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A Complete Review to the Stanford Summer Session

Have you ever wanted to live on a college-campus before you attend college? Are you ambitious and want to get a taste of college-level classes?

Then, the Stanford Summer Session is an unparalleled opportunity for you. Hosted at Stanford University, the Stanford Summer Session offers rising high school juniors and seniors the chance to experience college life, earn transferable college credits, and take courses taught by Stanford faculty — all while living on a beautiful California campus during the summer.

We’ve also covered a host of other prestigious summer opportunities at Stanford University for high school students, including SIMR, which you can check out here.

What is the Stanford Summer Session?

The Stanford Summer Session is a summer program open to high school students entering their junior or senior year. Participants will have the chance to live on campus and take courses with Stanford professors, while having fun with classmates and enjoy life in Palo Alto. The goal of the program is to provide a “transformative experience”, where students get an authentic taste of college academics, campus life, and independence.

Courses span topics in the social sciences, sciences, mathematics, humanities, and languages. Options range from "The Meaning of Life" and "Game Theory" to "iPhone and iPad Programming" and "Pre-Calculus." Students take two to three courses over the summer, participating in lectures, discussions, homework, and exams expected of university students.

Established in 1986, the Stanford Summer Session program has developed a worldwide reputation for excellence and rigor. Acceptance into the program is competitive, varying from 15-30% acceptance depending on the year, with only 300-500 rising juniors and seniors admitted each summer. Enrollment itself exemplifies a student's advanced academic standing, motivation, and maturity to handle the expectations of university-level work. Success in challenging courses proves to college admissions committees a student is a strong candidate for top higher education institutions.

Is the Stanford Summer Session Prestigious?

Undoubtedly, the Stanford Summer Session is a solid summer program, moderately prestigious in nature, for high school students, given its ties to Stanford University and challenging curriculum. Admission to the program itself serves as a meaningful achievement, reflecting a student's abilities, passion for learning, and preparedness for a selective college environment.

Earning credits for courses in areas of a student's interests shows an enthusiasm for going above and beyond standard high school requirements. Skills and knowledge gained over the summer provide an advantage when applying to and eventually attending universities with similar standards of excellence as Stanford.

Timeline and Structure of Stanford Summer Session

The Stanford Summer Session takes place over the summer, with 2023’s dates being from June 24th to August 20th. Approximately 300-500 high school students entering grades 11 and 12 live on Stanford's campus while taking 8 credits worth of university-level courses, participating in extracurricular activities, and gaining independence in a supportive environment.

The summer begins with Welcome Weekend, which includes orientations, socials, move-in, and kickoff. During orientation, students receive their dorm assignments in one of the iconic Stanford residence halls where they will live for the duration of the program. Students meet with academic advisors to finalize their course schedules based on their interests and backgrounds. The exact schedule can be found on this page.

Classes meet daily and extend outside the classroom with assignments to complete. Most courses earn students four quarter transferable credits, equivalent to a full high school honors or AP course. Subject areas span mathematics, sciences, humanities, social sciences, languages, and electives like art or creative writing. Outside the classroom, students can go on social events and extracurriculars ranging from guest lectures to weekend trips exploring the San Francisco Bay Area. Weekends provide opportunities for shopping in Palo Alto, visiting San Francisco, enjoying outdoor recreation, or simply relaxing with new friends.

While the program encourages you to develop independence and self-sufficiency, there are also plenty of support to allow you to succeed. This includes resident assistants, tutoring centers, medical facilities, and counselors available 24 hours a day.

At the end of the program, Stanford holds a closing ceremony to celebrate the students’ achievements, with a chance to get certification for your academic rigor and one last chance to celebrate with the friends made over the long summer.

Pros and Cons of the Stanford Summer Session

While the Stanford Summer Session offers an exceptional experience, you should weigh the pros and cons based on what your priorities and circumstances are. Below are five key pros and two potential cons to consider:


1. You will have the chance to take college level courses at a top-tier institution

In just one summer, you will be able to earn the equivalent of a few full high school honors or AP courses. However, unlike those courses, these credits truly demonstrate your ability to handle college-level work well beyond when you are expected to. You will learn so much material in a short amount of time, allowing you to explore more advanced and diverse topics once you enroll in college. Additionally, your ability to thrive in a college environment will be viewed very positively by future college admissions counselors.

