Category: Advanced Placements

Summer School? But its not even Spring!!

While winter is barely over, and Grade 12 students are in the midst of exams and preparation, it’s time to think of Summer Schools for students in Grade 9, 10 and 11!

You may think college applications are long off but unfortunately, time goes by faster than you think. Every year we get lots of people reaching out to discuss summer schools in May, but the time to apply is NOW. January and February are the best times to start planning for summer schools abroad.

But wait, even though, the trend of attending a summer program by high school students is really catching on in India and the BIG question is that is it really worth all the effort, time and money spent?

Is it becoming just about keeping up with that one kid in your class or is there a link between that an admissions? There is a lot to unpack in this article.

Well first thing to know is…

Q. What is a Summer School or a Summer Program?

A. Summer school is known to be a great way for students to pursue new interests, enhance existing talents, and build new contacts.

Q. Do they ACTUALLY act as a catalyst in gaining admission to a college of your choice?

A. In a simple way, we have parents each year asking, “If my child goes to Harvard Summer School, does that mean he will get into Harvard?” Here is the truth.

Attending a summer program no doubt indicates to colleges that you’re dedicated to studying and gaining knowledge. However, when you talk to admission officers they are of the opinion that these summer programs rarely give student that much of advantage when the time comes for them to apply to college. Yes, they do add great value to your resume/CV but understand that this is not your ticket to your desired college.

WAIT! Before you stop reading though… 

Q. Why should you consider pursuing a summer school/program?

– Summer program is the best way for students to fulfill their aspiration for global exploration and at the same time be committed to making the most of campus life. It’s a chance to figure out if they are ready.

– Explore new areas of interest, strengthen interest in a particular major and illustrate their readiness for the education system to admissions officers.

– Chance to experience what classes will be like and the level of work you will need to put in to succeed.

– Get hands on experience with international companies in form of internships which is inbuilt in some programs

– Possibility of incorporating your summer school experience in your essays

Q. What should I look for in a program?

– Is it the right time to dedicate to a summer program? AP exams are in the summer and sometimes Summer School overlaps with regular term for students. In some schools that means missing class and even exams.

– Is the school/program selective or does it take anyone who applies? If a selective program like Yale (YYGS), Boston Univ (PROMYS), Stanford (SuMAC), Princeton Journalism or UPenn LBW accepts you it is an indicator that 1) You are stronger than some of your peers 2) You are ready for a rigorous college curriculum

However, other programs that you can pay for and get in are less valuable in terms of being “an indicator” because even the admissions officers know they are not selective

Q. Do I have to go abroad?

A. No! Going to summer school abroad can cost as much as $10,000 for two weeks. Don’t waste your money on a non-selective program that won’t add too much value. Colleges are coming to us! Whether it’sAshoka’s High School Program, UChicago Summer School, Columbia University programs or MIT, the schools are coming to us and you should make the most of these opportunities.

Q. Should I go this year or next year?

A. Well, this is rather subjective and really depends from student to student. As per our experience we believe that you should join a summer program in the summer of your grade 10 and/or grade 11. The reason being that this time you are relatively free and have more time in hand as compared to when you are in grade 12 trying hard to balance your school life and college application work.

So going back to the big question, should I apply?

A. YES! Summer School is worth it if

– Your timing is right

– You can afford it

– If the program adds value to your application process either as a selective program that is an indicator or an exploratory program that allows you to show interest in a major


5 Takeaways: Simplifying the Application Process Workshop


Earlier this week, as it is tradition, we had panelists from our soon to be College Freshmen class give their words of wisdom to the class of students applying this year and starting college Fall of 2017.

And so, a HUGE Thank you to the Class of 2020 Panelists who came to give their Words of Wisdom to the Class of 2021 in our “Simplifying the Application Process” Workshop at the CollegeCore Office!

Our Panelists were:

– Aditri Bhagirath – Carnegie Mellon University

– Anahita Sehgal – UCLA

– Ananya Mittal – Princeton University

– Aryaman Sethi – University of Chicago

– Rishab Srivastava – UC Berkeley

– Shankar Salwan – Northwestern University

– Shivam Bajaj – University of Southern California

– Simran Arora – Brown University

ICYMI: We had pages and pages of notes but since we can’t share them all, so see below for 5 Key Takeaways from our students.

1) Make a Balanced University List:


Enthusiastic parents and ambitious students may say “Ivy League or nothing else” but be realistic about it.

Dreams are dreams for a reason. You may feel right now that you want to apply to all the Ivies even if you have no chance of getting in, but each rejection hurts a lot. You need targets and safeties to balance that.

And we mean targets too. Applying to 8 Ivies and 1 safety like Drexel isn’t good either. What if you only got into Drexel? Would you go there?

Plan out Early Action and Early Decision as well but understand where it gives you an edge versus where it may be better to apply Regular Decision.

2) SAT / ACT Tips


The sooner you finish your SAT / ACT testing the better. Plus a reminder to Self-Study. No one can teach you to take the SAT, you have to put in the effort. The tutors have tips and tricks and ensure practice. Remember you are taking the test and not your tutor so the effort has to come from you in the test and before the test.

But don’t put too much pressure, the SAT / ACT isn’t the be all and end all. An excellent SAT score won’t save you if your school grades aren’t there. Remember, the SAT is a reflection of one day of exams and not of four years of prep like your grades. So balance your efforts.

