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10 Chemistry Pre-College Programs for High School Students

If you are hoping to pursue a career in chemistry, a fairly competitive STEM major, doing a pre-college program over the summer is a great way to prepare yourself for college-level academics, while also getting a head-start. So, we’ve put together a list of some of the best chemistry pre-college programs a high school student can take over the summer. 

Attending a pre-college summer program also shows your initiative and determination on college applications. By taking time out during your summer break to learn beyond the school curriculum, you emphasize your determination and motivation to go the extra mile to pursue your passions. 

Through this program, you will get the opportunity to live on the Harvard campus for two weeks while attending classes, all without the pressure of traditional grades. Harvard’s Pre-College Summer School Program seeks highly motivated students who wish to take a college-level course to build their knowledge. And with over 100 class options, you’ll find the perfect Chemistry course for you. And when you are not in class, Harvard has dozens of co-curricular activities to participate in each week – further adding to the appeal of living on campus and getting a taste of college life. 

With an average class size of 15 students, you and your classmates will have the opportunity to learn from Ivy league scholars in an intimate and challenging environment. This program is offered in three separate sessions over the summer. 

Dates: Session 1: June 23rd - July 5th 2024. Session 2: July 7th - 19th, 2024. Session 3: July 21st - August 2nd, 2024. 

Cost: $5,550 + $75 application fee. 

Application Deadlines: The early application and priority financial aid deadline is January 10th, 2024 while the regular application and financial aid deadline is February 14th, 2024. 

Eligibility: This program is open to rising juniors and seniors.

UCLA’s Summer Session provides you the opportunity to take college level courses for college level credit, meaning you could knock off a future chemistry requirement by just studying for one summer on UCLA’s beautiful southern California campus. High school students can study at this prestigious university as early as their sophomore year. 

Two course options to consider could be CHEM 14A: General Chemistry for Life Scientists and CHEM 20A: Chemical Structure. Depending on your foundational knowledge, either of these courses would be a great option for you to get ahead of your high school peers and experience college-level chemistry studies. This program is unique in how it offers 8 different sessions, ranging from July to September, that last from anywhere between 3 and 10 weeks.

Dates: See the 2024 Session Schedule here

Cost: Fees differ, but UCLA has a Fee Calculator to determine your specific cost! See here

Application Deadlines: Registration opens February 15, 2024 with the payment deadline being June 21, 2024. 

Eligibility: High school sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible.

Columbia University, one of the eight prestigious Ivy Leagues, hosts both in-person and virtual summer course options for high school students. With two sessions (Summer A & Summer B), you can choose when and where you wish to take your course. Two great options would be “Intensive Seminars in Modern Chemistry”, a class offered in-person during Summer A, and “Introduction to the Physical Sciences” an online course offered during Summer B. 

Both of these courses cover different levels of chemistry and provide the opportunity for you to learn either online or in-person. As a student at Columbia’s pre-college program you will work alongside high-achieving peers and learn from leaders in the chemistry field while also gaining valuable college credit. 

Dates: Columbia splits its Pre-College Program into Sessions A & B, as well as online & in person, see details here

Cost: $12,449

Application Deadlines: Application deadlines for Summer 2024 vary depending on which session you join, see more here

Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12 are eligible!

What sets the chemistry course in this program apart from others on this list is its flexibility. Once enrolled, you have 180 days to complete the course, but you can enroll at any time and from anywhere. UC Berkeley's Introduction to Chemistry covers the foundation of the basic principles, from interactions between atoms, molecules, and elements to chemical bonding and reactions at the atomic level. 

Because of its online enrollment, you also will have one less item on your plate as there are no required lab exercises. This course, and others offered by the Berkeley extension school, are open to the general public, meaning you could begin your chemistry journey at any point in your high school career. 

Dates: Continuous enrollment. 

Cost: $1,250.

Application Deadline: Continuous enrollment. 

Eligibility: Open enrollment.

Another ivy league option, Cornell University’s Chem 2070: General Chemistry is a unique option for students interested in both living on campus while learning online. Cornell’s approach combines online teaching with an in-person experience. Much like others on this list, this course covers the fundamental chemical principles, with a focus on essential quantitative aspects. Key topics include: chemical transformations and equations, periodic trends of elements, electronic structure of atoms, chemical bonding, and the collective behavior of molecules. While Cornell’s current website hasn’t listed this course for summer 2024 yet, this would be a great future option for anyone interested in Cornell’s unique approach to summer school. 