2. You will learn and gain knowledge from world-class Stanford professors

Instead of learning from textbooks, you will have the chance to learn from the professors who wrote such textbooks! At Stanford, you will learn directly from leaders in their fields and those actively engaged in innovative research. You will have the opportunity to build deep connections that could lead to mentorship or just bolstering your network as you continue along in your career. Learning and connecting with professors is an invaluable experience that you should be sure to take advantage of.

3. You can experience authentic college life by living on campus.

For a lot of teenagers, having the chance to live by yourself on a college campus before attending college is a dream come true. On a practical level, living independently, managing responsibilities, and engaging in campus activities provides insight into your abilities and areas needing improvement before leaving home and actually attending university. You will also begin to learn strategies for balancing courses, health, activities, and relationships, which are all life skills that will benefit you no matter your path. The summer can serve as a large opportunity for growth for anyone.

4. You will be exposed to and become friends with diverse, accomplished peers.

This program attracts people from all over, all with different backgrounds, talents, and interests, yet share the same passion for learning and work ethic. Through an intense summer, you and the people around you will undoubtedly become classmates, collaborators, and even friends, which exposes you to new perspectives, ways of learning, and cultures. Meeting new people and forming new connections, both personal and academic, can be just as valuable as anything else you could receive from this program.

5. You will have access to Stanford University facilities and events

Stanford University brings you access to world-class resources and events that you may not be able to access otherwise. As a student, you can access world-class resources usually unavailable to outsiders, which allows you to experience life as a Stanford student, not a visitor. This includes attending guest lecturers, speaker events, faculty events, networking opportunities, athletic events, museum trips, and various other benefits! Over this summer, be sure to tap into all of the resources that a Stanford ID can bring, in and outside of campus.


1. You will have to pay a high cost of attendance

While the Stanford name and experience hold immense value, program fees including housing, dining, and activities present a significant financial undertaking that may outweigh any benefits, even with aid and scholarships. The program cost begins at $4000 for commuters and $13,000 for those living on campus. If cost is prohibitive despite the available aid, look for more affordable programs offering a meaningful academic experience and college credits, or reach out to your high school or local organizations to help you pay for the program.

2. You will be put under an intensive schedule

The workload of this program is not to be understated. You will have to put in the work to attend lectures, complete assignments, study, and on top of that, take advantage of your time on campus, while learning how to live independently. It can easily feel that life is moving swiftly at an accelerated pace that can feel overwhelming without time to adequately reflect or rest. Ensure you have strategies in place for handling challenges, setbacks and demanding conditions before arriving on campus, including the resources that Stanford provides. Also remember that this is a competitive program, and your acceptance means that the readers know that you are able to academically handle the rigor. Even so, this academic rigor and challenge may be exactly what some students are looking for.

3. It’s not highly selective, so it may not have significant impact in college applications

These academic programs are expensive and many schools do consider how limited the access is for many students. While there is a long application process, many students are admitted, and fewer attend due to the cost. Due to this, many colleges may not consider the program itself as anything that will make you stand out, besides as a way to showcase your academic talent, passion for learning, and initiative to take college level courses at this point in your life.

Our Review

The Stanford Summer Session is a challenging, and rigorous program that leaves students better prepared for life ahead, academically, socially, and personally, than when they came in. The program provides students with academic rigor, a large support and mentorship network, socials, and a community of passionate and hardworking students. The largest deterrent to this program will be the heavy cost of the program, at over ten thousand dollars for out of state students who want the full experience. Thus, while we recommend this program, we also want you to heavily consider the fiscal burden this program may be, and if you believe the benefits outweigh that cost.

Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!

Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. 

These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 

The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here

Location: Virtual


  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest. 

If you are looking to do cutting-edge research in STEM, then you should 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 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Aaron Zheng is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Bioengineering. He is passionate about biotechnology, business development, and aiding students to get to college, regardless of background. In his spare time, he looks to read, journal, and explore the world.

Image Source: Stanford logo



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Stamford is a cool place to study, but unfortunately it is difficult to get there, but this did not stop my brother from getting there and studying with pleasure. It was only in his last year of studying that he turned to a phd help him with one of the projects that needed to be assigned on an emergency basis because his schedule became too tight. He told me that if you have a head on your shoulders and can put two and two together, you can study there without any problems. I even came to the camp there, but I still chose Yale.

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