The Pre-College Racket
Photo: Chris Matthews
Anne Kim, Washington Monthly
The popularity of summer pre-college programs suggests that many teenagers and parents see them as a good way to get a leg up on college admissions. And many universities, including Columbia and Johns Hopkins, explicitly encourage that belief.
But some admissions experts believe that, when it comes to getting into college, the benefits of most pre-college programs are negligible. Instead, the big winners are the schools themselves, which use pre-college programs to generate millions of dollars in revenue while relying on marketing practices that oversell the programs’ benefits, including elaborate admissions processes that imply a misleading degree of selectivity.