With summer fast approaching, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the summer program options out there. There are (literally) thousands of various summer programs and camps for students of all ages and interests, but it’s difficult to determine what is appropriate for you. Let’s break it down:
BOARDING SCHOOLS VS UNIVERSITIES/COLLEGES
For starters, there are two places where summer programs can take place: universities/colleges and boarding schools. While each has its pros and cons, a major difference between the two is age — colleges/universities generally (but not always!) take only high school students, while boarding school programs offer courses for both middle and high school students.
Another thing to keep in mind is that boarding schools offer something called “academic enrichment programs,” while colleges/universities generally do not. (We’ll get to what those are a little later.) These are longer programs — about 4-5 weeks — that allow students to work on their skills in a few academic areas, like math, writing, or literature. Boarding schools also generally offer short (usually two-week) programs that focus on a particular academic subject.
Colleges generally offer programs that focus on one particular subject area, but they are of varying lengths — from two weeks to four weeks. That said, some also offer college credit programs, where students can take 1-2 college-level courses. This is sort of like academic enrichment, but it’s still more focused on one or two particular subjects.
SUBJECT-FOCUSED, ARTS, ENGLISH, OR ENRICHMENT
It’s not just the location of the program that matters — it’s the content! There are four main kinds of summer programs in this regard:
Subject-focused— this is a (very) loose term which I’ve come to use to refer to summer programs that focus on ONE topic, be it math, computer science, history, or literature. It’s important to note that these programs are “academic,” i.e. that these are subjects that you would most likely find in school. Nearly all boarding school and universities summer programs offer this kind of course.
Arts — some students enjoy drawing, acting, dancing, etc., and there are, of course, summer programs out there for them, too! These are not as widely available as, say, programs on computer coding, but they are numerous, too. Many boarding schools and universities offer summer programs in these areas — and there are several specialized summer programs at “arts schools” (boarding schools and universities) as well.
English (ESL) — There is also a wide variety of programs for students who want to improve their English. Generally, these programs are focused on all aspects of improving their English (writing, reading, speaking, etc.), but sometimes these programs teach English through a subject-focused course. For example, Brown University offers a whole program called Summer@Brown for English Language Learners, where they teach university-level classes designed for non-native speakers of English. Many academic enrichment programs at boarding schools (next category!) offer ESL classes or classes on English writing/public speaking for non-native speakers. ESL programs are offered at both boarding schools and universities, but in boarding schools, they are generally offered as part of an academic enrichment program.
Academic enrichment — I mentioned this briefly above with regard to boarding school programs. These are summer experiences where students would choose (generally) 3-4 classes to focus on during the summer for 4-5 weeks. The format is similar to school in that there are several “class periods” in a day, but there is plenty of time for fun and recreational activities as well.
HOW LONG IS THE APPLICATION? AND HOW INVOLVED IS THE PROCESS?
Some programs are more selective — and, naturally, have a much more involved application process (involving, say, two essays, two letters of recommendation, a transcript, etc.). Other programs have a less involved application process (involving, say, one essay and a transcript). Others still don’t involve anything beyond filling out a registration form and paying a deposit.
This factor is dependent on how much time you plan on investing in your application — and how concerned you are about the group of students in your program. The more selective a program is, the more academically intense it will be.
Think about these options as you consider your summer. And don’t hesitate to be in touch with Hermiona as you make your plans!