Do you plan to attend a summer program in high school? If so, it can offer a great opportunity to plump your résumé and give you experiences that can put you on trajectories you never knew existed!
Summer programs for high school students offer educational opportunities over summer break and provide students with enrichment opportunities. They may cover various subjects and activities, and offer exposure to skill sets to help you identify the right career path for your future.
They might include academic enrichment programs, pre-college programs, STEM camps and programs, arts and performing arts camps, language immersion programs, leadership and entrepreneurship programs, medical and healthcare programs, and more.
Getting into one of these programs may require you to write an essay. What is the secret sauce for writing an essay, and how should you approach it? Let’s find out how to write an application essay for a summer program.
What Are Essay Requirements for Summer Programs?
Essay requirements for summer programs for high school students can vary significantly from one program to another. Each program may have its own set of prompts, word limits, and particular instructions. Do not fret, how to write an application essay for a summer program is more doable than you realize. Here are some common essay requirements a summer program may require you to write.
A summer program might ask you to write a personal statement, which simply means you describe yourself with an introduction, discuss your interests and goals, and explain why you want to join the program for which you are applying. A personal statement allows you to highlight your unique qualities and life experiences.
Statement of Purpose
More formal than a personal statement, a statement of purpose asks you to describe your reasons for applying to the program, your professional and personal goals, how the program fits into and how it will elevate your plans.
Academic or Career Goals Essay
Programs that align with academic or career exploration might want to see an essay focused solely on your academic areas of interest and career goals. You want to formulate your essay on how the program will help you achieve those goals.
Focused prompts may ask for essays related to a specific theme or targeted area. For example, they might ask about a challenge you have faced or a time when you displayed leadership or entrepreneurial skills. Some applications may also focus on extracurricular activities or community service — activities outside the classroom.
Creativity or Innovation Essay
Camps like STEM or similar camps may encourage you to discuss when you have employed creative, outside-the-box thinking skills such as Carnegie Mellon University’s Pre-College programs. You may discuss a creative project or problem you have solved.
Challenges and Overcoming Adversity Essay
Some prompts may ask you to write about overcoming challenges or adversity. For example, they may ask you about a time you have faced a personal challenge and how you overcame it. They might also pointedly ask about diversity and inclusion and how you will contribute to creating an inclusive environment in your future.
Some camps may want to see samples of your creative writing, particularly if you are applying to attend a creative writing camp or residential program such as the prestigious Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. Some programs may ask you for several pages of poetry, for example, or a piece of short fiction. They may even allow you to submit a portion of the novel you are working on as part of your application!
7 Steps for Writing an Application Essay for a Summer Program
Let’s look at the steps on how to write an application essay for a summer program. As you might imagine, some summer programs are difficult to get into, such as the Stanford University Math Summer Camp (SUMaC) that has an acceptance rate of less than ten percent. Therefore, your application essay must be completely on point.
Here are the steps to ensure that your essay fits the bill.
Step 1: Start early.
You do not want to start your essay the day before it is due. Starting the process early gives you ample time to think about what you will write, draft, revise, and self-edit. Waiting till the last minute could hurt the quality of your essay.
Step 2: Understand the prompt.
There is nothing worse than writing your essay, then looking back on it and realizing that you did not answer the question asked. Do not fall victim to that danger at all. Carefully review the application guidelines and ensure you address all aspects of the prompt in your essay.
Again, there is nothing worse than realizing you have left out a key critical aspect of your essay after you have already written it.
Step 3: Think through your ideas.
Brainstorm what you might want to write about — take five minutes to scribble anything that comes to mind related to the prompt. Identify themes that come to mind, and describe achievements (personal and academic), that align with the summer program’s aims.
Consider putting all your ideas in an outline to help you structure your essay logically. It will also ensure that you hit all the essay prompt points.
Step 4: Work your intro!
What is the most important part of your essay? The introduction! It gets people’s attention, provides a small skeleton for your essay and sets it up. It is just like the perfect pass and layup in a basketball game. Grab the reader’s attention with a compelling hook and clearly state your purpose for applying for the program, particularly if the prompt calls for that information.
Step 5: Work through the body paragraphs.
The body paragraphs should follow up on what you introduced at the beginning. For example, if you say you will talk about your experiences, skills and interests, do just that in your body paragraphs. Show, do not tell in all your examples and use vivid language and examples.
Instead of saying, “My brother and I have a special relationship,” say, “My brother, a quadriplegic, communicates to me with his eyes. He shifts his eyes left to communicate ‘no’ and right for ‘yes.’ It is the special code we use to team up against our parents and anyone else who gets in our way.”
