15 Summer Programs That Prepare You for College Rigor

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Group of three students

15 Summer Programs That Prepare You for College Rigor

Summer programs designed for high school students are crucial in preparing them for the rigors of college life. These programs offer a mix of academic lessons and a chance to experience what college is like, helping students get accustomed to the hard work and social situations they’ll face in college.

By joining these summer programs, students can learn more about subjects they’re interested in and develop important skills like time management and teamwork. These experiences are especially valuable because they give students a head start in adjusting to college-level work and making new friends. In this blog post, we will look at the best summer programs that prepare any student for the rigors of college.

1. Harvard Pre-College Program

  • Location: Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Cost: $5,550 ($75 application fee)
  • Program Dates: Session I: June 23-July 5, 2024; Session II: July 7-19, 2024; Session III: July 21-August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 14, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors high school students.

Harvard’s Pre-College Program is a two-week summer experience for high school students to see what college life is like at Harvard. They stay on campus and take a class without worrying about grades, since there’s no credit involved. This allows them to focus on learning about a subject they’re interested in. The classes are small and taught by Ivy League teachers, giving students a chance to get a lot of personal attention.

A computer screen shows details of Harvard University main page on its web site.

Besides studying, students also get to do fun and creative activities with others in the program, helping them make friends and enjoy their time. This program is great for students who want to learn more about a certain subject or find out what they’re passionate about. It prepares them for college by giving them confidence in their academic skills and a taste of what college life and learning are like.

2. Summer@Brown

  • Location: Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.
  • Cost: $2,816- $9,870
  • Program Dates: June 23- July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 10, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students completing grades 9 to 12.

The Summer@Brown Pre-College Program helps high school students get ready for college by offering advanced courses similar to those in college. It happens every summer at Brown University, welcoming around 4,000 students who learn about different subjects for one to four weeks. This program gives them a sneak peek into what it’s like to study and live at an Ivy League school.

The focus of the program is on learning and exploring interests rather than just getting grades. This means students get to enjoy a supportive and interactive learning environment, similar to what Brown’s college students experience. By doing this, students feel more prepared and confident about starting college, having already had a taste of college classes and life on campus.

3. Double Discovery Center at Columbia University

  • Location: Columbia University, New York City, New York.
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Dates: Unspecified
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12 and from Morningside, Manhattanville, Harlem, and Washington Heights or partner NYC schools. First-generation and/or meet low-income guidelines as defined by U.S. Department of Education.

The Double Discovery Center at Columbia University has been helping first-generation students from less-privileged backgrounds in New York City since 1965. It offers programs to improve their academic skills, prepare them for college, and support their personal growth. Each year, around 1,000 students from local high schools and Columbia University join the center. The programs focus on teaching important subjects, helping with college applications and career advice, and taking care of students’ mental and physical health.

This approach makes sure students are ready for college and can handle challenges in life. Over 60 years, the center has helped more than 17,000 students. Most of these students finish high school, and over half go on to graduate from college. The center creates a supportive environment that prepares students for a successful start in higher education and beyond.

4. Stanford Summer Session

  • LocationStanford University, Stanford, California
  • Cost: Residential: $17,197; Commuter: $4,962
  • Program Dates — 
  • Application Deadline: January 16, 2024
  • Eligibility: Current sophomore, junior, or senior high school students.

The Stanford Summer Session is a special program for high-achieving high school students to study at Stanford University. It mixes tough classes with fun activities, focusing on new ideas, doing well in school, and understanding global issues. Students take real classes from Stanford, explore what they might want to do in the future, and even get college credits. They come from over 50 countries, making the learning environment diverse and exciting. The program is perfect for students who like to learn on their own, work well with others, and want to know more about different topics. They get to see what college life is like at Stanford, balancing hard study with fun and learning activities.

Side view at multi-ethnic group of students using laptop while studying in college

This summer program helps students in preparing for the rigors of college life. By being part of a diverse group and facing college-level work, students learn how to think critically and manage their time between studying and having fun. These skills are important for doing well in college and later in life.

5. Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes

  • Location: Online.
  • Cost: $3,050
  • Program Dates: Session 1: June 17– June 28, 2024; Session 2: July 8- July 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 29, 2024
  • Eligibility: Current grades 8-11.

The Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes is an online learning program for students in 8th to 11th grade. It offers a peek into Stanford’s style of learning with 60 different courses like computer science, math, and creative writing. The program focuses on learning for the sake of knowledge, not for grades or credit. Classes are small, making it easy for students to interact with their expert teachers and classmates from around the world.

This setup helps students learn in a creative and cooperative way. They get to explore advanced topics not usually taught in high school and improve their skills in thinking and communicating. At the end of the program, students receive a written evaluation and a certificate, helping them feel ready and confident for college studies.

6. Summer Preview at Boston University

  • Location: Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Cost: $1,725 ($50 application fee)
  • Program Dates: Residential: July 21- July 26, 2024; Commuter: July 22- July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Rolling admission
  • Eligibility: Students entering 8th, 9th, or 10th grade.

The Summer Preview program at Boston University gives young students in eighth to tenth grade a chance to see what college life is like for a week. They can pick from different seminars to learn about a subject they like or something new, without worrying about grades. The program mixes class time with fun activities, helping students get a feel for college studies and life. They also get to explore the university and Boston, making new friends along the way.

There’s also a workshop on how to apply to college, which helps students understand what they can do now to prepare for their future college applications. This experience helps them know more about what college is like and builds their confidence about going to college in the future.

7. Cornell SCE PreCollege Studies

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $1,750 per credit
  • Program Dates: Three-week Session 1: June 3–21, 2024; Three-week Session 2: June 24–July 12, 2024; Three-week Session 3: July 15–August 2, 2024; Six-week Session: June 24–August 6, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 5, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising high school juniors & seniors.

Cornell SCE PreCollege Studies is a program for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors to get a taste of college life at Cornell University, an Ivy League school. During the summer, students can take three- to six-week courses in subjects like science, arts, and more, all taught by Cornell’s own teachers. This gives students a chance to learn a lot quickly, in a real college setting, and even earn college credits that can help them when they apply to colleges.

Besides learning in class, students get to see what living on a college campus is like and start getting used to being more independent. The program offers a wide range of courses, from Architecture to Veterinary Medicine, and uses online tools like Canvas for learning, which means students can also take courses from home. Students finish the program not only understanding more about what they might want to study in college but also with better skills for studying, a Cornell transcript, and new friends from around the world, making them more ready and excited for college.

8. UCLA Summer College Immersion Program

  • Location: University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Cost: $1,650 ($385 per unit fee)
  • Program Dates: June 24– August 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: 10th- 11th grade with 3.6+ GPA.

The UCLA Summer College Immersion Program (SCIP) lets high school students experience college life by taking classes with UCLA students. It includes different activities like lectures, workshops, and real UCLA courses to give students a full view of what college is about. The program is designed to feel like being an actual college student, helping students learn how to balance their academic and personal life in college.

Students who finish the program get college credits, a certificate to show they completed the program, and learn important skills for applying to college and succeeding there. SCIP prepares students for college by giving them a head start in understanding college work and life, making them more confident and ready for their future in higher education.

9. UChicago Summer Immersion Program

  • Location: University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Cost: $8,600
  • Program Dates: Session I: June 17– July 5, 2024; Session II: July 10– July 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Current high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.

The University of Chicago’s summer Immersion programs let high school students really get into a subject they love, like creative writing, science, economics, or philosophy. These programs are like college courses and include lots of one-on-one time with teachers, hands-on projects, and group discussions. It’s a great way for students to learn a lot about something they’re interested in.

This program is also where students stay at the university and go to classes in person, giving them a preview of what college life is like. Living on campus helps students learn how to manage their time and live a bit more independently. By the end of the program, students are better prepared for college, having gained both deep knowledge in a specific area and practical experience living and studying like a college student.

10. UChicago Pre-College Connect

  • Location: University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Cost: $6,350
  • Program Dates: Remote course: July 15 – July 26, 2024; Residential: July 29 – August 1, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Current high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.

UChicago’s Precollege Connect program mixes online and in-person learning for high school students this summer. For the first two weeks, students take courses like biology, psychology, and art online, where they can talk and work with their teachers and classmates in real-time. Then, for the last week, everyone comes to UChicago’s campus to continue learning with activities like lab work and museum visits. This way, students get to learn from home and also experience college life in person.

