Do Summer Programs Look Good on College Applications?

Mar 6, 2020Blog Articles, Get the Edge

It’s well known that colleges receive more applications than places. At top institutions in the United States such as Harvard and Stanford University, less than 5% of applicants successfully gained places in 2017. This means your application needs to be really strong to secure a place at your top choice of college. Admissions tutors are always looking for evidence of dedication to your subject, initiative, and reading beyond the school curriculum. Our students find that a summer school like the Oxford Scholastica Academy is the perfect way to demonstrate all three.

With that in mind, will a high school summer programme help you to get into your ideal college? And what else is important to your application?


Grades are really important


A Washington Post survey claims that high school grades are the biggest determining factor when it comes to successful college admissions. Why do grades matter so much? Mostly because they indicate “effort, grit and determination”, as well as suggesting that you’ll be able to keep up with the higher level study required at university.

At the Oxford Scholastica Academy, expert tutors and individual attention will boost your academic performance. This is true whether you’re at the top of your class or you want to improve your grades. You’ll also have the time and space to explore your subject beyond your school’s curriculum and outside the classroom, introducing you to the kind of advanced ideas that will help you achieve the grades you want.

Although grades are very important, they are by no means the only measure used by admissions teams. As educational counsellors cited on CNBC indicate, colleges are taking a careful look at extracurricular activities, particularly ones you do over the summer holidays. This is important to bear in mind!

oxford summer programme

What did you do last summer?


Just as a prospective employer wants to know what you’ve done in between jobs, colleges are interested in what you got up to during summer. “Colleges want to understand, what have you been doing with yourself? What happened during that gap?” says Mark Kantrowitz on CNBC, senior vice president and publisher at Edvisors Network. 

There’s even something known as the “summer school effect” reports The Guardian. 76% of children who attend a summer school progress to an elite university, compared to 55% of children with similar academic and social backgrounds who hadn’t attended a summer programme. 


Not any old summer camp


What kind of high school summer programmes are best for college admissions? Ideally it should be a focused course that reflects what you want to study at university. Let’s say you’re interested in becoming a software engineer; a computer science and coding summer course will look really good on your application. The Oxford Scholastica Academy Computer Science & Coding Summer School is perfect for those considering a career in technology, computing or applied science.

An academically rigorous programme, focused on developing your knowledge and confidence to approach higher studies, is an invaluable asset to any student. Spending time on a course like this will demonstrate initiative and a serious, dedicated attitude towards your studies, regardless of which subject you want to pursue or where you want to go.

Another great benefit of doing a high school summer programme is that it can help make up for weaknesses or gaps in other areas of your application, if you have any. Steven Infanti, associate vice president for admissions at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, has said: “When I look at an applicant who has a 2.5 [GPA], which would be kind of a borderline admit for us, but I see on his application, I participate in this camp…that shows a lot of initiative and someone who has a passion.”

summer programme for college application

Gaining practical exposure


Of course, you might not even know what you want to study at college yet. The Oxford Scholastica Academy offers many summer courses for teens that are probably not offered at your school, including Medicine and Engineering. How do you know if you want to study these subjects? Taking one of these summer courses will give you the chance to try out new subjects before committing to a three or four year degree.

Adding practical experience to your application will also prove to admissions officers that you are ready to commit to a subject you are serious about. For example, one of the most important things you need in order to apply to medical school is evidence of practical work experience. On our Medicine Summer Courses, you’ll meet with patients at a hospital, take their histories and diagnose their conditions. Not only will you learn a lot from this experience, you’ll also be able to mention it in your applications as evidence of your commitment to Medicine.


There are lots of pastoral benefits to attending a summer school, of course, but it’s difficult to overlook the academic boost the right course can give you. The Oxford Scholastica Academy offers accredited courses for 12-18 year olds in the beautiful city of Oxford.

Read more about our Oxford summer courses, designed to help you reach your full potential and achieve future success, all while enjoying the Oxford experience this summer.


Further Reading


  • Looking for more reasons to choose a summer programme? Look no further than this list to read about the benefits of attending our Oxford summer school!
  • Explore this list of personal and academic skills your child will take away from an international summer school
  • Thinking of applying to Oxford University? Remember, there is no official Oxford University summer school for international teenagers, but there are independent schools like the Oxford Scholastica Academy that give you a taste of student life in Oxford.

Curious about the Oxford Scholastica Academy?

Our team are happy to answer any questions you may have about summer courses with Oxford Scholastica. Take a look at our full range of summer school programmes and contact us if you have any questions!