed by the Times is that it is important to find a college that is a right fit, and not the other way around. However, how can a student with limited exposure to academia beyond high school know what kind of school will be a good fit? Summer programs, particularly those at college campuses, can give a high-school student perspective. Perhaps the student will discover that they prefer a smaller class size, an expansive campus, or that they might not want to enroll in an undergraduate engineering program after all. This information is hugely helpful to the largely uninformed swarms of young students who might otherwise be making decisions about their futures without any real understanding of what these decisions entail.

Similarly, another salient point in the article came in the form of this quote by Stuart Schmill, the Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “M.I.T., and other highly selective colleges, want students who prioritize quality over quantity.” This is a truth we have heard echoed time and time again by college advisors and admissions officers throughout the country. But in a school with a limited curriculum, or in a town with limited extracurricular options, where can a student generate the depth and quality of immersion that these competitive colleges seek? 
A variety of summer programs offer students the opportunity to step beyond the high-school curriculum, to explore and immerse themselves in their interests in a way that simply isn’t possible during the jam-packed school year. Whether a student is mesmerized by meteorites, captivated by creative writing, or contented by community service, there likely exists a program that will enable him or her to truly be immersed. This immersion allows for a unique type of experience, which is invaluable both when evaluating colleges that might be a good fit, and when demonstrating interests and passions to these selective schools.

On a personal level, my own journey through the college process was certainly influenced by how I spent the summers leading up to the application process. For two years I was convinced that I wanted to play college lacrosse. However, as deep as I thought this desire might run, after spending the summer after my freshman year travelling the country attending lacrosse camps, I realized that, rather than invigorated, I was merely burnt out and bruised. I played one more season, and ultimately hung up my cleats in favor of theatre – a pursuit which ultimately became my college major and led to my first working experience.

And where did I discover this newfound thespianism? On a pre-college program, of course.