Students often wonder if they need to participate in a summer academic program at a college to be competitive for admission to a highly selective college. The answer is no you do not need to participate in such a program but for some students it may have some benefit. This is one of the many issues where there is no right or wrong answer. If a student has a particular academic focus and wishes to enhance their understanding of that focus area by taking summer courses that would be a legitimate way to spend the summer. However, taking a summer course just because a student thinks it might look good to the college admissions officer is generally a bad idea. Colleges in general, and selective colleges in particular, are looking for strong students that also have a strong interest or passion in a particular area. If the summer course helps develop that interest then the student should consider the program. But colleges are also impressed by students that spend their summer working at a job particularly if the student can find a job that has some relevance to their particular interest. Volunteer programs in the area of interest will also look good to an admissions officer.
There is one area, however, where such a program held on the campus of a college in which a student is interested in can be of benefit. By spending more time on the campus the student may get to know the college better and make a more informed decision on whether the college is a good choice for that student, Moreover, having this knowledge of the college will often allow the student to write a stronger essay on why that college would be a good choice for the student and what the student would have to offer the college.
The bottom line is that if you have a particular academic interest that can be enhanced by participation in a college summer program then by all means consider participating in such a program. But simply attending a program, even one held at a highly selective college that you are considering, will most likely have no effect on your chances of admission.