Dates: There are four session options, see here

Cost: $1,750 per credit. 

Application Deadlines: May 5th, 2024.

Eligibility: Open to all high school students who have taken at least one chemistry course.

Stanford University, one of the most prestigious universities in the country, hosts this annual summer program. The course, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, leans much more heavily on chemical engineering rather than just fundamental chemistry. This curriculum would be a great option for anyone who wishes to push themselves, and are interested in chemistry and engineering.

In this course you will study engineering principles shown during chemical processes, both natural and human-designed as well as how to diagram engineering processes, identify and convert process variables, and set up material and energy balances to find steady-state solutions. You’ll then use these skills to address real-world challenges through engaging in-class assignments and participating in a collaborative, student-led group project.

Dates: Session One: June 17th - June 28th, 2024. Session Two: July 8th - July 19th, 2024.

Cost: $3,050.

Application Deadlines: March 29th, 2024. 

Eligibility: Students in grades 9-11 are eligible.

Yale University’s pre-college program features many chemistry courses to choose from. If you would prefer to just learn the basics, they have General Chemistry I and II as well as General Chemistry I & II with a laboratory feature. However, if you’d be interested in learning about how chemistry fits into our world as a whole, as well as how our world is changing, Yale offers a course titled Chemistry in Context. This course studies chemistry in the context of major contemporary issues, such as climate change, environmental degradation, renewable energy, and pharmaceutical developments. There is also an Organic Chemistry course. And with a minimum age requirement of sixteen, Yale’s summer session provides the chance to learn more on campus of one of the most competitive universities in America as early as a sophomore. 

Dates: Session A: May 27th - June 28th, 2024. Session B: July 1st - August 2nd, 2024.

Cost: Tuition varies depending on which course you choose, see more here

Application Deadlines: May 10th, 2024. 

Eligibility: High school students who are at least 16 years old are eligible.

Brown University’s Pre-college Program hosts a unique chemistry course titled: Acid/Base Chemistry: From Food to Everyday Phenomena. This will give you a crash course on chemistry before diving into both the history and theories of acids and bases. By the end of the two week course, you will have studied the fundamentals of pH, dissociation constants, and how to interpret visuals- such as images or figures associated with acids and bases. The course materials should also introduce you to the proper utilization and operation of laboratory equipment, including pH meters, UV-vis spectrophotometers, and volumetric pipets.

This course is offered in two different sessions over the course of the summer, but both are online only. This would be a great option if you want to take a summer course without having to commit the rest of your time to the extracurriculars that accompany your time at summer school. 

Dates: Session I: July 10th - July 21st, 2024. Session II: July 17th - July 28th, 2024. 

Cost: $3,094.

Application Deadlines: May 10th, 2024. 

Eligibility: All high school students are eligible.

Similar to other options on this list, Tufts University’s General Chemistry I & II are lecture-based courses featuring a required lab. General Chemistry I covers all foundational topics, ranging from atomic and molecular structure, chemical nomenclature, intermolecular forces, and states of matter, to the relation of structure and bonding to physical and chemical properties of matter, patterns of chemical reactions, stoichiometry, thermochemistry, and properties of solutions. 

While General Chemistry II places more of a focus on chemical kinetics and thermodynamics, and explores physical and chemical equilibria, including acid-base reactions, precipitation phenomena, and complex formation. It also introduces organic chemistry, covering families of organic compounds, basic stereochemistry, and nomenclature. Either of these courses would be a great idea for a high achieving student in any grade looking to push themselves. Both are held in person on Tufts University’s campus in Massachusetts. 

Dates: General Chemistry I: May 22nd - June 27th, 2024. General Chemistry II: Jul 2nd, 2024 - August 8th, 2024.

Cost: $1,300 per course. 

Application Deadlines: Priority Deadline: February 15th, 2024. Final Deadline: May 1st, 2024.

Eligibility: All high school students are eligible.

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in chemistry, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Mandy Brenner is a current junior at Harvard University. She is concentrating in History and Literature and loves to read and write in her free time.

Image Source: Harvard University logo


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