PROMYS Math Camp

July 24, 2020
By AdmissionSight

PROMYS Math Camp

There are ways to make sure you are doing everything you can to stand out from the rest of the college applicants. Participating in a summer program is the best way to show you mean business when it comes to dedicating your time to preparing for college.

For six weeks next summer, Boston University will hold its annual pre-college Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists (PROMYS) Math Camp. The program offers 80 academically advanced high school students an opportunity to engage in professional research under the mentorship of peers, professional mathematicians, and visiting scientists.

students smiling while looking at the camera

This program is typically held each year from July 5 – August 15th, but unfortunately is not being held this year due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Imagine yourself in the summer days of 2021, living in a dorm in Boston with counselors who attend MIT, Harvard, and Princeton. You’ll attend daily lectures, but spend a bulk of time, almost all of which is unstructured, working on your own or collaboratively on carefully crafted and very challenging Number Theory problem sets.

You’ll engage in open-ended exploratory labs with some of the 80 other selected students, and write up and share your work with the PROMYS community.  Students present their results to the PROMYS community at the end of the summer and write up their results in research papers.

Students are advised by resident counselors: junior counselors who have just graduated high school and undergraduate counselors who are embarking on their own mathematical careers at some of the finest universities (over half attend Harvard, MIT, or Princeton).

In addition, the returning students, who share dormitory rooms with the first-year students, are a constant source of helpful hints and suggestions. Senior mathematicians are a constant resource providing mathematical support and encouragement to the students.

PROMYS offers recreational activities in students’ free time, including volleyball, basketball, and jogging. There are also weekend field trips to sites such as the MIT Museum, Boston Museum of Science, and film festivals. Because of the slightly more balanced nature of the program, PROMYS is thought to be somewhat less intense and demanding than competing math programs like the Ross Program, held at Ohio State University for six weeks each year.

Even beyond 2021, PROMYS Math Camp has advanced and returning students who take advanced seminars and engage in research projects, mentored by professional mathematicians.

PROMYS Subjects

PROMYS advisors recommend brushing up on the following topics for the program: Number Theory, Algebra, Combinatorics, Topology, Geometry, Calculus and Analysis, Probability, Set Theory and Logic, Computers, and Biography. You can also get assistance on advancing in math through the Art of Problem Solving Online, Khan Academy, or joining the National Math Club.

a student pointing at the math problem on the board

In 2017, returning students participated in seminars on The Analytic Class Number Formula, Algebra, and Geometry and Symmetry.PROMYS also offers an in-school and virtual “Math Circle” (PMC) which was launched to reach mathematically talented students particularly from low-income backgrounds, and who are underrepresented in STEM.

Here are problem sets of the weeks provided to students, which range from topics like the magic triangle, four-digit numbers, trains of no rods of 1, the Hall of 20,000 Ceiling Lights, and Plus Minus Sums to Zero. Other materials were developed as part of a high school teacher program including Euclidean Algorithm, Gaussian Integers, Sums, and Differences, Over and Over: Iteration.

Program Eligibility

To be eligible, students must, by the first day of the program, have completed at least 9th grade (or its equivalent) and be at least 14 years old. (Unfortunately, there is no flexibility on these requirements).

Students can attend during the summer between high school and college (or during a gap year). Students who already attend university are not eligible to apply to be students, though they may be eligible to apply for a counselor position.

Application Requirements Checklist

It is important to get started now on preparing your PROMYS application while there is time, because of the heavy workload required for applying.

On the application, you can expect to provide basic information about yourself, answer several essay questions which explain your interest in math, required to complete a complicated problem set, submit an official transcript, get a recommendation from one of your math teachers, and a financial aid form filled out by your parent or guardian.

Here’s a checklist to make sure you are on track:

  1. Application Form
  2. Number Theory Problem Set
  3. 1 Recommendation from mathematics teacher
  4. Official Academic Transcript
  5. Essays explaining interest in math
  6. Financial Aid Form

Notable Alumni

There are numerous additional math-related lectures, seminars, and mini-courses by participants and by invited visitors, many of whom are alumni of the program.

Where Have Alums Gone to College?

Over half the alumni have attended Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley, or Caltech as undergraduates (the other half attended one of more than 160 other institutions). Of the alumni for whom we know the undergraduate major, 60% have majored in mathematics with many others majoring in engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry and/or biology. (PROMYS has post-secondary school educational data on 97% of our 1,799 alumni and recently updated education/career data on around 90%).

How Many Alums Have Chosen to Acquire a Doctorate?

At least 631 alumni have or are working on, a doctorate. This represents 53% of all old enough alumni for whom we have recently updated educational information (or 45% of all alumni old enough for graduate school). Five hundred and twenty-eight of the doctorates are Ph.D.’s, 509 (96%) of which are STEM PhDs. Three hundred and twenty-seven alumni have or are currently working on, a Ph.D. in Mathematics. Forty-seven percent of alum Ph.D.’s in Mathematics are from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, University of Chicago, Princeton, or Stanford.

How Many of Alums are Professors?

