15 Pre-College Summer Programs for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Three caucasian students talking to each other.

15 Pre-College Summer Programs for High School Students

In the competitive landscape of college admissions, pre-college summer programs provide opportunities for high school students seeking to develop themselves and improve their chances of acceptance into top-tier institutions. These programs, specifically tailored for high school students during the summer months, offer academic and extracurricular experiences aimed at fostering personal growth, academic enrichment, and career exploration.

These programs provide opportunities for students to engage with like-minded peers, establish connections with college faculty and mentors, and familiarize themselves with the collegiate environment. Moreover, participation in pre-college summer programs demonstrates to college admissions committees a student’s proactive approach to learning, commitment to personal development, and readiness to thrive in a challenging academic setting, thus significantly enhancing their candidacy for admission to top colleges and universities.

In this blog, we have listed 15 pre-college programs perfectly curated for high school students who want to explore different concentrations such as science, math, writing, architecture, and more.

15 Pre-College Summer Programs for High School Students

Mathematics and Science

1. SAMS: The Summer Academy For Mathematics & Science @ Carnegie Mellon

  • Location: Online and on Carnegie Mellon University campus
  • Cost: free admission
  • Program Date: June 22–August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: At least a 16-year-old junior high schooler

SAMS Scholars immerse themselves in challenging coursework facilitated by renowned instructors who are committed to fostering student excellence. The program not only enhances students’ understanding of STEM subjects through traditional classes but also through hands-on projects facilitated by esteemed educators and seasoned mentors. Beyond academics, participants have the opportunity to forge meaningful friendships with peers from across the nation.

View of students lounging in the campus.

Throughout the program, students will engage in seminars focused on quantitative and computational skills, covering mathematics, science, and STEM-related projects under the guidance of STEM faculty or graduate students. They will also participate in writing workshops designed to prepare them for college applications. Additionally, students will attend workshops, interact with alumni and current students, meet university leaders, and undertake STEM projects. Furthermore, they will be involved in small mentoring groups led by the Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion.

2. High School Honors Science, Math, and Engineering Program

  • Location: Michigan State University Campus
  • Cost: $4000
  • Program Date: June 16–August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: High School Junior (Grade 11)

The HSHSP provides students with a unique opportunity to engage with and comprehend research within a university environment. It goes beyond merely instructing research methods; it fosters an atmosphere conducive to the growth of knowledge and expertise. While the primary goal is not solely focused on producing award-winning projects (although that is often an outcome), it aims to provide avenues for deeper exploration of intellectual pursuits in science and mathematics, while also fostering the development of enduring friendships.

Alumni of the HSHSP have garnered awards for their research in competitions and have had their work published. They have moved on to pursue higher education at prestigious institutions such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cal Tech, Brown, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, Duke, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, UNC, and many others. A majority of them pursued studies in science or related fields, with many continuing on to graduate school or further academic pursuits.

3. Penn Summer Science Initiative

  • Location: University of Pennsylvania campus
  • Cost: Free admissions
  • Program Date: July 8–August 1, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 10–11 who have completed Chemistry and Physics

Since its establishment in 1993, the LRSM has been organizing a tuition-free PSSI summer program spanning four weeks, tailored for local high school students with an interest in materials science and engineering. Typically, the program accommodates approximately 24-28 students, predominantly juniors, although occasionally highly qualified sophomores are also accepted.

The curriculum encompasses lectures on materials, hands-on experiments, a computer lab component, and field trips to industrial sites and facilities at the University of Pennsylvania. The program is open to students from schools in and around Philadelphia that are conveniently accessible from the LRSM. Emphasis is placed on encouraging applications from underrepresented groups in the field of science, particularly those from the School District of Philadelphia, as well as women, minorities, and students with disabilities.

Drama and Theater

4. Boston University Summer Theatre Institute

  • Location: College of Fine Arts, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Cost: $6,370 ($ 75 application fee)
  • Program Dates: June 30-July 27
  • Application Deadline: March 29, 2024

Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors in high school (typically 15-18 year olds).

