How to Evaluate Summer Enrichment Programs

Understanding the details of a summer enrichment program enables you to make a good match between the program’s characteristics and your teen’s personality and goals.  This insures they will have a fun and “Smart Journey.”  Your teen achieve greater independence and confidence as well as build subject matter knowledge.  The following factors should be considered when researching various programs.

Interest Assessment 

Discussions with teens should assess both their interest and level of commitment. These conversations will determine the most optimal program for them. They will be thinking about the following:

*Commuter or residential program?  If residential, have they ever lived away from home?

*Scope of program: Do they want a superficial exposure to an interest or one that is more in depth?

*Cultural Travel: Are they the type of individual open to new experiences? Are they willing to “rough it” a bit?  They will not be eating the same foods and will likely have reduced access to technology.  Evaluate your teen’s willingness to handle the unexpected that comes with traveling and living in a different place and/or culture.

Application Requirements

Programs that require transcripts/an essay and/or a teacher recommendation tend to get more focused students. These programs inject plenty of fun while also enabling your teen to be with students who respect the goals and values of the program. When applying and getting into the program takes some degree of effort, teens tend to be more committed. 

Focus and Rigor

Your teen may be “interested” in a particular discipline such as engineering but if they have never explored this topic in depth, it is not advisable to send them to a month long research program.  An overview program of various fields of engineering would be more advantageous. In addition, resist equating “rigor” with a graded program.  The Middlebury Interactive Language (MIL) program is very rigorous.  It requires a pledge of 24/7 immersion in the target language.  Although MIL does a pre and post language assessment, it is not “graded.” 

Program Research

If possible, ask to talk with parents/students who are not on the website.  Although a parent/student will be “selected” by the program, a live conversation can be very enlightening.

Overall schedule

Ask about the overall schedule.  If the program is residential, are there planned activities in the evening and on the weekends?  Who supervises them? How much unstructured time is there?  Where do the students live?  

Living Accommodations

If the program requires students to have a roommate, respect that.  It is not advisable to ask for special accommodation (unless there is a medical necessity).  Living with a “random” roommate is part of the experience.  In addition, having a roommate will enable your student to meet other teens as they “share” the new friends they have both made.  It is also one of the aspects of a residential program that helps prepare students for college.  The roommate may or may not become their “best friend” but they should learn to be respectful and cordial.

These are just a glimpse of the many factors we consider when working with your teen to find the optimal enrichment program.