At least 161 of the alumni are currently professors (79 are Full or Associate Professors). One hundred are professors of mathematics; others are professors of computer science, physics, finance, economics, chemistry, biology, meteorology, philosophy, medicine, business, public policy, management, English, sociology, urban education, or the law. Alumni are on the faculty at a great many institutions including six at Harvard University, three at MIT, five at Cornell University, six at University of Chicago, three at Columbia University, four at University of Pennsylvania, three at University of Michigan, and two at University of California Berkeley.

What Fields Do Alums Enter?

At least 433 alumni are currently in mathematics: this includes math graduate students, professional mathematicians in academia and/or industry, math teachers, and actuaries. Many alums have entered other STEM fields such as physics. At least 491 alumni are in computer science or engineering. There are also many alums in finance, consulting, medicine, and law. Alums in a wide range of fields speak fervently about the benefits they have received from the rigorous habits of mind they acquired at PROMYS.

There are PROMYS alumni in the armed forces, writing for television, being stay-at-home parents, architects, artists, rabbis, and missionaries. There is an alum wildlife photographer, a jazz pianist, a band manager, and a journalist with the New York Times. There are, of course, many more occupations represented than are mentioned here – and our knowledge remains incomplete.

Some PROMYS Alumni Awards and Distinctions

Alums have mentored other alums in prize-winning research projects including a 1st Place award in the Siemens Westinghouse Competition, an Intel STS 3rd Prize, and an ISEF 3rd Place in Mathematics.

10 International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) Team Members with 2 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze medals at IPhO

2 International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) Team Members with a silver medal at IChO

1 Winner of US Chemistry Olympiad

2 International Linguistics Olympiad Team Member and a silver medal at ILO

2 ISEF Award Grand Prizes in 2012 alone

12 Presidential Scholars

How do I get into PROMYS?

“The attitudes acquired through this experience will be even more valuable than the particular topics mastered.”

When thinking about your essay responses you can turn to essay consultants at AdmissionSight, who will help you get to the heart of communicating your desire to be a mathematician and a member of PROMYS academically elite community of scholars.

a professor in front of his class

Applicants that will be successful at getting into PROMYS won’t necessarily be those who are in the top-level AP or IB level math classes in high school. It will be students who demonstrate the ability and desire to innovate the field of mathematics.

Professor Glenn Stevens is the Director of PROMYS who believes that the program will change students’ understanding of mathematics itself. He states,

“Mathematics deals so heavily in ideas. In mathematics, perhaps more than in any other science, research is an activity of the mind. The primary goal of the mathematician is to understand – to discover the essential ingredients of complex systems in order to render them simple, to find order within apparent chaos, to draw analogies between different structures, and to find connections between seemingly disparate branches of mathematics and science. To make interesting new contributions in the field of mathematics requires a healthy mix of creativity, experience, and hard work. We aim to engage young people in the struggle to understand an intricate collection of significant mathematical ideas.

a female economist presenting to a group of male businessmen

PROMYS participants come with unbounded energy and are anxious to grapple with challenging ideas. At the beginning of their investigations, they may sometimes feel lost and perplexed. But through carefully designed problem sets, we hope to subtly direct PROMYS students along productive paths towards understanding— to suggest that they experiment with examples and formulate conjectures, to encourage them to ask good questions, and to help them realize that through careful though they can penetrate formidable obstacles and invent their own answers to difficult questions. The attitudes acquired through this experience will be even more valuable than the particular topics mastered.”

Admission Process & Decision

Due to COVID-19, PROMYS Math Camp will not hold in-person this year, but you can get ahead of the competition by keeping up to date on when the 2021 application becomes available.  Below are the expected deadlines:

March 15th, 2021 is the expected application deadline for 2021.  The decision is usually given in early June.

The 2021 Expected Program Fees

The base cost per student is $4,200, which includes tuition, room and board, and round-the-clock support and supervision by counselors.

However, not all participants will pay this much; substantial need-based financial aid and merit scholarships are available to make the program more affordable. For instance, students whose total family incomes are less than $60,000 per year have their tuition waived entirely and can apply for additional aid to cover room and board.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

PROMYS offers full and partial need-based financial aid and is dedicated to the principle that no one should be unable to attend for financial reasons.

The program is FREE for students whose families make under $60,000 per year (this includes the full cost of tuition as well as room and board).

Endowed Breakout Fellowship to PROMYS

Thanks to the generosity of Breakthrough Prize-winning mathematicians Richard Taylor, Terence Tao, and Jacob Lurie and to PROMYS alum donors, a full scholarship will be offered annually to a mathematically talented student who might not otherwise be able to attend.

Yongren (永仁) Fellowships to PROMYS for Students from China

With support from the American Mathematical Society (AMS) Epsilon Fund, PROMYS is delighted to offer a Ky and Yu-Fen Fan Scholarship: a substantial or full scholarship for a talented high school student.

HMMT Scholarships

PROMYS awards up to two $250 scholarships a year (to one male and one female first-year PROMYS student) among winners of HMMT who qualify for the program.

What’s next?

Committing to a summer program like PROMYS Math Camp or UCSB Research Mentorship Program, Intel Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), or Scholastic Art and Writing Awards will ensure your success at getting into the Ivy college of your choice. Consultants at Ivy College admit are here to help make the experience of getting into college easier by providing you direct resources to summer programs like the Math Olympiads, a personal essay editor, and preparing for interviews. It’s never too early to get a start on making your college application stand out.


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