The Boston University Summer Theatre Institute (BUSTI) presents a comprehensive four-week program tailored for high school students passionate about theater. Mirroring the introductory year at the Boston University School of Theatre, it concentrates on delivering professional training across various theatrical disciplines. Participants engage in sessions covering acting, design, improvisation, and other pertinent theater subjects, culminating in the development of an original production.

Group of students walking in the campus.

This immersive experience extends beyond the classroom, fostering connections with Boston’s vibrant artistic community. Its objective is to enhance students’ artistic prowess and narrative skills within the realm of theater. Upon completion, students earn 4.0 college credits applicable at Boston University or transferable to other institutions. Emphasizing hands-on learning, intellectual enrichment, collaborative endeavors, and the art of creative storytelling, this program stands as a valuable opportunity for aspiring theater practitioners.

5. Yale Summer Drama Program (Conservatory for Actors)

  • Location: School of Drama, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Cost: $9,900
  • Program Dates: July 1- August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Junior or senior year of high school.

The Yale Summer Drama Program at Yale University provides an immersive, condensed theater education tailored for aspiring actors. Renowned for its ability to deliver a comprehensive theatrical experience within a short summer timeframe, it caters to both novices and those with prior theater exposure. At its core is the Yale Summer Conservatory for Actors, a five-week intensive course focusing on the foundational principles of acting rooted in the techniques pioneered by Russian theater luminary Konstantin Stanislavski. Successful completion of the program yields 2.0 college credits.

The conservatory delves into various facets of acting, encompassing text analysis, on-camera performance, voice and speech training, movement, and clowning. With small class sizes, students benefit from personalized attention fostering individual artistic development. Notably, the program distinguishes itself by prioritizing experimentation and skill refinement in a supportive environment devoid of the pressures of public performance.

Students engage in collaborative project-based learning, rehearsals, and self-directed study, with weekends dedicated to further rehearsals and leisure time. This approach cultivates a nurturing atmosphere conducive to honing acting abilities essential for future endeavors on stage.

Creative Writing

6. Carleton College Summer Writing Program

  • Location: Northfield, MN
  • Cost: Approximately $4,500 for 2024.
  • Programs Dates: July 6-26, 2024
  • Application Deadlines: early February
  • Eligibility: High school sophomores and juniors

The program, typically held over three weeks in July, provides an immersive learning experience that extends beyond traditional classroom instruction. It adopts a writing process approach, guiding students through the composition of academic papers akin to those expected at the college level. This is facilitated through dynamic literature discussions led by Carleton professors and interactive writing workshops.

Furthermore, the program’s location on Carleton College’s campus affords students the opportunity to immerse themselves in college life, residing in dormitories and engaging in a variety of cultural activities. This aspect enriches the academic journey and offers participants a firsthand glimpse into the college experience, equipping them with valuable insights for their future educational pursuits. Testimonials from past participants attest to the program’s efficacy, with many noting a marked improvement in their readiness for college-level studies.

7. Juniper Institute for Young Writers at UMass Amherst

  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Cost: $2,600 for one-week residential; $4,950 for two-week residential; $1,280 for online.
  • Programs Dates:
    • One-week residential (July 29–August 2, 2024)
    • Two-week residential (July 29–August 9, 2024)
    • Online (August 5–9, 2024)
  • Application Deadline: March 7, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising sophomores to seniors in high school

The Juniper Institute for Young Writers at UMass Amherst stands as an exceptional writing and literature program designed for high school students, offering a distinctive blend of creative exploration and rigorous writing development.

Situated in the picturesque surroundings of Amherst, Massachusetts, this program caters specifically to rising sophomores through seniors in high school, providing an optimal setting for budding writers eager to refine their skills.

Happy students walking together.