Showcase your achievements and relevant skills as denoted by the essay. Discuss any challenges you have overcome and emphasize the lessons you have learned. Use concrete examples to illustrate your points.
Step 6: Conclude, ending on a strong note.
Summarize your key points and restate your enthusiasm for the program. End on a strong note that leaves a lasting impression. Ask yourself whether you demonstrated enthusiasm and an understanding of the program, asserted your desire to attend, and showcased your goals.
Step 7: Edit and proofread your essay.
Review your essay for clarity, grammar, and spelling errors. Proofreading is key when writing an application essay for a summer program. Consider asking teachers, peers, or mentors to review and provide feedback. Make sure your essay is polished and error-free. Campus to Career Crossroads offers a rigorous editing process to refine your essay for submission.
Tips for Writing Your Summer Program Essay
At Campus to Career Crossroads, we believe that you can follow these summer program application tips. They will help you stand out from the crowd and hopefully help you get into the program.
Write Like You Speak
Have you ever heard a teacher say, “Write like you speak!” for the best essay results? This is a great time to apply that advice! How to write an application essay for a summer program starts with a conversational tone.
Why? Here are a few reasons why you may want to implement this suggestion — we believe in at Campus to Career Crossroads!:
- Easier to understand: Have you ever read an essay by a student in which they were trying to impress someone? Did it sound stilted and overblown? Avoiding complex sentence structures and sticking to what you know enhances clarity.
- Engages your readers: Writing like you speak can help the essay’s engagement, making it more relatable and inviting. It can also help you connect with the readers personally, creating a sense of familiarity, and a bond with the reader.
- Shows off your personality: Your personality shines through when you write like you speak. People can understand what you are like and “hear” your voice through your writing.
- Makes you seem approachable: Conversational tones can mean you appear more approachable and authentic. It keeps you from seeming overly formal and builds credibility and even trust.
- Flows naturally: Conversational writing lends to a more natural flow — like spoken language. It can be enjoyable to read and keep your reader’s attention.
Connect with the Program
You may find it difficult to “connect” to a summer program because you may not have attended it before. Read up on everything you possibly can about the program, including testimonials from other participants, descriptions on the website, and more.
Connect your understanding of the summer program with your goals. Connect with specific areas of the program that interest you and go in-depth.
Sometimes, making a connection for the program includes experiencing your enthusiasm. Enthusiastically explain why you are excited about the opportunity and how it fits into your broader academic and career goals.
Just as no company wants to hire someone who does not present themselves authentically, a summer program also wants your personality to shine through, so be yourself. Avoid writing using overly formal language or writing what you think they want to hear. They want to hear from you as you are.
Stay within the Word Limit
This one is easy to implement. (Always good news, right?) Check the word limit! If you are only supposed to write 250 words or less, write 250 words or less.
Adhere to any specified word limit. Being concise and focused demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively, and summer programs always want you to communicate information about yourself most concisely — really, really well!
As you check the word limit, ensure that you have answered the prompt — we have mentioned it already but it is worth mentioning again!
Check the Format
Is there a specific format you should use to submit your application essay? For example, are you supposed to submit it a certain way through a website or are you supposed to save it as a pdf and email it? Whatever the process, review it and submit it in the format you are supposed to use.
Example of an Application Essay for a Summer Program
Let’s take a prompt and review how you might want to respond to it: Write a 250-maximum-word essay on important academic or life experiences in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) you have encountered.
My STEM journey includes transformative experiences, notably engineering collaboration and hands-on molecular biology research. I interned at a tech startup and learned how to engineer sustainable solutions, where I learned teamwork and research methods.
Interning at a tech startup, InTech, showed me the practical applications of academic knowledge. Leadership roles in STEM clubs and outreach programs allowed me to share my passion and foster a sense of community.
These experiences have shaped me and my role in STEM, so I want to launch my STEM journey through the STEM Intensive Summer Program.
Write Your Essay with Campus to Career Crossroads
Consider your interests, goals, and desired outcomes when considering a summer program. Choosing a program that aligns with your passions and provides a valuable and enjoyable experience is essential. Some programs may offer college credit, certificates, or other recognition for successful completion.
Ultimately, what do you want to get out of your experience? Think about the deep reasons why you want to attend. Is it to benefit from college credit, academic enrichment, or to learn how to do something specific, like creative writing or research methods? Maybe it is a bit of all of those things.
How to write an application essay for a summer program involves managing a lot of important steps from brainstorming to editing. Campus to Career Crossroads can help you outline and craft your summer program essay. We can also offer editing services to ensure your essay achieves your goals. Reach out to us for more information! We will guide you through the entire process, from researching the right summer programs for your professional goals to walking through the application process.