Importance of Summer Programs

Hello all! I’m currently a junior and I’m debating whether or not to do a summer program. I’ve never done one in my freshman or sophomore year summers since I highly prefer self-studying and doing things on my own than doing things through a program. Furthermore, I spend a good deal of my summer time visiting relatives/traveling and helping out in the family, so it’s pretty hard to schedule summer programs around those.

I decided around September that I’m going to set aside June for a certain summer program this year. I wasn’t able to get into that summer program I wanted, and I’m considering replacing it with another one. The issue is that it’s extremely expensive (around $5K including transportation), I’d have to take a plane alone to the place, and I’d end up missing the last 2 days of school, meaning I’d have to do my finals a week earlier. Another issue is that I’m going to be participating in the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, which lasts through the first 1.5 weeks of the program, so that might interfere with my focus in that summer program.

Personally I really want to just spend my summer doing self-study, research, and working on the Breakthrough Junior Challenge video, but at the same time I feel like I’m missing out by not participating in a summer program. 5 of my friends and I’m sure many more at my school have gotten accepted into pretty good summer programs (COSMOS, SIP, CASP, etc) already, and I know another 20 or so classmates who are doing some summer program. Would participating in a summer program make a big difference in college admissions and are they really worth it?

I’m no admissions counselor, but from what I’ve read here on the forums and gleaned from college counselors, you do NOT need to do a formal summer program; especially if your main reason for doing one is to pad your resume. As long as you show that you are pursuing your interests and doing something productive over summer, you should be fine.

There are very few (extremely extremely selective) summer programs that would make a difference in college admissions by name recognition alone.

Since you don’t specify which program you are considering, it’s hard to for us to say whether or not it would likely provide a legitimate learning experience and be worth your time and the $5k. I suggest you search for that specific program here on cc.

You want to spend your summer doing self-study and research. Do you have a local mentor that you are researching/interning under?

I’m pretty much in agreement with @curiousme2 ; summer programs,just to say you did a summer program, is probably not worthwhile. What one gets out of a summer program, however, can make one a more interesting applicant. That said, there are other summer activities outside of a formal program, including paid or volunteer work, which could also enhance an application.

Also be aware that the summer programs that will make an AO spend a few more seconds looking at an applications are generally ones that are little to no cost. Additionally, be aware that no AO is going to swoon because you self studied something, so I hope that was not part of your rationale.

@curiousme2 I was originally hoping to qualify for MOP in June, which would’ve been free aside from the plane ticket, but I wasn’t able to qualify for USAMO this year, so that’s off my list now. I’m thinking about trying out the AwesomeMath Summer Program (AMSP) this summer since I’ve heard their level 3 classes are extremely beneficial for my level. After looking through the application process and reading some posts, I found out that it’s actually very easy to get into AMSP as long as you fill out everything, which was not what I was expecting. I’m sort of having second thoughts about doing AMSP now since it’s so expensive.

For research, I’m thinking about reaching out to local professors in my area to see if they would be open to taking me in for research. If not, I’m also doing research at CrowdMath (online program), which has been quite interesting for me.

@skieurope I agree doing a summer program just to have it on college apps isn’t worthwhile. I’d love to participate in AMSP, but the cost seems way too expensive, and also it might interfere with my performance in the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. On top of that, I’d end up having to do my finals a week early if I participate in the program and I’d miss graduation night (for my sister).

@curiousme2 @skieurope Thank you both for your inputs! Honestly thinking about it now, I doubt participating in AMSP would really boost my application much, and I could probably obtain the same results through self-study. I’ll probably try to find a job or do research with a local professor in June instead.

Sounds like you have a good plan: find a local professor who will let you intern, find a job, etc. Start looking ASAP!

I don’t know anything about the AwesomeMath camps, but if it’s not selective, is expensive, and most importantly you’re just not that into it (already predicting you’d be distracted by your video project) then you have your answer.

Another option might be to take a math class at a local community college if that fits in your schedule and budget.

Not worth it unless it’s a very selective program. Doing research with a local professor may be better, especially if you do well enough to have some good results and/or get a recommendation letter from the professor.

To me, self-studying, research, and working on the challenge all sound like excellent options. I’m a current junior, and I also plan on working this summer to get a head start on college apps for senior year by making some more college visits, finalizing my school list, and beginning to work on essays.

Avoid the costly summer program and do something close to the heart and meaningful. That is likely what will provide the best return on investment.

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