Usually when a student asks this question they are specifically wondering if going to College ABC’s Summer School program will give them an edge in the admissions process at College ABC. While many may immediately answer yes, the better answer is, “It’s not going to hurt you.”
Pre-college programs at colleges offer many benefits to high school students including the chance to live in a dorm room away from home, meet new friends from all over the country or world, and explore an area of academic interest. One thing that they usually do not offer is an “in” at that college’s admission office.
Why? Most pre-college summer programs are not run by admissions, but rather a center for professional or continuing studies office, or even a separate summer session office. These offices function independently of admissions and the criteria for admission to a summer program is usually vastly different than admission to the college as an undergraduate student. For example, in 2011 the admission rate to Harvard as a freshman undergraduate student was about 6.2%. In that same year, it is estimated that the admission rate to their Summer School program was 68%. Because you got in to their summer program is no indication of the probability you will gain admission as a freshmen, and this is true at most college and university programs, sometimes to an even greater degree as their programs are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
But please do not think that doing the summer program at your dream college is not worth it! If you are very serious about attending a college and have a decent chance of admission, then one of the best investments you can make is to go to their summer school program. College is now close to a $240,000 investment over four years. What better way to “try before you buy” than to actually go live on campus for a few weeks during the summer? You may confirm that you do in fact love this place and want to spend four years here, or you may decide that its environment is not for you and decide to apply elsewhere. Either way, you have spent your summer in a productive manner, which is what colleges are really looking for anyway.