Join Date: Aug 2004
I've never had a child attend a pre college program. However, my children have attended summer programs away from home for many years. I never ever thought about any "edge" it gave them. They never attended with college admissions or preparation in mind. They attended for the experience itself and the strong desire to do it. They loved their summer programs and for that, it was worth it.
For my kid who attends a BFA in MT college now, she went for 8 summers to a theater camp. She chose the camp when she was only 9 years old and attended right through to the summer prior to entering college at 16. I never saw her attendance as pertinent to a college "resume" or to prepare for college. But the experience of a theater immersion, and this particular one in any case, was a HUGELY significant experience in her life and has impacted her very much. She not only lived for those summers (the rest of her year wasn't too shabby either, LOL) but the immersion in classes and performance opportunities with others who shared her passion, strongly influenced who she has become as a person. For that, it was worth it. I don't know or care if it had anything to do with college admissions. I think all one's experiences make up their background and impact who they become and what they are ready for next. Clearly, the summer programs in her field contributed to her training, experiential level, and passion. Her program did no preparation for college auditions, or anything related like that. I never thought of where her summer program might lead her later. After all, she picked it when she was only nine and wanted to return every summer (badly!). That said, most of her friends, and most of the cream of the crop from all those summers, have gone on to pursue theater and most have attended or now attend all the top BFA or BA programs in this field, and many have gone onto professional success. How their summers at theater camp affected that, I have no clue, except that every experience builds up one's skills and background and so on. I think the experiences at that theater camp impacted their lives in a big way. How it impacted college admissions, who knows, nor do I truly care, to be honest, as it had nothing to do with the decision to attend in the first place.
Moving away from my personal experience, I think that a theater immersion program in summer is a good experience for anyone (though not a necessity!) to really have a chance to see what it is like to be immersed in something intense in their field, to be with others who share that passion, and also to fuel their own passion. For those who have never been away from home, it also is a great experience in that manner, as well. It is different than just being immersed at home after school or on weekends. It is like living it. It is a little like going on to a BFA program, going at it night and day. For some kids, I have heard that it helps them discover if they truly want a BFA path or not, by trying it out. My kid knew she wanted it but some are not sure and so a summer pre college program would be a way to discover if they want to commit to a BFA path. Plus, let's not forget that the training and in some cases, quality performance opportunities (if offered), contribute to one's skill set in the long run. I certainly believe that the training and experiences my D got to have in her summer intensive have helped her to become better at her craft. That can be accomplished in other ways besides a summer theater intensive, of course. But a summer theater intensive is one way to get that training and experience. We don't have performing arts high schools in my state. We don't have a drama program at school (though we do have productions). My child got training outside of school and also did many productions in school and in the region but the summer intensives were surely a major factor in her background, for the experience and training, not as a ticket to something else. I also cannot emphasize enough that the friendships and contacts made from those summers still greatly impact her life today in this field and also simply personally and socially. My kid goes to college today with people from her summer program, gets work in the city through contacts through that program, will live this summer with pals from those summers who attend other BFA programs, and will likely do shows with them as well in the near future.
I would not choose a summer program to get an "edge", but for the experience itself. My other D did both performing arts summer intensives for many summers, as well as summer travel programs, and these also were enjoyed greatly and have impacted her life. Once in college, she did do a summer intensive at another college in her field to try out the intensity of that field, to help her decide if she wanted to go down that path now and for graduate school (kinda like going to a pre college in MT program, but in this case, a summer intensive in architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design) and indeed, she loved it and it solidified her decision to pursue the field eventually in graduate school. A summer pre college program in theater is sorta the same thing and can help those who haven't done an intensive program to try it out first before making a long term commitment. Some people already know they want the BFA path and a summer pre college program isn't needed for that reason (such as my own D). Still, my child's summers, while a financial stretch, have been worth it as they truly have impacted her life in a big way, which I don't define as college admissions. However, I am sure the experiences she had every summer at a theater camp helped her in some way to become an artistically viable candidate come audition time for college. ANY training will do that, however.