Do Pre-College Summer Programs Benefit Teens?

By Deena Maerowitz, J.D., M.S.W

When exploring options for teen summer plans, parents often ask me about pre-college programs that are hosted by colleges and universities. In particular, parents wonder if attending such programs now will enhance candidates’ college applications later. While there is no direct relationship between enrollment in a summer program and admission as an undergraduate, such activities offer the following benefits for college-bound teens:

  • Increased confidence and a sense of independence. Living in dorms, eating in dining halls, and making friends from around the world is a fun challenge. Teens take pride in rising to the occasion of managing their time and laundry without parental reminders.
  • Immersion in special interests. Some programs spend weeks exploring a particular topic—like robotics, journalism, filmmaking, entrepreneurship, or social justice. This intense focus can inspire tremendous growth and allow students to explore new fields.
  • An opportunity to sample college-style courses. Students can enjoy classes with more focused themes that are unavailable in most high schools. Compared to “Senior English,” courses that offer a deep dive into gothic novels or literature of the Harlem Renaissance may spark a love of learning.
  • A vision of themselves on a college campus. When students do start their college search, having lived on one campus may give them insights into others. Do they prefer a large college or a small campus? An urban or rural setting?
  • Sampling of a setting before applying for early decision. Some students may like to see what living on a specific campus is like before applying to a school for early decision, which is binding.

Of course, the most important aspect of any summer program is what teens take away from it—new friends and expanded horizons. And as with any endeavor, the connection between this experience and the college application process depends on how integral it is to a student’s personal growth and future dreams. Choosing meaningful summer activities is about focusing on students’ current interests, while also keeping an eye on what will support their development as young adults. Within that realm, pre-college programs are certainly something to consider.

Deena Maerowitz works with students ranging from freshmen to seniors and is an expert in both undergraduate and graduate education. She is widely published and sought-after as a speaker on college planning. She can be reached at This first appeared in Moffly Media’s March/April issue of Stamford magazine. It is reprinted with permission from an online publication by The Bertram Group