Don’t feel pressured to apply to summer camps

February 12, 2019 — by Justin Guo and Samantha Yee

During this time of year, many students are well into the application process for summer programs, an annual routine involving half-hearted personal statements, indecision about actually attending a program, and last-minute pleas for recommendation letters.

Summer programs sometimes offer a more in-depth, methodical learning experience for students interested in specific subjects that are unavailable at school. So it makes sense for students to apply to a plethora of camps in hopes of being accepted into one, a trend that also reflects in the scattershot way most seniors apply to college. What doesn’t make sense is the increasing tendency for students to apply for camps that don’t necessarily suit their own personal interests.

There are three main reasons for this trend.

The first is peer pressure. Students may feel obligated to apply to programs as equally prestigious as the ones their friends are trying for.

Additionally, some students might feel pressure from family members to apply for certain programs, giving them less of a say in their own summer plans.

Secondly, students also fail to take into consideration that they aren’t the ones paying the thousands of dollars to attend the camps. If students had to cover the necessary tuition, materials and transportation costs instead of their parents, they might further contemplate if they truly want to attend these camps.

Finally, many students face the problem of not knowing exactly what they like or what subject they are passionate about, and therefore struggle to identify which camps to apply for.

As a result, students opt for a “safe” route by following what their peers or parents deem a good summer program. Many apply to camps that they don’t expect to get into, just in case they happen to get lucky.

If students choose to go to summer camps, they should apply to camps that they have genuine interest in. Applying to camps that students aren’t really that interested in makes it a lot harder to find the time and energy to work on the application, and may cause unnecessary inconvenience to teachers who are asked to spend time on writing recommendations.

Indeed, many students are also afraid of exploring their interests for fear that they may end up wasting their summer by going to a camp that they might not end up liking.

On the contrary, by going to a summer camp to study a subject that they have even some interest in, students might end up thoroughly enjoying that topic or subject and become genuinely interested in learning more about it.

Still, many try to rationalize applying for a program they might not like by attempting to convince themselves that they like a certain subject, even if they don’t. Some also claim that it will look good on college applications.

There is some merit to the argument that attending prestigious summer programs will help a student’s later college application. However, getting accepted into a certain program doesn’t lead to automatic admission anywhere.

It’s also important to recognize that not everyone has to go to a summer camp. While these programs offer good experiences for various types of students, they aren’t the only productive way to spend a summer.

During the couple months a year devoted to a break from school, it’s equally beneficial to polish personal skills without being in the confines of a work-related environment. Getting a job or making the most out of volunteering opportunities during summer, when students typically have less homework and studying to do also helps build personality and work ethic related skills.

It makes sense to devote one’s time and energy to a subject matter that they have real appreciation for. Doing so would also take less of a toll on a student’s stress and stop an unhealthy need to please others.

Above all, it’s best not to apply to summer programs just because you see your peers are going to them or because you think you’re obligated to; you’re doing yourself a disservice.

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