Are Ivy League Summer Programs Worth It?

There are many things that you can do during the summer break. And if you are planning on putting an Ivy League school at the top of your college list, the prospect of enrolling in a summer program by some of the most elite schools in the land can give you an idea of what it would be like to be a student there.

But is it worth your summer vacation and money, too?

Whether or not Ivy League summer programs are worth it depends on the goals and objectives of high schoolers who wish to participate in them. Undeniably, these programs allow students to experience an Ivy life, which can be beneficial if their goal is to attend prestigious schools. But solely for admissions, they’re not worth it.

Before anything else, let’s get one thing straight: Ivy League summer programs are not by the Ivy Leagues.

Well, it’s true that these programs are held on the campuses of the Ivies and are being run under their names.

However, third parties are actually the ones that administer them.

But because Ivy League schools wouldn’t let their prestigious names get tainted, they ensure that participating high schoolers can get the best academic challenge and social activities.

summer program Ivy League university

Do Ivy League Summer Programs Increase Admissions Chances?

Ivy League summer programs do not increase admissions chances. They, however, can be used to add to the narrative of applicants, demonstrating their passions or how they like to spend their free time. If summer programs do not tie in with the rest of the application, it’s unlikely for them to impact admissions chances.

Many high schoolers who dream of earning a bachelor’s degree from top colleges and universities will do anything and everything to increase their chances of getting an acceptance letter from those.

And nothing can give them the same experience more than attending Ivy League summer programs.

Unfortunately, even though these programs may be sponsored by the Ivies alright, completing them doesn’t necessarily translate to guaranteed admission to Harvard or Princeton or any other prestigious institution.

That’s because taking them is not used as an admissions factor, especially given that not all students have the time and money to spare.

But just like attending Ivy League summer programs, having a summer job, doing volunteer work, taking care of a sick family member and even taking summer classes at a community college can be included on your application as they can count as extracurricular activities, which a holistic admissions process takes into account.

Do Ivy League Summer Programs Let You Earn College Credits?

Some Ivy League summer programs enable high school students to earn college credits. Some Ivy League schools offering credit-granting summer programs include Cornell and Yale. However, only some of their courses grant credit. More importantly, not all colleges and universities accept credits from Ivy League summer programs.

There are many ways for high school students to earn college credits, which allows them to skip certain college courses and complete the degree programs of their choosing faster and cheaper.

Sitting for AP or CLEP exams and obtaining military and life experience are some of them.

And then there’s also enrolling in Ivy League summer programs available for high school teens who are looking to earn college credits even before they become higher education students.

But keep in mind that not all Ivy League summer programs will enable you to win credits. Also, in instances where they let you earn credits, chances are that only select courses are options.

It’s also important to keep in mind that not all postsecondary institutions will honor any college credit you have earned from an Ivy League summer program.

Especially if your goal is to breeze through college, do your homework beforehand and check which institutions accept credits earned from Ivy League summer programs or similar or equivalent offerings.

How Much Do Ivy League Summer Programs Cost

Ivy League summer programs can vary in type, scope and length, depending on the prestigious institutions offering them. Needless to say, they also differ in price, although the vast majority of them do not come cheap. Besides on-campus programs, there are also online activities available for distant participating high schoolers.

In this part of the post, we’ll take a brief look at the summer programs offered by each Ivy League institution.

Brown University

Brown University

According to the Ivy League itself, its programs, which consist of courses lasting anywhere from 1 week to 6 weeks, are designed for high school students who wish to explore the challenges and opportunities of the college experience.

It enables them to take on stimulating academics and enriching social pursuits without the pressure of getting high grades.

To apply, interested high schoolers have to submit essays, transcripts and recommendation letters. Summer programs, which can be on-campus, off-campus and online, cost anywhere from $2,707 to $9,618.

Library of Columbia University
Library of Columbia University

Columbia University

High schoolers can choose to reside on-campus while completing their pre-college programs at Columbia to explore New York City and sample its arts and culture through an assortment of co-curricular activities.

There are also various programs available for teeners who would prefer to participate off campus and online, too.

