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Tips for Parents: Summer Enrichment Programs for Gifted Students

Gifted Parenting and Strategies
This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Michael Uretsky, who provides information and resources about beneficial summer enrichment opportunities for students.

Author: Uretsky, M.
Organization: Davidson Institute for Talent Development
Year: 2013

This seminar was designed to provide information and resources about beneficial summer enrichment opportunities for students. The information included below pertains to a number of the key topics that were covered during seminar.

Summer Enrichment Program Resources

Two main resources were included in the seminar designed to help parents and students search for and find valuable summer enrichment programs. These resources primarily contain information and links to summer enrichment programs for high school students and middle school students. The resources are:

Student Education Programs – This website contains a large network of summer academic enrichment opportunities. The opportunities are organized into categories by subject area, type of program, and location. This site includes descriptions and links to hundreds of summer enrichment opportunities for high school students and middle school students.

The following are two ideas that may be helpful in trying to find summer enrichment programs for elementary school students:

Some colleges and universities run summer youth programs for students in younger grades. These programs are typically run by a Community Outreach Office at a college or university (note: the name of the office that organizes and runs summer youth programs can vary by university. It may be known as the Office of Community Education, the Office of K-12 Initiatives, the Office of Continuing Education…). It may be helpful to contact a college or university nearby to inquire about summer enrichment programs for elementary school students.

There are some community-based organizations that run summer programs for younger children (i.e. libraries, museums). It may be helpful to contact local organizations to determine if there are summer enrichment programs that are available for elementary school students.

Types of Summer Enrichment Opportunities

There are varying types of summer enrichment opportunities that are available for students. Information about the different types of summer enrichment programs along with examples can be found on a webpage that was designed for the seminar.

Benefits of Participating in Summer Enrichment Opportunities

Participation in summer enrichment opportunities can benefit students in a variety of ways. The particular benefits vary depending on the type of program or experience. Examples of academic, social, and personal benefits may include:


  • Studying topics of interest at an in-depth level.
  • Exploring potential college majors, fields of study, and careers.
  • Working with experts in a field (i.e. professors, professionals).
  • Continuing the learning momentum from the academic school year.
  • Learning about topics that extend beyond the school curriculum.
  • Engaging in academic experiences at the college level.
  • Increasing academic motivation and goals.
  • Participating in hands-on and practical academic activities.
  • Learning in a safe and structured atmosphere.
  • Becoming familiar with a new learning environment.
  • Engaging in high-level discourse with other motivated students.
  • Meeting students from different schools, regions, states, and countries.
  • Developing lasting friendships with peers who share similar interests.
  • Previewing the college experience (i.e. dorms, cafeteria, campus activities).
  • Discussing areas of interest in an in-depth manner with other participants.
  • Learning in a collaborative and cooperative environment.
  • Enhancing interpersonal skills through activities such as simulations, group projects, cooperative learning…


  • Enhancing self-confidence through accomplishing goals.
  • Gaining new perspectives and ideas about society.
  • Enhancing intrapersonal skills.
  • Discovering personal characteristics and qualities.
  • Developing an increased sense of self.

Considerations in Choosing a Summer Enrichment Program or Opportunity

There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing a summer enrichment program or opportunity. Important logistical considerations, learning considerations, and other types of considerations include:

Logistical Considerations

  • Registration deadlines.
  • The application and selection process.
  • The start and end dates of a program.
  • The number of programs to apply to if the selection process is competitive.
  • The location of the program.
  • The costs to participate and whether financial assistance is available.
  • The ratio of adults to students.
  • The safety and supervision of students.
  • The structure and organization of a program.
  • The time commitment to participate in a program.
  • The daily structure and organization of a program.

Learning Considerations

  • The interest level of the student.
  • The opportunities for hands-on and practical learning.
  • The potential for earning credit through the program (Note: some credits may not be transferable).
  • The reputation of a program.
  • The specialization of the material covered in the program (i.e. narrowly focused on one topic or open to a broad range of topics).

Other Considerations

  • Comments / perspectives from previous participants.
  • The length of time that the program has been in existence.
  • A participant’s health care needs and accommodations
  • Accessibility to health services.
  • Facilities and housing accommodations.
  • The accessibility of the program coordinator or staff members.

When defined broadly, enrichment can be considered any productive experience that extends beyond the traditional school curriculum. As a result, there are many summer enrichment opportunities that are available for students. Below are a few ideas to consider with regards to summer enrichment programs and opportunities.

