While it's important for students to use their summer breaks productively, attending an expensive program on a college campus need not be part of the mix. Don't get us wrong--many colleges offer tremendous summer opportunities for high school students; if your student is excited by one of these programs and it fits within your budget, it's a fantastic option. Our point is that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars in order to provide your child with a great experience that will look impressive on their college applications.
The following sums up our position well. We wish we could cite the person who wrote it, but we came across it in a college counseling association email that didn't cite the author:
"Colleges are looking for interested, involved, mature students. I recommend they figure out what they really enjoy and then figure a way to improve their skills in that area. I'm not talking about getting better at the sport or academic. I am talking about personal growth.
One mother complained to me that her son only loved skateboarding. What can he do with that passion? He could make a video: how to skate, how to be safe, how to accomplish a specific skill, how to be a courteous skater. He might be able to put it on line as an instructional series. He could create a petition (contact the city and find out the steps) to install a skateboard park. He could build and sell skateboard appliances. He could refurbish or paint and sell used skateboards. He could write poems or stories or blog about the sport. He could start a skateboard camp for neighborhood children. He could volunteer at a center to teach boarding fundamentals. Notice that all of these options have things in common. They are related to something he loves and the activity allows him to enter a new level of independence taking him to a new level of accomplishment and maturity. "