Director of College Counseling
Collegewise of Millburn
It varies. Some summer programs require an application many months in advance and, much like the college application process, ask you to write multiple essays and supply letters of recommendation. Others simply require you to register.
We recommend that you begin researching potential summer plans in the fall (yes, more than six months in advance) if you are planning to apply to one of the top summer programs for high school students. That will give you time to both explore your summer options and determine the exact application requirements for the programs that most interest. However, few programs require that much lead time—typically only the most selective programs in the country.
If you are looking more for an opportunity to learn something new over the summer and spend time with like-minded peers, it is often fine to begin searching about three or four months before the summer. Applications may still require some essays or short-answer questions, but you may find they are less involved.
Even if you find yourself with no plans in June, there is still a lot that you can do on your own to have a productive summer: Start a book club. Cook dinner for your family once a week and try not to make the same thing twice. Offer to intern for free at a company near your home whose work aligns with your interests. It’s more about doing something that is meaningful to you than it is about trying to impress colleges.
For more expert advice on the college admission process, visit our Ask the Experts - College Admission section!