There is a widely held belief that attending a summer school or two is beneficial to the college admission process and this can be true. Many CDNIS students undertake these each summer and most will enjoy the experience. However, the aim of this short article is to show how a summer school can be beneficial and where it does not help. 

The subject content is important and should help a student build skills, knowledge and insight that gear them toward their area of interest for study. Almost every student I have interviewed for university admission who had undertaken a summer school would be asked about the subject material and how it extended their understanding. What was never asked was “which university ran it?”. You see, University Admissions staff understand that most applicants can’t cross oceans to attend a prestigious university campus, and so it is never expected. Indeed, I have heard admissions staff express dismay that a student would fly halfway around the world to attend a class that they could have done in their own backyard. 

The cost of flight, visa, accommodation and fees can really add up and so one might well question the decision making involved if that same subject was available at a local university. Whilst one could argue that the professors teaching the content may be more experienced, the simple fact is that the attendees are high-school students and thus being taught by the world’s leading experts may be, frankly, wasted on them. 

Demonstrated Interest is another factor some students consider – “Surely, if I attend X University’s summer school I am showing real interest?” they state. If it is a local student then yes, especially if there are a number of local universities offering similar programmes. But demonstrated interest can just as easily be shown by attending a zoom session about the institution, without the need to travel. Also, many summer schools are now available virtually. In this case attending one “overseas but virtually” makes more sense. 

It’s important to pick the summer programmes for the right reason and that should always be the content and learning outcomes. 

As Stanford University state:

“Admission to Summer Session does not mean admission to Stanford University.

Stanford does not have a preference for students who attend Stanford-specific summer programs, including Summer Session. Overall, it is encouraged that you pursue any summer activity, class, or program, or work you are interested in. The fact that you are participating in a given program, activity, or work is not in and of itself the value-add to your application. What is important to Stanford—and, for that matter, many other colleges and universities–is how you learn, grow, and contribute because of these experiences.”

Don’t forget that CDNIS offers the Cambridge Summer School right here in Hong Kong.