Exploring Summer Enrichment: Pre-College Programs and Beyond

May 15, 2023 
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Eating ice cream, watching fireworks, and going swimming are right around the corner as summer vacation nears. However, summer isn’t just a time for friends and fun. It’s also a time for the future—preparing for the future, that is. With both academic and non-academic enrichment options to choose from, teens can make the best of their summers off by developing useful academic and social skills and adding to their resume in a way that will impress admissions officers. So, read on to better appreciate what summer enrichment programs have to offer and whether it’s worth considering alternatives.

What Exactly is a Summer Enrichment Program?

Summer enrichment programs come in many forms—from intensive pre-college academic programs to more relaxed programs that aim to provide a fun yet challenging summer experience for teens while still focusing on educational and social development. Some are short (one week), long (eight weeks), or somewhere in between. Some will let you choose between living on campus or commuting (if you’re local). Most focus on a specific subject specialty, such as engineering or writing. Pre-college programs, especially those hosted by elite universities, are top of the list for ambitious teens and their parents, which means they are also the most competitive and costly. 

What are the Costs and Benefits of Summer Enrichment Programs?

Since not all summer enrichment programs are the same, the value of each one will vary. One of the biggest benefits of pre-college programs is exposure to the college experience that can aid the future transition to college and help students figure out what type of college they want to attend.  Students also have the potential to earn college credit that reduces future tuition costs and time needed to graduate. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to make new friends and new connections with instructors (who can provide recommendations) and gain new knowledge and skills in an area of interest.

The price you pay for these benefits can be quite high (some are more than $5,000) and depends on where you live and the type of program. For example, even though part of the experience is to get a feel for dorm life, students can commute, and those who do pay less. If your program is shorter or at a less prestigious college, it’s also likely to cost less. Some programs offer scholarships and financial aid as well.

However, before spending money, carefully research specific programs. Depending on the quality of a particular program, you could end up paying for an experience that may enrich you but does little to distinguish you from your peers. How so? As admissions become more competitive, some colleges have seized on summer enrichment programs as a way to cash in on anxious students’ and parents’ desire to stand out. With profit as their motive, not only will such programs be less selective, but they might cut corners by having outside companies run the programs. Bottom line? While you may still decide to attend a particular summer enrichment program, given that the program provides the experience you are looking for,  it is unlikely to impress an admissions officer unless you attend one of the few selective, prestigious, and rigorous programs. 

What are Some Alternatives to Summer Enrichment Programs?

If you’re still interested in summer enrichment, but you’re not convinced pre-college programs are worthwhile, there are several alternatives that teens can do instead.

  • Summer Camps. Teens can upgrade their summer camp experience by selecting a camp that builds on their interests or expands their horizons. At summer camp, teens can take on leadership roles as counselors or pursue a passion like video game design. 
  • Summer Jobs. A summer job is a great way for teens to develop important skills like independence and responsibility while also making money. Finding a summer job that also offers experience in a field or industry that complements a teen’s interests is even more valuable. 
  • Community Service. Why not spend the summer making a difference? Shelve books at the library, help clear trash from a local park, connect with seniors at a senior center, or organize donations to a food bank or women’s shelter. 
  • Study Abroad. Instead of a pre-college program that offers a more conventional experience, studying abroad gives students a chance to learn while also immersing themselves in a different culture. 
  • Service Trips. Take your community service to the next level by giving back globally. 
  • Local Opportunities. Depending on where you live, you probably have access to a range of activities that line up with your interests. Actors can get a part in a community theater production while historians can check out if there are any archaeological digs happening nearby. 
  • Learn a Skill. Whether it’s Japanese, Javascript, Joinery, or just about any other useful skill, summer is a great time to develop it if you have the resources and discipline. Get certified in CPR and First Aid, for example, if you want to study medicine in college.
  • Internships. They’re not just for college students; high school students can become interns to develop professional skills and connections too.

Mix it up. Focus on a pre-college experience one summer and volunteer the next or combine studying for the SAT with a part-time job at a local non-profit. The most important thing is to craft a resume that highlights and reflects your passions.

Next Steps

Here at A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, we can help teens make the most out of their summer. Want to learn how to set goals and get organized? Consider our Executive Function Coaching program. How about filling in some learning gaps? Subject area tutoring supports students as they develop academic skills from essay writing to algebra. Need to prepare for college admissions tests? Sign up for SAT or ACT test prep tutoring. Our tutors can help you with your college admissions essays, too. Summer will be here sooner than you think, so it’s the perfect time to get started exploring all of the exciting options out there!

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Directors Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at office@aplustutoring.com.

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