Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

Why Your Summer Vacation Should Include a College Campus

6 minute read

College is a major milestone, one that comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. While high school provides a good foundation, it often falls short in preparing students for the real-world complexities of higher education. That's where summer college readiness programs come in. These enriching experiences offer a unique chance for high schoolers to get a taste of college life, develop essential skills, and even get a head start in their chosen career paths. In this blog post, we'll delve into why summer programs are a must-consider option for any high school student planning to make the most of their college years.

What Is a Pre-College Summer Program?

Pre-college summer programs provide a chance for high school students to experience higher education for a few weeks before officially becoming a college student. These programs vary in length, generally lasting 1-7 weeks, and may focus on a specific field or offer a broader curriculum. They allow students to take college classes, engage in campus activities, and even stay in campus-based housing.

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Exposure to Career Paths

Summer programs often focus on specific fields such as engineering, arts, or medicine. For instance, have you ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut but are unsure what it takes? Certain specialized summer programs could give you a taste of aerospace engineering or even simulated space missions. Participating in these kinds of programs allows you to explore niche careers like these and understand what you're passionate about. It’s like a career "test drive" that can help you avoid future regret.

A Real-World Preview of College Life and Culture

Summer programs offer more than just academic growth; they're a one-stop shop for scoping out your potential future college and sampling what life there could be like. If you're undecided between a few schools, spending time on campus can be the ultimate decision-maker. You'll get a hands-on feel for the atmosphere, resources, and even the food.

Beyond academics, this experience provides a snapshot of daily student life—from dorm living to navigating the campus. Depending on the college's location, you could also get a taste of a new culture or locale. It's a full-circle preview that can help streamline your transition to college, as you'll enter your first term already knowing the lay of the land.

Skill Development

High school curricula are generally broad and don’t delve deep into specialized skills. Summer programs fill this gap. For example, let's say you attend a summer program focused on robotics. You might get hands-on experience with designing and programming robots, a skill set not usually offered in a high school setting. This specialized knowledge can set you apart from your peers, both in college applications and in classroom discussions. Whether it's coding, scientific research, or creative writing, the skills you acquire will not only aid you in college but also your future career.


Never underestimate the power of a good network. Summer programs often feature guest lectures, workshops, and the opportunity to collaborate with industry professionals. These connections could lead to internships, job offers, or valuable career advice down the line. Moreover, attending such programs can give you diverse letters of recommendation that set you apart from your peers. While most students will have recommendations from high school teachers and perhaps a summer job boss, you'll boast endorsements from college professors, graduate student mentors, or even professional engineers if you've done an engineering internship. These varied perspectives can provide a more comprehensive view of your capabilities, making your college admission application truly stand out.

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Personal Growth

Beyond academics and career exploration, summer programs foster personal growth. They offer a safe space for students to become more independent, manage their time better, and cultivate other essential soft skills. Plus, the unique experiences you'll gain often turn into interesting stories. Whether it's a challenging project you tackled, an unexpected friendship you formed, or a memorable field trip, these stories become great conversation starters and bonding points with your peers in both high school and college.

College Admissions

Last but not least, participating in a summer program can give your college application a significant boost. Admissions officers look for students who take the initiative to pursue their interests and demonstrate a commitment to learning beyond the classroom. But it can go even further than that. If you opt for a summer research program, for instance, you may find yourself working on a project that gets published. Imagine heading into your freshman year of college with your name already on a research article, alongside esteemed professors and graduate students. This kind of early accomplishment not only dazzles admissions committees but also sets a strong foundation for academic success in your higher education journey.

The Financial Aspect

While the idea of attending a prestigious summer program may sound exciting, it's also important to consider the financial commitment involved. Programs can vary widely in cost. For example, a 12-day program at Harvard will set you back around $4,950. On the other end, a five-week program at Kentucky State University costs approximately $1,886 and covers housing, meals, and tuition. Financial aid options may be limited, so early research is crucial. Some programs do offer scholarships, so be sure to look into that. Also, consider the opportunity cost of not working a summer job, especially if you're saving for college. On the plus side, some programs allow you to earn college credit, potentially offsetting future education costs.

Are Pre-College Summer Programs Worth It?

Deciding whether a pre-college summer program is worth the investment depends on your circumstances. If you're anxious about college, these programs can help you become more comfortable on campus. On the flip side, if you have a significant financial need, the cost may be a barrier. For a more tailored decision, consult your high school guidance counselor for advice and assistance. So it's essential to weigh the benefits against the costs and look for financial aid options if needed.


In summary, summer programs provide high school students with a unique opportunity to prepare for college in multiple ways—from skill development and career readiness and exploration to personal growth and networking. They're more than just a way to kill time over summer break; they're an investment in your future.