Pre-college programs are educational experiences that provide high school students with an opportunity to explore specific academic and career interests, gain essential skills, experience college life/college fit, and maybe even earn some college credit!
How do you pick a pre-college summer program?
Usually, they are clearly provided by colleges as a pre-college program, summer session, and summer enrichment opportunity. Usually, colleges have a set of programs for high school kids which are more selective and those have to be identified separately. You can do this by specifically searching for the name of the college/university and adding “programs for high school students”. You can also keep reading our blog posts on various summer programs at Harvard, MIT, Yale, and Brown. and we’ll do the searching and sorting for you!
Pre-college opportunities can take place throughout the year or during the summer - we’re focusing on the summer in this piece but we’ll come up with a year-round list soon! They also range from highly selective to fairly welcoming.
Since we’ve covered some of the most competitive programs separately, we’ve looked at a broader set of programs in this article.
Pro tip: Pre-college programs do not have ‘high prestige’ value on their own. It’s the highly selective or selective programs that will leave an impression on admission officers. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider them at all! They have their place in your profile - for a head start on credit requirements or as an upskilling exercise and there’s nothing stopping you from taking a course that compliments your intended major and using that knowledge to come up with a phenomenal research project of your own (which will help you significantly in your college application process).
The Bovard Scholars program is a pre-college program offered to high-achieving students from across the country to help them develop critical thinking skills, research aptitude, refinement of career goals, and assist them with college application prep.
This is a fully residential program spanned across 3 weeks, and is known for its excellent student-to-staff ratio (3:1). You will be assigned a coach to guide you through application processes at different universities, competitive exam prep, as well as career guidance even after the program ends. The program also includes mixer events with industry leaders, group activities, scholarship databases, and goal-setting exercises.
Cost: Completely free of cost
Application Deadline: January 13, 2023
Program Dates: July 10 – 29, 2023
Location: In-person, University of Southern California
Eligibility: All high-achieving juniors in high-school
2. MITES Summer
A pre-college program offered by one of the topmost institutes in the world, the MIT pre-college program lets high schoolers take up 5 rigorous, college-level courses across 6 weeks, and develop their academic, research, critical thinking, and personal skills.
The program exposes students to sessions, discussions, and 1:1 guidance program with top mentors in STEM. You will learn the importance of STEM as a solution to real-world challenges, and work with your STEM knowledge to build a better world.
At the end of the program, you receive a comprehensive report highlighting your strengths, areas of improvement, skills, and opportunities, a guide that can help you draft a stellar college application and be a better college student.
Note: Over 30% of MITES alumni have been admitted to MIT!
Cost: Free of cost
Application Deadline: February 1, 2023
Program Dates: Late June through early August
Location: MIT Campus, Cambridge, MA
Eligibility: All high school students in their junior/senior year. MITES strongly encourages first-generation students, students from ethnically and racially underrepresented groups, and high-achieving students from low economic backgrounds to apply.
3. Summer Science Program (SSP)
If you're looking for an intensive program with a strong focus on STEM, the Summer Science Program is a perfect addition to your summer before college. The SSP lets you engage with college-level courses and lab work in multiple STEM subjects, and is a 39-day, fully residential program.
The SSP is a highly coveted, highly selective pre-college program, with just 36 students being selected each year. The subjects offered at SSP this year are Astrophysics, Genomics, and Biochemistry. Alongside your courses, you can also engage in research projects under the guidance of a mentor, as well as multiple extracurricular activities such as field trips, guest lectures, and social events.
Cost: $8,400, generous financial aid offered
Application Dates: February 3, 2023, for international applicants and March 3, 2023, for US citizens.
Program Dates: Mid-June to end of July.
Location: Based on your course, you will attend the program from New Mexico State University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Purdue University, and Indiana University.
Eligibility: High schoolers aged 15-18
A pre-college cum scholarship program, the Rural Scholars Academy aims to support students from rural backgrounds in their journey at Washington University.
The program runs for a week, and exposes students to the fundamentals of design thinking, critical thinking, and problem solving, all skills essential for a successful college career. You are also expected to attend discussion sessions, lectures, and hands-on activities, and develop your interpersonal, leadership, and academic skills in the process.
Cost: Free of cost
Application Dates: March 1, 2023
Program Dates: July 16 - 22, 2023
Location: Washington University in St. Louis, MO
Eligibility: High-school students aged 15 or more, who attend a high-school within the WashU Pledge territory are eligible to apply
Harvard does not provide preferential treatment to students who go to Harvard Summer Camp in the admission process. The two organizations are separate, and the admission office and the summer camp don’t overlap.
A pre-college program aimed at giving students a glimpse of college life at Harvard, Harvard’s pre-college program is an extremely competitive, extremely prestigious one. You can choose from over 90+ courses, and alongside rigorous academic exposure, you will participate in multiple extra-curricular activities in and out of the classroom. The program requires you to put in the same amount of effort into your courses as any college student and prepares you for an academic career at top institutes. You can choose from courses offered in these categories, to name a few - Business, Leadership, Speech, Writing, Literature, Public Health, Law, Politics, Philosophy, Psychology, Medicine, STEM, Ethics, and History.