Central to the Juniper Institute is its selective admission process, which places emphasis on the caliber of writing samples and writer’s statements submitted by prospective students. This meticulous approach ensures the assembly of a cohort comprising committed and talented young writers.

8. Georgetown Creative Writing Institute

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: Residential – $3,389 | Commuter – $2,625
  • Program Dates: July 14 to July 20, 2024
  • Eligibility: Current or rising high school freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior with a 2.0 GPA

The Georgetown Creative Writing Institute offers a prestigious writing and literature program tailored for high school students, situated within the historic and politically charged ambiance of Washington, D.C.

Scheduled to run from July 14 to July 20, 2024, this pre-college summer program for high school students provides an immersive week-long experience aimed at transforming students’ creative concepts into compelling written pieces. The institute boasts a unique combination of engaging lectures covering various facets of writing, interactive workshop sessions facilitated by graduate student instructors, and invaluable opportunities for peer critique.

A standout feature of this program is its comprehensive exploration of diverse literary genres, encompassing poetry, fiction, and personal prose. Students actively participate in workshops and attend readings by accomplished authors, gaining valuable insights into the art of writing from seasoned professionals. With a curriculum carefully crafted to stimulate observation and imagination, the program imparts concrete elements of writing craft through hands-on practice.

Leadership and Politics

9. The NextGen Leadership Institute at Barnard College

  • Location: Barnard College, New York, New York.
  • Cost: $9,687 ( Residential); $7,772 (Commuter)
  • Program Dates: Session 1: June 30- July 19, 2024; Session 2: July 22- August 10, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors in high school or Gap Year Students.

Formerly known as the Young Women’s Leadership Institute, the NextGen Leadership Institute places a strong focus on gender and leadership dynamics. It cultivates curiosity and passion among participants, providing them with opportunities to hone their leadership abilities through hands-on projects and interactions with professional women. The institute offers four specialized tracks tailored to cater to various interests.

The STEMinist track specifically addresses gender disparities in STEM fields, fostering engagement with STEM subjects. The Writing and Literature track encourages students to find their voice, drawing inspiration from renowned authors. The Global Humanities track delves into societal and global intricacies, while the Art, Movement, and Performance track immerses students in the realms of art history, visual arts, and dance, with avenues for creative expression within New York City’s vibrant artistic community. Each track is designed to instill personal and professional growth, equipping participants with the skills needed for success in a dynamic workforce.

10. Brown Environmental Leadership Labs

  • Location: Alaska; Eastern Sierras; Rhode Island
  • Cost: Alaska: $6,958; Eastern Sierras: $6,958; Rhode Island: $5,716
  • Program Dates: Alaska: July 14- July 27; Eastern Sierras: July 25- Aug 4; Rhode Island: July 7- July 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 8, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students completing grades 10 to 12, ages 16 to 18.

The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) is dedicated to educating high school students about environmental issues and nurturing their skills as responsible leaders. BELL offers three distinct programs: one situated in Alaska, another in the Eastern Sierras, and the third in Rhode Island. Each program provides students with a comprehensive understanding of environmental challenges, immersive field trips, and the opportunity to engage in projects aimed at addressing environmental concerns.

Group of students laughing together in the campus.

In the Alaska program, students delve into Native history and environmental studies while embarking on hands-on learning expeditions across various Alaskan locations. The Eastern Sierras program emphasizes scientific exploration, taking students to natural sites across Nevada and California. The Rhode Island program, hosted at Brown University, focuses on climate change and local food systems, complemented by excursions around Rhode Island. These programs collectively empower students to recognize their potential role in environmental stewardship within their own communities.

