“Pay to Play”

In the perceived race for college admissions, savvy students and their families often seek any advantage to be admitted. As a high school sophomore shared recently, “If every kid looks the same, how do you distinguish yourself?”

And, as the extracurricular resume is one place where students can demonstrate their uniqueness (since the academic requirements are prescribed), then many spend thousands of dollars to register for summer activities and programs and camps—a perceived “pay to play”. Others may not be able to afford such costs or doubt the value of such “paid for” activities, yet worry they’re at a disadvantage. 

Many parents and students, however, mistakenly believe that by participating in a particular college-sponsored program, especially those at highly selective universities, will curry favor with admissions officers of the same university during the application evaluation. 

Instead, college campuses dormant during the summer months can be leased out to companies or even other university administered programs, only lending their name (thus reputation) as a residence hall, while the actual day-to-day activities are determined (and often taught) by non-university staff and faculty. 

So, students can discriminately choose activities where they’ll also learn more about themselves, which requires reflection to develop self-awareness, during the less-scheduled summertime where students can meander through their days to (re)discover their interests and talents. 

Then, when an admissions officer reviews an application, students explain comprehensively their motivation and aptitude, as evidenced in the transcripts, activity resume, letters of recommendation, and essays. 

For more information about how to both plan for and navigate the complex college admissions process in order to minimize the risk of educational malinvestment, check out Creative Marbles Consultancy

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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