Although the snow is flying and summer seems a long way off, it is never too early to make plans for summer programs. Summer programs can provide great opportunities for children to explore specific subject areas in unique, intensive settings. They can also provide unparalleled social experiences.
Choosing the right program for your child can be a challenge. Below is a list of questions to consider when researching different summer programs as well as eleven highly recommended programs. We recommend that you include your child in the process of searching and selecting a summer program to help insure that there is a good match between your child's interests and abilities and what the program is offering.
Questions to consider when researching summer programs:
To begin the research process, sit down with your child and have him/her describe the perfect summer experience. Drawing from this experience, you and your child can work together to find the most appropriate program that fits his/her intellectual, social, athletic, and other interests. Through this exploration one can find a good mix of what he/she would like in a program. Once you and your child have "brainstormed" what the perfect summer program should include, we recommend you begin your search using the Davidson Gifted Database. With the following questions in mind, you and your child can search through the numerous summer programs listed to find one that best suits your child's needs.
Where is the program located?
Many programs are offered by colleges and universities and may require attendees to travel to a designated location. When investigating potential summer programs, inquire about accommodations, travel, etc. If your child is not ready for the residential experience, some summer programs offer day track options that you might consider.
Is the program residential or non-residential?
You and your child should decide together if he/she is comfortable and mature enough for a residential program. Staying in a dorm room on a campus can be exciting for some, but can be intimidating to others. If the program is residential, and your child is not ready for this, ask if there is an option to stay at a nearby hotel so you can pick your child up at the end of each day and bring him/her back in the morning.
If you are not sure how your child will react to staying away from home (without his/her parents), try a short residential camp, nearby, first. This can be a great way to "test the waters" before investing in a longer residential experience. Residential programs, while usually more expensive, can give your child the opportunity to participate in a broader range of activities and provide more intense social opportunities.
How is the program organized and run, in essence, what are their rules and policies?
A good program will include social, physical, and academic learning experiences. A program that is focused entirely on one area is not recognizing the importance of educating and developing the whole child. A well-balanced program will be engaging, challenging, and interesting. The program should give your child a good mix of structured and unstructured activities.
A quality summer program should have specific, delineated goals and strategies. It is recommended that you investigate what these goals are and determine whether or not your child will benefit from them AND whether there is a good match between your child's personality, learning style, etc. and the designated strategies.
It is also recommended that you ask specific questions about the rules and policies regarding supervision. Questions such as, how are the children's interaction with each other monitored? How many staff members are present? How are problems among children handled when they arise? These are particularly important areas to investigate if you are considering a residential program. It is important that the program provides the appropriate amount of structure and that safety, both physical and emotional, is top priority.
What are the qualifications of the staff?
The quality (and quantity) of staff members is integral to a successful program. Without a solid core, it is likely that the program will not meet your or your child's expectations. Questions to consider include, does the program hire qualified and experienced people to work at the program? Is there a counseling staff that will support my child should he/she need it? How much experience do the staff members have working with highly and profoundly gifted children? Have all staff members received safety training? Who supervises the staff?
How much does the program cost?
Programs can vary greatly in cost. Residential programs will generally be more expensive than non-residential programs. There are often fees in addition to the actual tuition, including lab fees, book fees, travel, etc.
Are scholarships available?
Most programs offer scholarships and/or financial aid. Many programs do not "advertise" this, so remember to ask, particularly if you don't see it included in their materials.
What are the requirements to be eligible for the program, and does my child meet these requirements?
Whether it be age, grade, or testing, almost all programs have requirements for students to be eligible for their program. Find out what the requirements are and make sure that your child meets these requirements before applying. For homeschooling families and/or families whose children have been grade accelerated, it is important to find out what policies the program has for admitting a child. Questions to consider include, can they apply for the grade level they are working at or do they have to apply for what grade they would be in if in the public school? Are there any exceptions for accepting younger students who may be working at a higher level? Have they admitted younger students before? These questions are all important to ask programs to find the most fulfilling program for your child.
Are there deadlines that I must meet to apply for the program?
All summer programs have application deadlines. Some will give a discount for applying to the program before a certain date. You may find it helpful to create a "summer camp" calendar marked with all of the deadlines for programs offered this year and next, especially, since many programs require testing and/or letters of recommendation to be considered for admission, which means their deadlines to apply can be many months before the actual camp.
Does the program offer credit for high school or college?
Ask if the program offers credit for the course(s) that your child is taking. Some will be equivalent to the course a child would take during the school year, and he/she can get credit for taking this class. Such a program can help your child earn credits for college or high school, and help to broaden his/her transcript. Make sure to get this information in writing at the conclusion of the course.
And, one final note, keep track of what courses your child takes during the summer; ask for transcripts if they are available. Including these experiences on applications can be an excellent way to demonstrate your child's well-rounded education.
Highly Recommended Summer Programs
There are a variety of summer programs listed in the Davidson Gifted Database; however, the following programs were highly recommended by our Davidson Young Scholars and their parents. If there is a program you would like to add to the Davidson Gifted Database, there is a link to recommend a resource in the Davidson Gifted Database.
Finding an appropriate summer program for your child can be challenging, but if you prepare early and follow the suggestions above it will help to make the process smoother. Remember that this experience should be an enjoyable and memorable one for your child, therefore, be sure to take into consideration your child's insight. Whichever program you and your child decide is right, the experience will prove to be a rewarding one that your child will remember for years to come.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.