Film and Television

11. The International Film Institute of New York

  • Location:
New York and Los Angeles.
  • Cost:
  • Program Dates: May 20, 2024 – May 24, 2024
  • Application Deadline:
Specific application deadlines may vary by program
  • Eligibility:
Programs are open to individuals passionate about filmmaking, including aspiring filmmakers, actors, and creative talents. Eligibility may vary based on the specific program

The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) offers programs tailored to various facets of filmmaking. From Filmmakers Week in New York to connectLA, One-Week Digital Content Bootcamp, Filmmakers Collective Summer 2024, and a selection of online courses, each program is meticulously structured to provide a comprehensive education in the art and craft of filmmaking. This includes script development, technical proficiency, and post-production techniques.

What sets IFI programs apart is their emphasis on practical application and industry immersion. They go beyond theoretical teachings, providing students with hands-on experiences and opportunities for creative expression. For high school students aspiring to pursue a career in film and digital media, these programs offer invaluable insights and skills that can greatly benefit their future endeavors.

12. USC Cinematic Arts Summer Program

  • Location: University of Southern California campus
  • Cost: Varies depending on the specific course and degree level.
  • Program Dates: June 24, 2024 –  August 2, 2024.
  • Application Deadline: December 1, 2023
  • Eligibility: The program welcomes interested applicants aged 16 and above from all around the world.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts Summer Program is an intensive six-week pre-college summer program for high school students with a fervent interest in filmmaking and media studies. Designed to immerse participants in the intricacies of the entertainment industry, this program welcomes students from across the globe to partake in rigorous and creatively stimulating coursework.

Participants have the opportunity to delve into various aspects of filmmaking, ranging from animation and digital arts to production, screenwriting, game design, and more. The USC School of Cinematic Arts is renowned for its holistic approach to cinematic education, particularly its offerings for high school students in film and multimedia programs.

The school prides itself on its cross-disciplinary curriculum, ensuring that students develop a well-rounded comprehension of every facet of the cinematic arts. This inclusive approach enables writers to gain firsthand experience behind the camera, scholars to immerse themselves in practical editing techniques, and production majors to explore film and media through an academic lens.


13. Introduction to Architecture Summer Program at Cornell

  • Location: College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
  • Cost: $10,500 ($ 1,750 per college credit); $75 application fee
  • Program Dates: June 24-August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 6, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students and undergraduates.

The Cornell Introduction to Architecture Program offers an online course tailored for high school and undergraduate students with an interest in architecture. This program seamlessly integrates practical studio design sessions with informative lectures to impart architectural concepts and design principles. Through engaging in creative projects, studying past architectural masterpieces, and utilizing both digital and traditional design methodologies, students acquire a comprehensive understanding of architectural fundamentals.

At the culmination of the program, participants undertake a project that can enhance their college applications, receiving a certificate of completion along with personalized feedback. Prior architectural knowledge is not required to enroll in the program, which comprises two online courses, each worth three credits: “Introduction to Architecture: Design Studio (ARCH 1110)” and “Introduction to Architecture: Lectures (ARCH 1300).” This totals to six credits, providing students with a well-rounded introduction to the field of architecture, ideally suited for high school students.

14. Roger Williams Summer Academy in Architecture

  • Location: Cummings School of Architecture, Roger Williams University, Bristol, Rhode Island.
  • Cost: $5,800
  • Program Dates: July 7-August 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: June 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising high school Juniors and Seniors.

The Summer Academy program caters to high school juniors and seniors, offering them an opportunity to immerse themselves in college life while earning three college credits. The program seamlessly blends studio work, seminars, field activities, and extracurricular engagements, with a specific focus on architecture as a potential college major and career path. Participants delve into architectural fundamentals, digital drawing, modeling techniques, and contemporary architectural practices.

Young woman looking up something in her laptop.

Guided by college teaching assistants, students benefit from mentorship that provides them with an authentic glimpse into college academic life. Moreover, the program fosters collaboration through team projects alongside students from RWU Cummings School of Architecture, tackling significant architectural endeavors. From captivating lectures to virtual tours of renowned buildings and enjoyable events, the program offers a diverse range of experiences.

