Pricey summer programs raise fairness questions

<p>From the Globe West section of today's Boston Globe:</p>

<p>"...For a fee, students can travel to such places as Ireland, Nepal, or Senegal. And they can immerse themselves in a foreign language, dive into community service, or explore their adventurous side by surfing or rock climbing.</p>

<p>Such programs have multiplied in recent years, giving students who can afford them amazing new opportunities - and perhaps additional pressures during what could be a season for lazy days at the beach and minimum-wage jobs.</p>

<p>But, as the college-admissions process becomes ever more competitive, another question about such programs emerges. Alongside high-priced application coaches and test-prep services, does a summer experience that costs anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 represent yet another way that wealthier students can gain an edge over their lower-income peers?"</p>

<p>Pricey</a> summer programs raise fairness questions - The Boston Globe</p>

<p>Depends, but it certainly doesn't hurt an application and decent international experience is becoming more and more important to remain completive at the top levels of many careers.</p>

<p>I would just say that one needs to be careful when looking at these programs as many are not nearly as prestigious as they claim and offer little of value academic wise.</p>

<p>And as we all isn't fair. This will just widen the gap.</p>

<p>Yes, it gives those with the more money an advantage to the extent that colleges consider those experiences in the application process. However, I think most Ad Coms are evaluating students on the basis of whether or not they make the most of what is available relative to their individual circumstances, not whether or not their parents could afford to send them around the globe.</p>

<p>More hype from the press catering to admissions paranoia. Does anyone really believe that at the schools where such things matter that the admissions officers are that stupid?</p>

<p>Have you ever listened to friends recount their travel abroad? Some make astute observations and derive personal meaning from their encounters. Others merely recite every place they ate and slept (yawn). </p>

<p>Some people derive deep meaning from ordinary experiences, while others
can respond so flatly to extraordinary opportunities they're meaningless. </p>

<p>I would trust AdComs who read tons of these essays throughout a season to figure out the differences, and which kind of student they prefer.</p>

<p>Meanwhile, my own 3 did just fine writing about some normal, middle-class,
summer jobs and family moves. Through those experiences, they demonstrated some core values, their personalities, their curiosity.</p>

<p>Of all the imbalances and injustices regarding class opportunities for kids, somehow this one doesn't worry me because I actually trust the filter of the AdComs to find those kids who have meaningful experiences wherEVER they roam.</p>

<p>I think it might unnerve or discourage some very poor kids who imagine they have nothing to offer by comparison to fancy experiences abroad, when that's not true at all.</p>

<p>agree with paying3. My d HAS traveled a lot, both on family trips, and school group/service type things. However, her "backyard" experiences were the topics of her essays. I think international travel helped her see her own city, its people, and how she relates to them in new ways, but those trips were not the subject she chose to write about.</p>


<p>That was excellent. Thank you.</p>

<p>OP -- adcoms are made up of sophisticated adults acutely attuned to what kids do and they are under no illusions. They take these pay-a-ton-of-money-volunteer-trips for what they are: interesting opportunities for kids of relative privlidge. A kid naive enough to think it's a hook is a kid who probably will not pose much of a threat to worthy applicants ;)</p>

<p>It could become code for a kid who won't be applying for any need-based financial aid, but there are other ways AdComs can intuit this, for example: address, absence of any paid employment, parents' occupations. </p>

<p>Besides, every college needs some full payers or the place will tank. I'm not naive, just idealistic.</p>

<p>Totally agree with Paying3's first post. As for the later one, I'm not so sure that it matters. We were full pay, initially, and we had none of that code stuff to prove it (public school, no pricey summer trips, etc). Kids did just fine in admissions.</p>

<p>I think this has become a little industry that no longer serves the function it is marketing. When Yale got one or two applications a year from kids who had worked in clinics in West Africa, that probably had a lot of impact for them. When it gets hundreds of applications from kids who have gone on the same programs with what are essentially commercial tour operators, not only does that scream "Buying my way in!", but it probably raises the bar considerably for a kid to show he got something out of it that none of the other hundreds of kids did.</p>

<p>My relatives' anecdotal experience reflects this. A cousin's son was in the top half of his top boarding school class, had an interesting background (born and educated in Europe, in local schools, through age 12), and one of these nifty programs for a summer of service in an exotic locale. He had disappointment after disappointment on the admissions front, including at the college that his grandfather (who is semi-famous) and father attended. (He got in off the waitlist to a college he loves, but it isn't what his family was expecting when they packed him off for his international service.)</p>

<p>Those pricey programs do NOT help students get into college except for the colleges for which being a full pay student is an advantage.</p>

<p>Otherwise, participating in such programs may hurt a student because the colleges that factor ECs into admission would be more impressed by a student who worked an ordinary job or created a community service project in their school or hometown. Doing such things typically reflects more initiative, resourcefulness and work ethic than participating in a pricey EC paid for by well off parents.</p>

<p>A Chicago admissions counselor when asked about summer ECs said we prefer a statement like, "I sat under a tree last summer and read 10 books." Admission Counselors know what is going on.</p>

<p>What do college admissions officers look at first when they see an application? I hardly think that the fact that a kid that spent a summer in a pricey program jumps out at college admissions. My guess is the first thing they look at are test scores, then grades. Where it breaks down after that probably depends on the college.</p>

<p>The bluntest I ever heard it put was an adcom at an info session who said, "If I read one more essay about a student going off on an expensive trip to Africa to save the world . . . ." Admissions officers get it.</p>

<p>Don't need-aware colleges ask you up front if you're applying for FA? And aren't most FA assessments done by the time admissions offers are finalized? I'm curious if there are other systems out there under which such trips would reveal something additional.</p>

<p>I read somewhere that many adcoms are more impressed with students who regularly volunteer in the local community vs those who buy a summer service trip abroad. One adcom went so far to question why a student would spend $3000 to go to Central America when there were enormous needs in a nearby metropolitan area begging for volunteers.</p>

<p>The paid service trip abroad smacks of resume building if it is the only such item on the application. If the student has spent significant time volunteering through a church or local community group, a foray abroad could properly be intrepreted as a student's expanding interest in service towards others.</p>

<p>My DD spent 5 weeks in Ireland when she was 16. This was a program she really wanted to do and she received a scholarship. We didn't look at it like an admission hook. It made all the difference in her life.</p>

<p>BUT, if colleges don't care about "life changing trips abroads", why is Princeton now suggesting that students do service abroad?</p>

<p>"BUT, if colleges don't care about "life changing trips abroads", why is Princeton now suggesting that students do service abroad?"</p>

<p>Colleges do think that abroad experiences are good for students. They broaden the students and help them mature by having to adapt to new situations. This is also why many colleges have study abroad programs that students can take while in college. </p>

<p>However, that doesn't mean that the colleges that factor ECs into admission give much if any weight to such programs when it comes to admission. The colleges that factor ECs into admission are impressed by ECs that the student created themselves (this could include abroad volunteer opportunities that the student worked in order to pay for), competed for in a real competition based on skill, not whether their parents can pay, and ECs that require a great deal of hard work and responsibility such as what is expected when one works a fulltime summer job as a fast food employee.</p>

<p>Keep in mind, too, that most colleges put no or very little weight into nonathletic ECs when it comes to admission. Some colleges factor ECs for merit aid. Typically, only the most competitive colleges -- those with an overabundance of high stat applicants -- factor nonathletic ECs into admission.</p>