  • It is a good idea for high school students and middle school students to play an active role in the process of finding summer enrichment opportunities that would align with their interests and goals. Two resources that students can use to begin the search process are the Student Education Summer Programs Website and the Summer Sports Programs Website.
  • Students are encouraged to take some time to think about the types of experiences that would be valuable for them during the summer. For example, some students may benefit from participating in a summer program on a college campus as they begin to think about the college search process. Other students may determine that participating in service-oriented activities during the summer may be meaningful for them. Some students may decide that they would like to participate in a program that involves traveling during the summer, while other students may want to participate in a program that enables them to explore a potential college major or career. In general, summer enrichment programs and opportunities tend to be the most beneficial when students have taken the time to consider the types of experiences that would be meaningful and enjoyable for them.
  • When considering summer enrichment programs, students are encouraged to research different programs to determine whether particular programs would align with their interests and goals. Students are encouraged to read about programs of interests and to contact the program offices to ask questions about the way that particular programs are structured. In addition, students can inquire with school staff members (i.e. a school counselor) to determine if other students at the school have participated in particular summer enrichment programs and to find out about their experiences. Taking time to learn about different summer enrichment programs can be helpful for students as they consider the types of opportunities that would be beneficial for them.
  • When students are interested in selective summer enrichment programs, it is a good idea to have several back-up options. Back-up options may consist of applying to other non-selective programs, volunteering in the community, and/or shadowing professionals to learn more about potential college majors and careers.
  • It is important for students to consider the application and registration deadline for summer enrichment programs. Some programs have earlier deadlines than others. As a result, it is a good idea for students to begin thinking about summer enrichment programs early in the academic year and to find out about the important deadlines for each program of interest.
  • As a final note, several college students were asked to reflect on their own participation in summer enrichment programs and opportunities for the seminar. The following testimonials were written by college students and were included in the Summer Enrichment Programs Seminar. Hopefully, these testimonials will provide insight into the ways that summer programs and opportunities can be beneficial for students.

Student Testimonials

“I participated in a summer enrichment program called Engineers in Motion through Ohio State University during one of my high school summers. It was about a week long, and very worth it. During high school, I was very open to many different career possibilities, and going to Engineers in Motion gave me a very unique insight to the different fields of engineering. Each day in the program featured different types of engineering, such as Mechanical, Environmental, Electrical, Materials Science, and more. Before attending this program, I had clumped all of these into just something called ‘engineering’. After this program, I started thinking about the different types, my mind starting to focus on certain types. Although this program was only about a week long, it really provided a great introduction to engineering, and really gave me an opportunity to understand more about engineering and gave me a chance to truly see how interested I was in engineering. It was a great program, and I made great friends along the way. Some of these friends and I still keep in touch, and we often talk about our aspirations and our goals for the future, in the context of engineering and what we learned during that week. Additionally, being on a college campus was an awesome experience. Not only were we taught by college professors, giving us a sneak preview of college-styled lectures, but we also interacted with college students. Seeing how passionate the college students were about their respective subjects excited me, as well. For me, as a high school student, getting a glimpse of college life really was amazing. It excited me about all the possibilities of college life, and got my mind thinking about my own future and what I want to do.”

-College Sophomore

“I did the Ashland University enrichment program the summer prior to my sophomore year. That was such an eye-opening experience to me because I got to interact with students with a wide range of academic interests — I was there for a math program, but others were there for poetry, neuroscience, microbiology, and more — but also meet similarly highly motivated. This was a program specifically for Ohio gifted students; so it was amazing to see how many students would take a week out of their summer for learning more about their interests (and having fun, too!). This may sounds cliché, but honestly, making friendships that last to this day has been invaluable in so many ways. Having friends you can trust in places removed from where you live builds such a strong support network for any endeavor!”

-College Freshman

“I was able to find my own summer enrichment opportunity. I knew I wanted to have some research experience before college because I was planning to have a career in science, so I drafted an email to send to professors at OSU who were involved in labs requesting the opportunity to shadow them over the summer. Eventually, I was able to land a position in a pharmacology lab at a university. As a high school student, I was not able to perform most procedures in the lab, but I was able to shadow the undergrad and grad students, which was a great opportunity. I learned a lot about what research is like in college and how to balance schoolwork with extracurricular activities like research. By the end of the summer, I had learned basic procedures like cell duplication and PCR and I was to give a powerpoint presentation on the lab’s topic of interest and the completed research. This allowed me to learn about the research more in depth and take away more from the opportunity as a whole. 

Academically, I had the opportunity to work with a college professor who is very passionate about his work. Doing so, I learned a lot about the field of pharmacology and pharmacy in general as career choices. The hands-on activities in a working environment gave me a much more in depth experience than I would have had in a traditional high school environment.

Summer enrichment opportunities are a great way to get a taste of the real world and find out about different career choices. One could spend their summer lazing around at home and reveling in the lack of homework, but then they would be more ill prepared for college and beyond than someone who took advantage of the time to learn something beyond the traditional classroom during the traditional school year.”

-College Junior


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