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Tips for Summer Program Applications

Did you know that the summer break is the best time for high schoolers to build up their extracurricular profiles? It’s the only time of year that an otherwise busy high school student can start new hobbies, engage in full time leadership roles, and apply for prestigious summer programs - the very same activities that contribute to a stellar college application. 


But first, getting into that prestigious summer program, right?


So, where to start…


Picking the Right Program for You


If you are in high school and already have an idea of the profession and the career you want to pursue, then a structured summer program at a high ranking university could be a great way to spend your summer break. Let’s start by seeing what’s out there. 


Summer programs range from traveling excursions to internships to independent research. Before you dive into the deep end, think about your goals as a student and leader. What skills are you interested in developing? What kinds of changes do you want to see in the world? How can you start to answer that question this summer? 


Maybe it's a bit cheesy, but try actually writing down the answers to these questions; the process should start to reveal what your priorities are and what you need to be looking for from your summer program. For example, maybe during this writing exercise you start to notice that you have an interest in creative writing. Try applying for a creative writing summer course that gives you the opportunity to try out dorm-life and meet other young writers from around the country. This would be a great addition to your college application and would help you develop your writing and creative thinking skills.

Location and duration


Whatever program you decide to apply for, its important to consider where you want to be - in fact, this may be a priority for you that came up in that early writing exercise. Maybe you already know that you want to spend time abroad this summer, or even just spend time in another part of the country to see how you like it. Apply to a program in Bangkok, Melbourne, or New Haven!


If you don’t want to travel, check out some options at local Universities in your hometown as you’d be surprised what’s right on your doorstep! Another option for those of us that don’t want to leave home at all is to take part in an online summer program


Another pro tip: check the duration of the program before you sign up. You’ll need to consider if you want to spend the whole summer studying / working or just a few weeks to dip your toes in!



One of the main things to consider in your summer program is the cost! There are some very prestigious but pricey ones out there, so be mindful of the cost benefit: how much money will you spend versus how much will you gain in experience / knowledge? Competitiveness also becomes a factor here because some of the best free programs are the most difficult to get into. You’ll need to write a cracking application to stand a chance.


Speaking of…


Writing your Application


First, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket: apply for as many summer programs as you are interested in. Up to five applications would maximize your chances of getting into at least one. 


In your application, you’ll need to set yourself apart from the rest. Consider first, why would you be an asset to this program? What skills do you bring and how would this experience benefit you? Be sure the answers to these questions are answered clearly and succinctly in each of your applications. Also, double check your essay for grammar and spelling errors!


Most applications will ask you to submit your transcripts, and you’ll require a referee to write amazing advocate statements as to why you should be chosen. Those who know your work and skill set will be the best people to approach, like your favorite teachers or someone you’ve done work for in the past. You can also think about people that know your character well: coaches, mentors, school counselors, 


In addition, you might be asked to write a persuasive essay, for example: write about a time when you weren’t successful in something and how you overcame this failure or setback. What lessons did you learn? You want your entry to stand out, so dig deep and try to express yourself honestly and openly. Ask friends, parents, teachers, mentors to edit and give feedback on your essay.


What’s for You Won’t Go by You

Keep in mind that the program / experience that is right for you will come your way no matter what. This might mean applying again next year, or finding an alternative experience that will give you similar or better experiences. Keep an open mind and happy searching!