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8 College Prep Programs for High School Students

Preparing for college can be a daunting task. However, taking part in a college prep program can make this transition smoother. College prep programs are designed to help high school students develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in college and beyond. They provide a sneak peek into college life, foster academic and personal growth, and offer invaluable networking opportunities. 

Check out this list of 8 college prep programs that offer a unique blend of academic rigor, mentorship, and real-world experiences that can significantly enhance your college application!

Harvard’s Summer College Programs for high school students are rigorous and aim to provide a preview of college life while offering the chance to tackle college-level coursework. You will get the opportunity to connect with peers from across the globe and develop life skills—such as time management, career planning, and living on your own—all while strengthening your college application. Currently, Harvard offers two programs - 

  • Secondary School Program - SSP offers high school students the chance to earn college credits (from over 200 courses offered in total), experience college life, and learn alongside a diverse group of high school students, college students, and adults from around the globe. SSP has both a 4-week and 7-week offering—the maximum number of credits students can take in the 4-week program is 4-credits, whereas the 7-week program can take up to 8-credits. Throughout this program, you will discover how your favorite subjects can lead to a college major or future career through small, focused classes; and develop a sense of responsibility and independence, gaining the confidence needed for college success.

  • Pre-College Program - This two-week, non-credit residential experience at Harvard, with a class size of 15 students, is designed to give high school students a taste of college life. Upon completion, you will receive a written evaluation and a Harvard transcript with grades of AR or NM (“requirements met” or “requirements not met”), which can enhance your college applications.

Location: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

  • Secondary School Program - 4-Week: Residential Only; 7-Week: Residential, Online, or Commuting

  • Pre-College Program - Residential Only


  • Secondary School Program - $3,900–$14,250 + $75 application fee (Financial aid available)

  • Pre-College Program - $5,550 + $75 application fee (Need-based financial aid available)

Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors

Program Dates:

  • Secondary School Program 

  • 4-Week: July 14 - August 9, 2024

  • 7-Week: June 22 - August 10, 202

  • Pre-College Program 

  • Session I: June 23-July 5, 2024

  • Session II:  July 7-19, 2024

  • Session III: July 21-August 2, 2024

Application Deadline: April 2024

In this five-week residential program, high school students will get the opportunity to take a university course alongside current undergraduate students, learn from esteemed Georgetown faculty, and earn college credit. They will also attend College Prep Seminars to enhance their SAT and ACT test-taking strategies through three diagnostic tests, prepare for their college search and admissions process, and develop essential skills for college and future success. Upon successful completion, students will receive a Certificate of Participation.

Location: Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Cost: $10,882 (Includes housing and all program fees)

Eligibility: Be a current or rising high school freshman, sophomore, junior, or a rising senior during the academic year prior to your summer program. Good academic standing with at least a 3.0 GPA.

Program Dates: July 7 - August 9, 2024

Application Deadline: May 15, 2024

The Elevate College Prep program offers high school students the chance to expand their knowledge and sharpen their skills through dynamic programs that include a range of summer activities in Chicago and its suburbs, allowing them to explore fields such as STEM, business, law, and the arts. They will get the opportunity to acquire valuable skills, earn college credit in select programs, and experience college life at Illinois Tech. All students who complete the program will receive an official certificate of completion.

Location: Residential (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL), Online, or Commuter

Cost: Ranges between $325 to $1,500 + $100 deposit due at the time of registration

Eligibility: High school students in grades 9 through 12 for residential or commuter options. Online programs are open to students from around the world, participants must be high school students and at least 14 years old.

Program Dates: Dates vary depending on the program, between June and August

Application Deadline: May 20, 2024

Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes is an online summer program where students participate in intensive, single-subject study within small classes (averaging 16 students) alongside academically driven peers. Courses cover various subjects, such as Business, Bioscience, Computer Science, Creative Writing, Engineering, Math, Philosophy, and more. Each course is uniquely tailored by instructors to provide students with in-depth exposure and hands-on experience. The program integrates academics and social activities into all aspects.

