Why Attend The California State Summer School for Math & Science (COSMOS)

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A female student having thoughts while looking at the horizon is holding a pen.

California State Summer School for Math & Science (COSMOS)

California State Summer School for Math & Science (COSMOS) is a four-week program for high school students hosted by the University of California, Irvine that allows students to experience in-residence programs in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) field.

The chosen students of COSMOS get to live in the dorms during the four-week scope of the program. The program was created by the California legislature to help kids further their interest in STEM subjects as it becomes part of the California workforce. COSMOS essentially scouts out high-performing students throughout the state. Becoming part of the COSMOS program not only looks incredible on your college applications but for potential and future employers.

Students can apply at one of the four participating University of California’s COSMOS campuses: UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz. Many students apply for a chance at the program with a select few being accepted into one of the four campuses. The average student has a GPA of 3.5 or above, making it a selective process for applications. Since it is so competitive, students can only join the program one time.

Learn subjects such as computer science, ecology, marine science, and materials science through COSMOS nurturing programs. Prepare to be the next generation of engineering, math, science, and technology leaders. You are the future. How can you prepare for your university experience?

What can you do to make your career opportunities a little easier to find in such a competitive climate? Start by joining a qualified summer program like COSMOS! These summer programs are well known in college admissions offices across the country. It doesn’t hurt to stand out from the crowd.

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COSMOS History

COSMOS stands for the California State Summer School for Math & Science. COSMOS became a part of the California Legislature in 1998 as a way to further the STEM skills in talented students working toward an intensive study program. COSMOS is modeled after California State Summer School for the Arts, which was created in 1987.

The COSMOS version of the program premiered at the Irvine and Santa Cruz campuses in 2000. UC Davis was added in 2001 and UC San Diego added in 2004 because of the high demand. These are the four campuses that make up the program, but there might be more campuses in the future.

two engineerings working together

California State Summer School for Math & Science’s Mission and Goals

One of the COSMOS program’s biggest goals revolves around the community. They aim to establish a student body that feels like they are a part of something bigger. They encourage children to actively participate in academic experience with distinguished teachers, educators, experts, and scholars. Participate. Use your imagination. They want to motivate the creative minds of the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics leaders to use their minds and interests in a way that contributes to society in a positive way.

What They Do

COSMOS is a four-week residential intensive summer program specifically for high performing students with an interest in STEM. Children and teenagers can feel like they’re a part of an accepting community. It’s an all-around immersive experience for students to live away from home with other like-minded individuals to study.

Students accepted into the COSMOS program are expected to be respectful, courteous, and able to live without their normal parental advisory. Although there is adult supervision on campus, independent living is a requirement. This is also an opportunity for parents to see what it’s like to temporarily live away from your child, like a test run into the university experience when they move away into the dorms or off to school.


Students can apply to specific subjects called a “cluster.” The clusters delve into STEM topics, such as engineering disciples, computer science, pharmaceutical sciences, and others. The clusters are guided by some of the top University of California, Irvine staff in July. You’ll have to refer to the campuses and cluster guide as it breaks down by the university.

UC Davis Cluster 1 is Quantum Mechanics and Applications to Nanotechnology whereas Cluster 1 at UC San Diego is Computers in Everyday Life. On these cluster pages, you can learn about the instructors, prerequisites needed for the programs, ideas on typical field trips you’ll take, and a general introduction to the course.

Every cluster has its courses and every course has its course instructor with around 18-24 students per cluster. Students can attend cluster field trips and enrichment activities such as study groups, roundtable discussions, and admissions presentations. After all, the college admissions process is flawed.

Depending on your campus cluster, there is a range of awards students can apply for to win cash and gift cards. A $200 award isn’t so bad, is it? It looks good on your resume too. There’s the potential to accelerate your career with connections and leadership activities. If you have the opportunity to further your career, take it.

California State Summer School for Math & Science’s Campuses

Find COSMOS campuses at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz universities. All the campuses are high quality, challenging curriculum but each campus specializes in a particular STEM education curriculum. Not only does COSMOS partner with the faculty and students of the University of California and California State University systems, but they are also part of the California Community Colleges systems to make the program accessible to more people.

– UC Davis is located in Northern California close to Sacramento.

– UC Irvine is near Newport Beach in Orange County, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles. 

– UC Santa Cruz is located in Northern California an hour south of San Francisco.

UC San Diego is in Southern California in La Jolla in San California.

a group of forensic science student wearing their complete laboratory outfit and working inside the lab

Who Can Apply

Eighth graders going into the 9th grade through rising 11th graders (those who will be in 12th grade) are eligible to apply for the program. You may still apply if you are not a California resident. However, each summer, COSMOS only admits a maximum of 20 students from out-of-state. It won’t be easy to get in from out of state but it’s a possibility and worth trying if this is something you see yourself benefiting from. Take the risk!

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Application Process

Participating in COSMOS is a competitive accomplishment due to the sheer amount of applications compared to how many people are accepted into a given program. Each of the four campuses can accommodate around 160 to 200 participants. If you can make it into the program, it can be a fantastic asset for your college application process. Usually, COSMOS  students have a GPA of 3.5 or above.