3) Get cracking on your Essays

Start soon. You may write one CommonApp essay or you may write three. The most difficult part is starting. Remember you’re trying to stand out, so don’t make it generic, it needs to be about something important in your life. Don’t harp about your achievements, the rest of the CommonApp will cover that. Instead talk about challenges and motivations. Don’t be clichéd. If you are talking about a somewhat generic topic (like sports or community service), bring a new perspective like talking about your motivations why rather than narrating what happened. Don’t get too much feedback. Each perspective will confuse you and will be distracting. Do keep your focus narrow. This is a “Slice of Life” essay and a small experience and not story of your entire life. Follow us on Facebook because keep posting the latest essays available.

4) Take Charge of your Interviews

Unlike job interviews, these interviews are informal. They aren’t subject specific and can feel random at times. Prepare the questions but don’t rehearse them otherwise you will sound stiff. Balance. Guide your interviewer: You can guide the interview to discuss things you want to talk about. Suppose you want to discuss your dance and your interviewer chats about Bollywood. This is what you can do.

  • I’m a huge Bollywood dance fan!
  • But my favorite is Jazz which I’ve been learning for the last three years (showing your accomplishment)
  • In fact, I was really interested in the Jazz dance troupe at XYZ college (connecting to the college)

But don’t talk the entire time, let your interviewer talk to and let it evolve into a conversation. Remember to be prepared with questions at the end.

5) Don’t Overdo the Recommendations

There are school recommendation and external recommendations. Each University allows a different number of external though they all want 1 Counsellor recommendation and 2 Academic Teacher recommendations. But just because the college allows more, doesn’t mean you should send more. College Admissions says heavier the file, the faster it sinks. Only send them if they add value and aren’t repeating the same thing over and over.

Mantra of the Day: BALANCE


Don’t spend all the time on school, or all the time on applications

Don’t overdo or underdo extracurriculars

Don’t make crazy unrealistic University lists


To AP or not to AP


If Hamlet was applying to College today, he’d sure as hell be going through the dilemma. Of course, this contemplation would be in between visitations from his dearly departed ghost dad, his distracting depressed girlfriend, managing his kingdom and SAT / ACT prep classes and extracurriculars.

For the uninitiated, AP stands for Advanced Placement, an examination that takes place in May each year and is offered in a number of different subjects – 37 subjects as of 2016. It’s graded from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest. The results of these exams are widely accepted and since they are considered “college-level” are used by colleges for college credit AFTER a student has been admitted.

“That’s awesome!” You say. Sounds all great. So why the question in the first place?

To quote, an Ivy League Admissions Officer in New Delhi in Fall 2015 “College Board has done a great job of convincing people that everyone NEEDS to take the AP Exams. Just so you know, we don’t consider just the exams for admissions!”

Wait, why?

A little History: Well, the reason these programs were created in the U.S. and Canada was to allow really high-performing students an opportunity to challenge themselves with difficult courses.

So colleges got super pumped seeing the results from students who took the courses because that told them that

1) the student spent a full year challenging himself

2) this was the grade this student got because they took an AP instead of regular class, so really, it was part of the transcript

“More good stuff. Right?”

Well… here is the thing. Schools in India (besides a few international schools), don’t offer AP classes, so taking the exam doesn’t have the same value for students who don’t take the course.

“This is confusing. Let’s do pros and cons now!”



1) College Credit: You know by now that strong performances on the AP exam allow you to bypass entirely some required college courses. (This assumes you have achieved a 4 or a 5.) This means you can take a lighter load, skip classes, do something else with the extra time like take a class on cave paintings.

2) Alternative Transcript: Not a COMPLETELY alternative transcript, but supposing you come from a school that is incredibly difficult and has very harsh grading (class topper gets a 70%) the AP can help mitigate that a little.

3) Exhibit Interest: SAT Subject Tests are available in 20 subjects (12 in languages) while, on the other hand, APs are offered in 37 subjects (6 in languages other than English). So if you’re interested in Economics or Psychology, you can show your understanding and expertise through an AP


1) Time: May seems ideal, summer vacation time! You know what else is in May? SATs and SAT Subject Tests. With ACT quickly following in June. And those you actually REQUIRE for admission. AP Exams are frills at best. Repeat after me: AP Exams are Frills!

2) Time: Yeah, I used the same point because time is that vital in the college admissions process. Colleges want to see you use your time well. If you use the time studying for an exam that you could have used for an internship, an extracurricular or even a research project, Admissions Officers would find that far more valuable.

To quote another Top 10 College Admissions Officer “If you have the time to take the exam for kicks, for god sake, do something valuable like save the world instead!”

3) Value: Like I said before, one exam on one day is less valuable than a year’s worth of progress. Same reason why Admissions Officers value GPA more than the SAT is the same reason that the AP Exams alone hold almost no value compared to the AP classes and grades for a year.

4) Money: This may be more of a parental concern, but AP Exams don’t come cheap. At $92 per exam they are MUCH more expensive than $26 for each SAT Subject Test. This doesn’t include score reports and god knows what else for (repeat after me) frills.

5) Skipping the Intro Classes: You would think this was a pro, but subtly, it may be a con. You leave school thinking you’re at the top of the class and enter a college where EVERYONE is at the top of the class. The intro classes and simpler grades are a boon when you’re learning to adjust to a college curriculum and trying to maintain a good GPA.

So, AP or not AP? No, if you don’t have your basics in place – SAT, SAT Subject Tests, Extracurriculars etc. but Yes, if you’re all set with the necessities and can afford the steep cost of time and money.