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Summer Programs for Middle and High School Students

Posted on 01/19/2020, by Dr. Ellen Fithian to Parents of 7th and 8th Graders, Parents of 9th Graders, Parents of 10th Graders, Parents of 11th Graders, Parents of 12th Graders (0 comments)

I have never been a winter person. Frosty mornings and dark, frigid afternoons leave me cold. Even a mild Virginia winter generally seems about two months too long, so by late January I'm dreaming of summer. And while it may still be several months away, you should be thinking about it, too. Many summer programs for teens have application deadlines that are approaching or advise interested applicants to apply early due to limited enrollment, so it's time to start scoping out summer options.

Where Do You Start?

There are summer programs to explore just about anything you can imagine, from archeology to playwriting, learning a new language to conducting genetics research. But how do you find the ones your teen is interested in?

A good resource is the College Xpress website. Click here to go to the main page of the Summer Program search. Type a general key word or phrase, like musical theatre, into the search bar and hit the search button to generate a list of applicable programs. Then click on the ones you're interested in to get the details.

Sample a College

One worthwhile use of a teen's summer might be sampling life on the campus of a college she’s interested in attending - or learning more about a specialized career field, like architecture or engineering. Programs abound in all sorts of disciplines, but be aware that they fall into two distinct categories. The first type of program is strictly an enrichment program, meaning that no academic credit is offered. Just a few examples include the Summer Language Academies affiliated with Middlebury College, the Introduction to Engineering Program at Notre Dame, and the multitude of courses offered in the PreCollege Program at Brown. The advantage of these programs is that they are low-risk. Students can get a taste of college life, dip their toe into college academics, and enjoy themselves without worrying about their grade. Based on that description, you can probably guess that this is the type of program I favor.

The second type of summer program allows high school students to take college courses, frequently alongside undergraduates, and earn college credit. This venture is a lot riskier. While a high school junior who scores an A in The Philosophy of Nietzsche at a top college will have gained an impressive credential, enrolling in such a course is chancy. It's a bit like a gymnastics rookie attempting a backward handspring off the balance beam; if she lands on her feet it's a triumph, but if she lands on some other part of her anatomy it won't be pretty. So proceed with caution and make sure you know which type of program your teen is signing up for. Some universities, like the University of Pennsylvania, offer both credit-bearing and non-credit courses, so pay close attention to which is which.

Exercise Due Diligence

Before signing on the dotted line for any program, be sure to thoroughly investigate its level of supervision. Where will students live?  Will a resident advisor live with them? Is there a curfew? Do guys and girls share hallways? Bathrooms? However bright your teenager may be, ask yourself whether he is he mature enough to take advantage of the program and avoid getting into trouble. You’re the parent, and you know your teen, so in the final analysis you need to make that call. 

Hope all your kids find a great summer program!

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Posted on 01/19/2020, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)




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