We’ve done a deep dive into summer opportunities available at Harvard.
Cost: $5,300 + $75 (Application Fee)
Application Deadline: February 22, 2023
Session 1: June 26-July 8, 2023
Session 2: July 10-July 22, 2023
Session 3: July 24-August 5, 2023
Location: In-person, Harvard University
Eligibility: Open to all high school juniors and seniors
The most popular option for high school students considering studying at Yale over the summer is their pre-college program “Yale Young Global Scholars” (aka YYGS).
The program focuses on providing an enriching experience to high school students before they attend college for the first time. The best part about YYGS is that it exposes students to a college-like environment, with academic courses, social activities, and collaborative learning experiences with other participants. An acceptance from YYGS reflects very highly upon your student profile, as the program is competitive, with an acceptance rate of 34%, with applicants from around the world.
We’ve done a deep dive into the best opportunities available at Yale.
Pro tip: YYGS also hosts very useful webinars on college admissions, tuition, academics, and more! You can either attend these sessions live or watch recordings. Check them out here.
Application Deadline: January 10, 2023
Session 1: June 18 - June 30, 2023
Session 2: July 2 - July 14, 2023
Session 3: July 16 - July 28, 2023
Location: In-person, Yale University
Eligibility: Open to all high school juniors and sophomores
Brown University offers multiple summer programs, but Summer@Brown is one of their more welcoming offerings for high-school students. As a Summer@Brown participant, you can choose from their catalog of 300+ non-credit courses, engage in community activities, college-readiness workshops and more! Brown University offers Summer@Brown Online, commuter options, off-campus programs, one-week courses, and seven-week courses.
We’ve done a deep dive into the summer opportunities available at Brown.
Cost: Residential Students (includes room and board): $6,124; Commuter Students: $4,330
Application Deadline: May 12, 2023
Residential 1-week program -
June 25 to June 30, 2023
July 9 to July 14, 2023
July 16 to July 21, 2023
July 23 to July 28, 2023
You can find the complete 2023 schedule here.
Location: Virtual/Brown University Campus
Eligibility: Open to all high-school students
Pro tip: If you are seeking to earn college credit at Brown, check out Brown’s highly competitive Pre-Baccalaureate program. This program is open to rising high school seniors or recent high school graduates who are ready to tackle the rigors of credit-bearing undergraduate studies.
Summer Challenge is a 2 week non-credit program for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors who wish to explore their academic interests and immerse themselves in college life. Students can choose any two seminars from our list of 20. Each is designed to expand students’ academic horizons through lectures, discussions, individual and group work, project-based assignments—even field trips. Small class sizes give the opportunity for students to receive individual attention from our experienced team of college instructors. Students will be part of a close-knit social community of high schoolers experiencing college life. Every day, there are activities that give students a chance to make new friends, learn more about themselves, and get to know the great city of Boston.
Location: Boston University Campus: Boston, MA
Application Deadline: Open until seminars are filled.
Program Dates: June 18-30; July 9-21; July 23-August 4
Cost: $4,550 (residential); (online)
Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors
Carnegie Mellon offers a 5-week pre-college program for high school students passionate about STEM and research in related fields. As a SAMS student, you will be exposed to and taught essential skills in the field of STEM research before the program starts, after which you will attend seminars, discussion sessions, lab sessions, and meetings before attending the program's conclusion at the symposium in August.
The program is fully funded and highly selective, with an acceptance of 110 students out of 16,000+ applicants.
Application Deadline: March 15, 2023
Program Dates: July 1 to August 5, 2023
Location: In-person, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
Eligibility: You must be a US citizen or permanent resident of the USA, and a high school student above the age of 16 to apply.
A pre-college program for students interested in the field of medicine and medical research, Georgetown University's summer course is spread across 1-week intensives, 2-week, and 4-week sessions, based on your pace of learning and availability.
In this pre-college program, you will be introduced to clinical research, ethics in research, delve into medical research in cancer, as well as writing a scientific article based on your research project. With guided projects, mentorship by top researchers, and career guidance this program is one you should apply to in 2023.
Note: The course also lets you work on a capstone research project of your choice, an excellent way to demonstrate your motivation, dedication, and relevant skills in your college application.
Cost: $1495, scholarships available
4-week program - January 1, 2023
2-week program - January 15, 2023
4-week program - January 29, 2023
4-week program - February 5 - March 5, 2023
2-week program - January 22 - February 5, 2023
4-week program - January 8 - February 5, 2023
Eligibility: Open to all high-school students
Apart from these great summer programs, you can check out the Anson L. Clark Scholars Program at Texas University, Telluride Association's Summer Seminar, Columbia’s Pre-College Summer Immersion Program, Business Opportunities Summer Session (BOSS) at Penn State, University of Michigan Summer Academic Opportunities, UChicago’s Summer Program, RSI, and Johns Hopkins ASPIRE Program
If you are looking to build a research project this summer check out the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. You can find the application form here. In the program, you work 1-1 with a PhD researcher to build your own research project!
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.