All applicants must complete an online application as well as one personal statement. You’re required to have at least one teacher recommendation but a second one is highly suggested. It’s preferred if you have a recommendation from a STEM teacher since it’s a STEM program after all.

There’s an application fee that you can pay online or via check as well as a parent or guardian e-signature required. The personal essay is an integral part of the admissions process so check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation to make your essay stands out. Those who have already been admitted into COSMOS aren’t eligible to apply for a second round. 

Submit all the required fields on time to avoid being late and missing the deadline. The cluster faculty reviews all the applications to compare to ensure all prerequisites are met.

The participating faculty reads the essays, recommendation letters, application materials, and student activities and extracurriculars such as math or science fairs, robotics competitions, leadership clubs. They even comb through courses such as Honors and AP and look for high grades in math/science classes rather than an overall high GPA. 

The application process is as follows:

– Application Opens

– Application Closes

– Notification of Acceptance

– Offer Acceptance Deadline

– Tuition Deadline

– Opening Day 

– Closing Day

Life on Campus

If you want to sleep in all summer, head to the beach with a gaggle of friends, and lounge around until your first college semester, joining COSMOS is not for you. The California State Summer School for Math & Science is, in fact, a summer school. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live away from mom and dad for four weeks? Participants live in the UC Irvine residence halls that are called Middle Earth with supervision from the resident assistants (RAs) on site. 

For those who aren’t eager to leave the house, COSMOS understands the concept of homesickness and has trained staff to support students with strategies and activities.

They understand this might not be the easiest transition. Parents have the chance to come to college campus during the designated family visitation weekend. They have social activities as well as recreational opportunities for fellow students to meet, mingle, live the dorm life, eat dorm food, and experience life on campus. Students receive meal cards and room keys so they can access the food cafeteria-style as well as their housing complex.

They make some accommodations based on special dietary needs but it’s on an as-needed basis. Contact them directly if you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Parents and students alike are encouraged to contact the office staff if you’re feeling particularly sad, upset, or homesick. They’re there to make your experience a positive one.

Here’s what an average Monday schedule for a student looks like:

– 7:30 – 8:30am Breakfast

– 8:30 – 8:45am Morning Update

– 9:00 – 10:30 am Cluster Lecture Topic #1

– 10:45 – 11:45 am Cluster Lab Topic #1 

– 12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch 

– 1:15 – 4:00 pm Cluster Lecture Topic #2

– 4:00 – 6:15 pm Free Time / Dinner 

– 6:15 – 8:00 pm Study Time / Free Time / Suite Meetings / Academic Enrichment Sessions 

– 8:00 – 10:00 pm Recreational / Programming Activities 

– 10:00 – 10:30 pm Must be in residence halls

-10:30 – 11:00 pm Must be in their own rooms

– 11:00 pm Lights out

While this isn’t an exact schedule, it can give you a pretty good idea of what a day might look like. The actual schedule is provided on your first day at the COSMOS program. Can you see yourself being part of the four-week intensive experience? The students even have access to campus resources such as the Library or teaching laboratory.


All students are paired with a roommate based on a roommate questionnaire and by age group. Roommates are encouraged to work together during difficult times whether it’s their schedule, personality, or varying habits.

They make accommodations in case it’s particularly challenging to live with someone, but in most cases, COSMOS expects the students to work together professionally with courtesy and ample communication just like the business world.


At AdmissionSight, we know what the parents might be thinking. How much is this going to cost? In addition to the application fee, parents are expected to pay the full tuition fee for the student’s summer program. Summer 2020 Tuition costs $4,128, which is a $200 nonrefundable deposit and $3,928 remaining tuition.

The great part about this number is that it includes room and board. You won’t have to frantically search for an apartment and roommates for your child to stay with. Parents/students can apply for financial aid during the application process and must submit any required documents. Non-California resident tuition costs $6,500 without eligibility for financial aid.

a student smiling looking at her laptop

California Careers

Finding a job is hard enough, getting a job you truly enjoy is on another level altogether. COSMOS programs are meant to motivate the youth of today to become career leaders of tomorrow. Part of the COSMOS goal is to work with the state of California to stay competitive in the U.S. and world economies.

They work with high school students to explore their interests in engineering, mathematics, science, and technology. The program doesn’t replace high school classes or specific college classes. There are no grades or tests or academic credit. 

The COSMOS residence program is almost like a university dorm life test run. You live a fully immersed life with other students your age. Get hands-on experience with some of the best scholars and experts at California universities. Kids have the chance to jumpstart their STEM career with the California State Summer School for Math & Science educational curriculum.

It might be hard to be away from your family for a few weeks but this is a wonderful growing opportunity to spark your inspiration. At the end of your experience, you might be creating robots or apps with students and other thought leaders.

Apply to COSMOS if you have a passion for math and science. It’s the ideal way to set yourself apart from other people in your industry. Take a look at our blog for information about some college admissions hot topics such as the best colleges rankings and how to create a winning personal state statement.


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