Does it matter if you do a summer program at a prestigious university over the summer? Is there a section on the common app asking about what you do with your summer? Should I do a summer program at HYP next year?
If it’s a selective summer program such as TASP, RSI, then yes it will help.
If it’s a pay money to go and visit the campus and take classes, then no it won’t help as much.
Ultimately, it’s what you gained from the experience more from the experience itself.
Yes, I believe there is a section on the common app about what did you do with your summers. They would prefer to see something there. LIfeguarding, summer camp counselor, community college courses, baby sitting, whatever. Agree with others that a lot of those “summer college experience” things are just money-takers, not prestigious. One thing to ask yourself-- do you need to apply to attend, and is there a real selection process (not everyone who applies is accepted)?
Well if you look at Harvard Summer School and Yale Young Global Scholars etc. they are reject people (admit rate is not 100%), so that isn’t really an absolute measure of how much a summer program would help. Selectivity, combined with the cost of the camp. If a camp costs 10,000 dollars to attend, do you really think it would impress adcoms? It seems to suggest : my parents are rich enough to afford it and I have nothing else better to do over the summer. If it did, then all the talented students from lower income brackets would be significantly disadvantaged. So more often than not, these camps are simply a way for colleges to make money while kids get to spend a summer at their dream universities, nothing more. If you manage to walk away with a great feel of the campus vibe etc. along with a genuine/sincere recommendation from a professor at the University (many lecturers at summer programs aren’t actually faculty of say, Harvard), then it would benefit you. Otherwise, look for programs like TASP, RSI as other posters have stated. I think Penn Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World may help as well.