Location: Online

Cost: $3,050 (Need-based financial aid available)

Eligibility: Grades 8 - 11

Program Dates

  • Session One: June 17 - June 28, 2024

  • Session Two: July 8 - July 19, 2024

Application Deadline: March 29, 2024

NYU Precollege allows high school students to experience life as an NYU student, earn college credits, and immerse themselves in NYU's vibrant, global community. With a wide range of courses available, students can explore new ideas and develop practical skills. As a Precollege student, you will have access to university resources such as the extensive NYU Library system, peer tutoring, the Student Health Center, and more. Besides credit-bearing classes, Precollege students can also attend free workshops designed to prepare them for the college application process. During the summer, students can also enjoy a full schedule of on-campus social activities and organized trips to Broadway shows, baseball games, museums, and more.

Location: On-campus (New York University, NY) and Commuter

Cost: Ranges between $700 to $14,000. Tuition is charged by credit, and the cost of a student's courses would depend on their total credit worth.

Eligibility: Rising 11th or 12th grade high school students in summer. Students must have strong academic records (minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale).

Program Dates: July 2 - August 15, 2024

Application Deadline: June 12, 2024

Cornell University’s School of Continuing Education (SCE) offers pre-college online summer courses to help high schoolers around the world get a head start on college. As a student in this program, you can earn 3 to 12 credits, which are generally transferable towards a degree at Cornell or elsewhere, and you’ll get a Cornell transcript upon completing the program. This program offers a valuable opportunity to experience college academics, explore potential majors, and plan for your future. You'll enhance your college study skills through rigorous classes, receive personalized admissions counseling, and connect with a diverse group of motivated high school students from around the world. 

During the summer, you can choose from over 100 regular undergraduate courses in various fields such as Architecture and the Arts, Business and Hotel Management, Health and Humanities, International Relations, Science and Technology, Social Change, and Veterinary Medicine, and more. These online courses are conducted via the web-based learning system Canvas and involve interaction with the instructor and other participants via email, discussion boards, chat rooms, video conferences, and/or phone.

Location: Online

Cost: $1,750 per credit (Need-based financial aid available) 

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors & seniors, age 15+

Program Dates: Year-round. Check the academic calendar here

Application Deadline: June 2024

In this pre-college program, students enroll in university courses to earn credit alongside undergraduate students. The program is designed to prepare students for both college and their future careers through coursework and college preparation workshops. You can choose from a variety of college-level courses, from math and computer science to economics and psychology. Columbia University also offers other pre-college high school programs that you can explore here! Some of these are academic enrichment programs where you’ll learn without the pressure of grades or credits.

Location: Commuter program held at Columbia University’s Morningside Campus, New York, NY

Cost: $2,474 per point (3 points is typically equal to 1 course)

Eligibility: Students currently enrolled in grades 11 or 12. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3.

Program Dates: July 1 – August 9, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling applications 

The Pre-College Summer Session offers high school students the unique chance to take summer courses at Carnegie Mellon University for college credit. Students experience an academic environment that reflects the supportive and rigorous atmosphere of a first-year college experience. Each summer, about thirty courses are available across various disciplines, including science, humanities, social science, engineering, computer science, and technology applied to the arts. Successful participants use their experiences to showcase their readiness for college, and upon completing a course, the college credits can be transferred to other institutions.

Location: Residential (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA) or Commuter (To be a commuter, the student and parent/guardian must have a permanent residence within approximately 30 miles of the Pittsburgh campus or within Allegheny County)

Cost: Residential: $13,326 for two courses | Commuter: $6,722 for one course and $10,259 for two courses 

Eligibility: High school sophomores and juniors at least 16 years of age (at the start of the program)

Program Dates: June 22 - August 3, 2024

Application Deadline: March 1, 2024

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in pursuing university-level research, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs 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.

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!

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.

Image Source: Illinois Tech logo



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