3 years ago
Admissions Advice

Are pay-to-attend summer programs ever worth it? (i.e. are they scams?)


I've received invites for the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC), Envision National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF), and the National Congress of Future Medical Leaders. These are all programs in which you have to pay to attend, and I've heard bad things about the largest one, NSLC, and how it's not worth it at all and an invitation isn't really much of an accomplishment at all.

Maybe they vary from program to program, but I didn't respond or choose to pay and attend these summer programs, as I didn't want my parents to pay upwards of thousands of dollars to attend programs that wouldn't give me any experience of that value, and/or look impressive to colleges.

So, has anyone attended any of these programs (or know anyone who has attended) and could give me some insight as to whether they were worth it or a good experience or not? Or, does anyone have any extra info in general as to whether or not these programs are good?

Thanks :)

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3 years ago

I would tread cautiously into committing to attend one of these conferences unless your parents are independently wealthy and budget is no object. I think intuitively you know that if it is not sponsored by an actual elite university or benchmark standard professional organization like the AMA American Medical Association, its sole purpose to make money and give its participants accolades for their value, intelligence and potential without giving much in return.


3 years ago[edited]

Generally speaking, if you have to pay to attend a summer program which you were invited to participate in (without applying) or where the application process is not really competitive then it's most likely not worth the time, money, or space on your application. Now, I want to be clear here, I'm NOT saying that there isn't value in these programs and I'm NOT saying that they don't provide you with interesting learnings and experiences. All I'm saying is generally you won't get a boost on your college applications from participating in these programs.

It's certainly possible you will find the conferences worth your time, you might learn some new things or find a new passion, or maybe even get to experience some cool things. But as @CameronBameron said, at the end of the day they are there to make money. My personal opinion? There are far better experiences and uses for the money you would spend on these programs. If you want to read more about which summer programs are worth looking into, here's a good article: https://blog.collegevine.com/how-to-decide-if-a-summer-program-is-worth-it/


3 years ago[edited]

Hi! I too have received many of these. My recommendation would be to steer clear of these, as the money you would spend on them would be better spent on ventures of your own (ie Projects, Clubs, Donations), which will actually look better to colleges.

Also, many of these programs are sent to students through nominations or just student information aggregation such as Collegeboard's Student Search Service. Many of the 'invitations' give an impression that the recipient is unique, but that is untrue most of the time.


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