Summer programs are more popular than ever and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. This short post is designed to give you a quick “lay of the land.”
In general, summer programs come in two main flavors:
Some are research-based.
Here, there’s likely still going to be a classroom component, but the bulk of your time will be spent either conducting your own research or helping out a faculty member with their own research. You can find this type of program at a wide array of colleges and each one will have its own application procedure and admissions criteria. At bottom, though, they’ll want to see evidence that you can succeed in college-level research. In reviewing applications, they’ll look for past research experience, a firm foundation in the subject you’ll be working in, success in challenging classes, exam scores, and the extent to which you have the maturity and drive to excel in a demanding environment. As such, these programs are usually geared more toward older students (rising 11th and 12th grade students) who have had a chance to develop their resume and skill sets. If you’re looking to explore a topic for the first time, this type of program probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to get your hands dirty and do a deep dive into your favorite topic, you’ll feel right at home in one of these programs.
Let’s turn to classroom-based programs.
These are similar to what you’ve experienced in high school, but instead of sitting in a classroom at your perhaps all-too-familiar high school, you get to experience the excitement of a real-life college campus.
Here are some potential advantages: (i) these programs often offer college credit; (ii) the courses you typically find at these programs are much more wide-ranging than what you see at your high school, allowing you to explore new and exciting fields that you may have never heard of before; (iii) they’re usually less competitive to get into than the aforementioned research programs; (iv) you get to live at a real college campus!
But there’s also some potential disadvantages: (i) these programs are usually quite expensive and, depending on the program, you can sometimes take a very similar class for much cheaper at your local community college; (ii) if you’re looking to do in-depth research, these probably aren’t the best programs for you.
In closing, it’s important to remember that neither type of program is inherently better than the other. It all depends on what you want to accomplish and how the program in question would contribute to your short- and long-term goals. Your college counselor will be more than happy to help you find the perfect program!