In addition to academic enrichment, the program extends support for college admissions and portfolio development for professional school applications. Workshops, lectures, and demonstrations complement daily studio work, enriching students’ understanding of architecture and equipping them with the necessary skills for college readiness.

15. Architecture Discovery Program at WashU

  • Location: Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Cost: $4,091 ($35 application fee)
  • Program Dates: July 14 – July 27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 30, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors in high school.

The Architecture Discovery Program (ADP) is a two-week pre-college summer program designed for high school juniors and seniors with a passion for architecture and design. Taking place in the summer of 2024 and led by esteemed faculty from the Sam Fox School, this in-person program offers a variety of activities aimed at enhancing students’ design portfolios. Successful completion of the program earns participants 2 college credits.

At the core of the program is the Design Studio, where students engage in innovative and sustainable design projects under the guidance of faculty and guest critics. Another vital component is the Drawing Studio, which hones students’ observational and drawing skills, with a focus on dimensions, lighting, textures, spatial relationships, and perspective.

The program includes enriching field trips to museums, galleries, and historic sites, as well as visits to architecture firms and artist studios, providing students with firsthand exposure to St. Louis’s vibrant art and design scene. Additionally, students partake in enjoyable activities like outdoor movie screenings and bowling, ensuring a well-rounded and enjoyable introduction to the world of architecture and design.

How to choose the right pre-college summer programs

Choosing the right pre-college summer program for high school students is a critical decision that requires careful consideration of several factors to ensure it aligns with your academic goals, interests, and personal preferences. Here are some steps to help you navigate the selection process:

  1. Identify Your Interests and Goals: Reflect on your academic interests, career aspirations, and areas you want to explore further. Consider whether you want to focus on a specific subject area, such as STEM, humanities, or the arts, or if you prefer a program with a broader curriculum.
  2. Research Program Options: Conduct thorough research to identify Pre-College Summer Programs that offer courses and activities aligned with your interests and goals. Explore program websites, read reviews from past participants, and reach out to program coordinators or alumni for more information.
  3. Consider Program Features: Evaluate the program’s structure, curriculum, duration, location, and cost. Determine whether you prefer a residential or commuter program, the length of the program that best fits your schedule, and any financial aid or scholarship opportunities available.
  4. Review Faculty and Resources: Look into the credentials and expertise of the program’s faculty and instructors. Consider the availability of resources such as state-of-the-art facilities, labs, libraries, and opportunities for hands-on learning and research.
  5. Assess College Credit Options: If you’re interested in earning college credit, check whether the program offers credit-bearing courses and whether these credits are transferable to colleges and universities. Review the program’s academic rigor and accreditation status.
  6. Explore Extracurricular Activities: Consider the availability of extracurricular activities, workshops, field trips, and networking opportunities. Look for programs that offer a balance between academic enrichment and recreational activities to enhance your overall experience.
  7. Seek Recommendations: Seek recommendations from teachers, guidance counselors, and peers who have participated in Pre-College Summer Programs. Their insights and experiences can provide valuable guidance in making an informed decision.
  8. Evaluate Fit and Comfort: Consider factors such as program size, campus culture, diversity, and support services. Choose a program where you feel comfortable and can thrive academically and personally.

By following these steps and carefully evaluating your options, you can choose the right pre-college summer program for high school students that aligns with your interests, goals, and aspirations, providing you with a valuable and enriching experience.

In conclusion, selecting the right pre-college summer program for high school students tailored to your interests, goals, and preferences is paramount in maximizing your summer experience and enhancing your college admissions prospects. Choosing a program that aligns with your academic passions offers opportunities for personal growth, and provides a supportive learning environment, you can immerse yourself fully in enriching experiences that will not only develop your skills but also shape your future academic and professional endeavors.

view of students lounging in the bench

Remember that the skills, knowledge, and connections you acquire during your pre-college summer program can significantly enhance your college application and set you apart as a motivated and well-prepared candidate. So, take the time to research choose wisely, and embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey that will pave the way for success in college and beyond.


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