Access to quality secondary schooling can be life changing for students in developing contexts. In Kenya, entrance to such schools was historically determined by performance on a high-stakes exam. Understandably then, preparation for this exam is a priority for families and educators. To increase the share of students entering these schools, some educational providers offer targeted instruction for students they believe have a chance of securing a spot. We use a randomized control trial to evaluate the impact of these “symposia” programs—week-long, sleep-away camps where eighth-grade students receive a burst of academic instruction from teachers who are selected based on merit. While similar models have been tested in the United States, less is known about this type of intervention in developing settings. We find these programs were not particularly effective for the average nominated student relative to a typical week of school. However, we find large, positive effects among students attending schools from which few students are nominated for symposia. We provide suggestive evidence that this was because students from low-representation schools had fewer pre-camp practice test resources outside of school. The results have implications for program design and the growing literature on the effectiveness of appropriately targeted individualized instruction.

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