Some of the application requirements for the elite school’s summer programs include unofficial transcripts, a recommendation letter and an essay. The cost per course is $2,700.00 — students may take up to 4 courses per summer.

McGraw Hall, Cornell University
McGraw Hall, Cornell University

Cornell University

One of the best things about going for Cornell’s pre-college summer programs is that they not only allow high schoolers to have a sense of what it’s like to attend an Ivy League but also make it possible for them to earn college credits.

In addition, students get to enjoy an official Cornell transcript, where the grades and credits earned will appear.

Up to 95% of courses are taught by the faculty members of Cornell themselves. High schoolers attending the school’s summer programs are billed per credit hour enrolled, which amounts to $1,680.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College

The primary goal of Dartmouth’s summer program, which it refers to as Dartmouth Bound, is to give participating high schoolers an in-person experience of daily college life at the prestigious institution.

Lasting for 3 days, the program involves touring various academic spaces, visiting ongoing classes and meeting students and faculty members.

Even though the program is open to all, Dartmouth encourages students from underrepresented and minority groups to enroll.

And there’s something amazing you need to know about Dartmouth Bound: it comes free of charge!

Harvard University
Harvard University gates

Harvard University

High school teeners who are interested in Harvard’s summer pre-college programs can choose anywhere from introduction to cybersecurity to media and social change and from digital marketing to screenwriting.

While they can choose to take the courses of their choosing on campus to get a feel of what it’s like to be a Harvard attendee, they may also participate online.

To be eligible, students must be between 16 and 18 years old.

Admission is based on grades, counselor reports and short essays. The cost of attending summer pre-college programs at Harvard is $5,300.

Princeton University
Princeton University

Princeton University

The James Madison Program at Princeton is designed for upper-level high school teens whose interests and passions lie in American history and politics.

There are different courses available, ranging from constitutional interpretation, the Philosophy of law in America, contours of American Thought, and Abraham Lincoln politics: concepts, conflict and context.

Most of the programs are 1 week long.

Surprisingly, some summer programs at Princeton cost as low as $250, which covers things such as course materials, meals and campus accommodations.


University of Pennsylvania

If other Ivy Leagues offer online summer programs for the utmost convenience of high schoolers, UPenn has daytime and evening pre-college summer program sessions to fit the schedule of teens enjoying their vacation.

Available courses, each one allowing participants to experience Ivy League life, come in 2-, 3- and 6-week sessions.

While application to UPenn’s summer programs is on a rolling basis, there is a priority deadline: January 31. The cost, which includes program and residential fees, is $5,700.

Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University
Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University

Yale University

Like summer programs offered by some Ivy League schools, the ones from Yale also enable high schoolers to earn college credits. There’s a long list of credit-granting courses for soon-to-be undergraduate students.

Some of the entries include rethinking civil rights and black power, introduction to transgender studies and ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica.

There are also certificate summer programs as well as online summer courses available for qualified high schoolers. Program costs range anywhere from as low as $1,400 to as high as $9,475.

Alternatives to Ivy League summer programs

Some of the best alternatives to Ivy League summer programs are those that are meaningful to students and, as far as the college admissions process goes, can improve one’s application. Work experience, volunteer work, internship, travel and summer classes are some alternatives to Ivy League summer programs.

How much are summer classes at community colleges?

Based on a report by the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of attending an in-state community college is $141 per credit hour. This means that a 3-credit course at a community college for in-state high schoolers costs $423. Additional fees, of course, need to be taken into account to determine the overall cost.

Do Summer Programs Look Good for College

Many different benefits come with enrolling in Ivy League summer programs, ranging from experiencing what it’s like to attend an Ivy League school, challenging oneself academically to earning college credits. However, it’s important to note, too, that most of these programs do not come cheap, with some costing nearly $10,000.

Completing an Ivy League summer program won’t increase your admissions chances, especially to selective schools.

But you can leverage the experience to your advantage by demonstrating how it has improved you as a hardworking student and a unique individual, thereby making your college application a complete head-turner.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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