With the summer around the corner, we are often asked if enrollment into a pricey pre-college program will allow a student’s college application to stand out amongst a sea of applicants. The sticker price for these programs can be a deterrent for many, but some parents are willing to spend the cash to provide their students with a competitive edge.
We at US College Experts find that understanding a family’s motivates as to why these programs are important is key to how we may respond.
Generally, we get two responses when we ask parents why they are considering a pre-college program.
I want my child to stand out in the application process by going to an elite pre-college program.
A family’s ability to pay (borrow, or fundraise) does not provide an equal playing field in the college admission process for students who are unable to pay the steep prices for these programs. If you look closely at the FAQs on some of these pre-college program websites, you will find that attending these programs have no bearing on a student’s admissions chances. (For example, take a look at Harvard’ Pre-College Program’s FAQs) In fact, many of these programs are being organized by departments within the university that have no connections to the admissions office and can not influence admissions decisions. In some cases, external for-profit organizations that are not affiliated with the university are simply tapping into a university’s brand name and running their programs on the campus in rented spaces.
My child is interested in majoring in X and we think this program will help them understand the field better.
If a student is looking for in-depth exposure into a major or career that goes beyond what their high school curriculum offers then a pre-college program may be the way to go. These programs may help further a student’s understanding of the field and as a result, may increase their interest. Alternatively, attending a pre-college program may show that a particular course of study may not be for them.
Other things to consider
Some parents use pre-college programs as a way to slowly introduce their child to a life of being an independent college student so that the shock is not so overwhelming during their first year of college. Many of these pre-college programs provide a “supervised” college experience where students attend classes with actual college students, eat in the dining halls, and sleep in the on-campus dormitories.
Also, being on the college campus can provide some insight that will allow a student to better understand what would be the best college environment for them (i.e. urban campus vs traditional campus — large campus vs small campus, etc.).
Depending on the university, pre-college programs for high school students can include programs that provide major/career exploration, an opportunity to earn college course credit as a high school student, research opportunities, or college prep enrichment (SAT/ACT prep, college application support, etc.). So be sure to do your research to determine which will help your child reach their personal goals. We also recommend that you pay attention to the application requirements and deadlines.
Here are the prices for a few popular programs:
I can’t afford these pricey pre-college programs?
There is a growing list of low cost or free competitive pre-college programs that are becoming available. Below is a list of a few programs that we have gathered. Please note that these are reoccurring annual programs and the deadlines may be approaching (or have already passed). Some of these programs are free or low cost to all participants whereas some do charge a fee, but provide generous financial assistance to low-income families.
In the end, it is totally up to the family what they feel is best for their child. However, we do not recommend taking advantage of these programs if it will put your family under serious financial pressure.
What are your thoughts about pre-college programs?
Do you think they are worth the money?
We want to hear from you! Please leave your comments below.
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US College Experts is an educational consulting company entirely dedicated to preparing, inspiring, and connecting students to the best college opportunities.