This summer program helps students prepare for the rigors of college life by teaching them how to handle online classes and live on a college campus. They start by studying online, which shows them how to learn independently. Then, by spending the last week on campus, they get a taste of college life, from going to class to living in a dorm. This experience makes them more confident and prepared for the mix of online and in-person learning they might find in college.

11. NYU Precollege

  • Location: New York University, New York City.
  • Cost: $700+
  • Program Dates: July 2- August 15, 2024
  • Application Deadline: June 12, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising 11th and 12th graders.

NYU Precollege gives high school juniors and seniors a taste of college life, where they can earn credits, meet NYU teachers, and join classes with students from all over. It’s a great way for them to try out subjects they’re curious about or get better at ones they already like. This program is perfect for students to get ready for college, letting them see what it’s like to study and live at a university.

Hundreds of NYU students, some with their families descend on Bed Bath and Beyond to furnish their dorm rooms

While in the program, students can live on NYU’s New York City campus or commute, feeling just like real college students. They get to use all of NYU’s facilities, such as libraries and dining halls, and can get help from tutors. This experience helps them make friends from different places and learn about living and studying in a big city. It makes the jump to college easier, giving them confidence and a head start in their college journey.

12. Northwestern College Prep

  • Location: Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
  • Cost: $1,850- $5,407
  • Program Dates: June- August 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students 15 to 17 years of age.

The Northwestern College Prep program lets high school students take college-level classes on campus or online. These classes cover lots of topics, like ethics, engineering, and more, and last for two weeks. Teachers from Northwestern lead the classes, and students get to discuss, read, and work on projects, just like in real college courses. When they finish, they get a special certificate and a transcript from Northwestern.

Students who want to earn college credits can sign up for longer courses, either in person or online. These classes are for students about to be juniors or seniors in high school and give them a chance to earn college credits. Besides learning in class, the program has extra activities to help students get ready for college, teaching them important skills for their future studies.

13. College Readiness Program at Smith College

  • Location: Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.
  • Cost: $2,660 ($50 application fee)
  • Program Dates: July 21– July 27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students entering 9th-12th grade.

Smith Precollege Programs help students from 9th to 12th grade who want to get a head start on preparing for college. You’ll spend mornings working on your college applications and afternoons learning how to write at a college level. This program is great for students who want to catch up on schoolwork, improve their academic skills, or get help with applying to college.

The summer program helps students prepare for the rigors of college life by teaching them important writing skills and guiding them through the application process. After finishing, students will be more confident about applying to college and taking on college-level work. It’s a helpful step for any high school student looking to get a jump start on their college preparation.

14. UVA Advance

  • Location: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Cost: Virginia Residents: $6,689; Non-Virginians: $14,123
  • Program Dates: July 13- August 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors.

UVA Advance is a summer program for high school juniors and seniors at the University of Virginia. For four weeks, students get to live on campus and take college courses—one special course just for them and one elective that all summer students can take. This helps them earn six college credits before they even start college. The classes are small and taught by some of UVA’s best teachers, which means students get a lot of attention and support.

Besides studying, students can use all the campus facilities like libraries, sports centers, and dining halls, just like regular college students. This experience is great for getting ready for college life, from managing study schedules to making new friends from different places. By the end of the program, students feel more prepared and excited for college.

15. Georgetown College Prep

  • Location: Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: $10,882
  • Program Dates: July 8- August 9, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school freshman, sophomore, junior, or rising senior.

The College Prep Program is a five-week course where high school students get to join a real college class at Georgetown University, earn credits, and learn from top professors. Besides taking a college course, students also attend special seminars that help them get ready for college tests like the SAT and ACT, understand how to pick a college and apply, and build skills for success in college.

By being part of this program, students not only get a head start on college credits but also learn how to stand out in college applications. The seminars teach them important strategies and skills, making them more prepared and confident for college. This program helps students feel ready for college classes and life, giving them a strong foundation for their future education.

Final Thoughts

The significance of summer programs in preparing high school students for the academic and social challenges of college cannot be overstated. These carefully designed experiences offer more than just a glimpse into college life; they provide a comprehensive foundation that supports students in their transition to higher education.

By participating in any of the summer programs above, students not only gain valuable academic knowledge but also develop essential life skills such as time management, teamwork, and adaptability, thus preparing them for the tough rigors of college life. As we’ve explored the best summer programs available, it’s clear that taking advantage of these opportunities can make a significant difference in a student’s readiness for the rigors of college.



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