Camp seems like a natural part of our summer planning process when our children are younger.  They learn new skills, pursue interests, and develop greater independence.  The benefits of summer camp aren’t reserved for little kids.

Many colleges and universities offer programs (camps) for high school students.  Some are reserved for rising seniors, but others are open to all high school students.  These camps can provide key opportunities that will aid your college admissions plans.

A couple weeks ago, I spoke with a family I’d met before.  Last year they told me their daughter was interested in university level culinary programs and one of my suggestions was Johnson & Wales.  They visited last summer and loved it.

So what can their daughter do now to show she is serious about baking and pastry work, a very competitive program?  She is already working at a local bakery, but I suggested they look at possible enrichment programs offered by colleges.  Johnson & Wales has a short summer program in baking and pastry and they had a few weeks left before the application deadline.

Here’s why this few day camp is so valuable.  This young lady can:

1.  Experience life on a college campus.

This is an opportunity to live in the dorms, take classes in the academic buildings, eat in the cafeteria, meet professors and students, explore the area surrounding campus, and determine if this is a school she wants to add to her college application list.  Think of it as a multiple day college visit.  Additionally, many schools offer scholarships to top summer camp students.  I’ve known many students who have left camp with scholarship offers in hand.

2.  Determine if a particular program or major is a good fit.

The young lady I mentioned has been working in a local bakery, but a week in the pastry program at a top university will expose her to so much more.  She will either leave confident that pastry is the right program for her or she will find the specific requirements don’t actually match her interests.  Either way, she has gained invaluable experience.

3.  Demonstrate commitment to a particular topic.

When this young lady applies for a baking / pastry spot at Johnson & Wales or another university, she will have specific experience to support her interest.  I’ve seen too many students say they are interested in engineering, psychology, communications, forensic science, business, and medicine; yet, they have no experience in the field.  I understand most high schools don’t offer classes in these subjects, but colleges prefer to see students who have explored potential majors instead of students who have only learned about a field by watching television.  Watching another episode of “Cake Boss” can’t add to her resume, but this program will.

4.  Show an overall interest in learning.

If all else fails, she can add this experience to her resume and chalk it up to a learning experience.  Colleges want interested and motivated students.  Taking time out of her summer shows a willingness to work and an interest in developing academic and social experiences.

If the program is horrible and the university isn’t going to be added to her application list, she still benefits from participating.

Enrolling in a particular university’s summer program does not guarantee you will have a better chance of admission.  Especially at highly-competitive schools, your summer activity is just one of many factors they evaluate.  It won’t hurt, but don’t expect it to open doors for admission.

So go for the right reasons – to learn if a school or major is right for you, to expand your knowledge of a subject, and to have fun meeting new people in a new environment.

For suggestions in finding summer programs for students visit my resource page and share below any experiences you have had with summer programs.