"You should understand what the mission of the particular summer program you're looking at is. Some are moneymakers. Some are feeder programs," says Robichaux, who previously worked in programs for teens at Harvard University and Brown.
Parents should be cautious about enrolling students in programs that may not have their children's best interests in mind, he says.
"In a moneymaking operation ... they may forgo things like tutoring and advising and mentoring," Robichaux says.
Too many movie nights or field day activities, Robichaux says, are red flags.
For programs that are academically strong, parents can make sure students stay on task by checking in with them once a week, Lubic says. But please, don't call.
"If you want to reach out to your teen, text, because it's more respectful for kids who are at this age," she says.
Eric Theis, now a 19-year-old at Stanford, attended orientation at Stanford's High School Summer College with his mother in 2010. For the remainder of the program, he says, his parents were less involved.
"Once I was actually taking the class, it was pretty hands off after that," he says. Theis drove to Stanford several times a week to take an introductory class on computer programming while working at a tech startup.
"It was very doable," he says of the curriculum. "I just had to work at it."
He spent the following summer living at the University of California—Davis doing research in the school's Young Scholars Program, which he says was good preparation for living away from home.
"I definitely recommend taking classes on a college campus," he says. "It's a good way to show that okay, I can take an AP class, but I can also do well at a real university."
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