Q: What advice can you give with regard to summer courses in terms of looking best on a college application? My son is a high-achieving student and would like to take some courses next summer that would enhance his applications.

A: If your son is hoping to find a summer course which will reinforce his academic interests, and his college application, he has a number of options.

  1. He can take summer classes at a local college -- many colleges allow high school students to enroll for summer classes, where they will receive a grade and credits (often transferable) on a transcript.

    1. He can participate in a "college preview" program held on a campus -- these programs are often advertised online and on flyers in high school guidance offices. There are programs like this all over the U.S. Students live in dorms and experience a glimpse of college life while they take classes that are designed for high school students who want to try out higher-level classes. Sometimes credit is offered; sometimes students simply receive a "certificate of completion."
    2. He can take summer session classes at a college or university away from NYC. Again, this will offer him a taste of college life. But the classes will be the same summer classes that regular students at that college will take. Credit will usually be offered. However, there will be no additional activities that are targeted to high school students.

The main distinction between summer college courses is that some are offered AT a college and some are offered BY a college. Taking a history course AT Important University does not mean that your son is taking an Important University class or will be taught by their regular faculty. There are numerous companies that rent campus space during the summers – dorm rooms, meeting rooms, classrooms – and run their own programs in these locations. So while their programs are held on a certain campus, you are not taking courses associated with that college.

And then there are summer classes actually offered by Important University, taught by IU faculty, for which high school students, like anyone else, may register. These will usually be credit-bearing classes.

An important thing to remember is that if your son takes regular college classes over the summer, studying with a teacher from that college, he may get to know that teacher well and may even obtain a recommendation to use in his college applications later. BUT taking a summer course at a certain college or university does NOT give a student an "edge" if he later chooses to apply to that university. However, the colleges to which he applies will see that your son challenged himself by taking college-level classes, and if he does well it will certainly be impressive.