I had a student who once attended a summer program at Columbia University. He was outstanding throughout the program, obtained good grades and built a strong relationship with the course instructor. Coincidentally enough, the course instructor was an existing professor at Columbia. The student kept in touch with him and asked if he could write a recommendation for his college application. Of course, the professor was delighted to do so. As you can guess, the student was eventually accepted to Columbia. Was it due to the professor’s recommendation? I can’t say it was the solitary reason. But there is no doubt, a recommendation from an existing professor is compelling evidence for a student to succeed at college application.

This is why attending a summer program matters. But you can’t just sign up for any summer program. The amount of summer programs out there is staggering. Don’t spend countless nights looking up every university’s summer program. Instead, look at the telltale signs which tell you why a summer program is a cut above the rest:

1. Course Instructors

As you can tell from my story, you want college professors teaching the course. You applied for a pre-college course to experience what college life is like. What better way to experience the rigour of a college course than being taught by a college professor. And plus, the college professor’s recommendation may just be the key to your acceptance letter.

2. College Credit

Excelling in a college course is a piece of evidence that you are ready for the academic challenge required of a university education. As the number of AP’s students take increases absurdly every year, its significance is gradually declining from an admissions perspective. That is why taking college credit summer courses is different. A word of caution though. Make sure you are ready for college level work as a C or D in your summer course is not something to boast about.

3. Program Content

Taking a summer program is already strenuous enough for most students. Don’t make it even harder for yourself by signing up for courses that are uninteresting. And you have to remember that the student will write about what they did in the summer program. I’ve seen so many students write, “I was fascinated by the theory of Demand and Supply and how it affects the world around us.” That’s all good and well but in reality, anyone can learn theory. It’s what the student does that matters. Choose a summer program that combines theory, active real-life learning, hands-on activities and a culminating project. Now, that’s something worth writing about.

Students and parents, it’s time to get started. Deadlines for a number of summer programs have already passed. Speaking of Columbia, their early deadline has just passed. Don’t delay any further in your search for the perfect summer program.