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Notre Dame's Summer Scholars - 6 Reasons Why You Should Do It

For any ambitious high school student looking to gain valuable experience at a top university, Notre Dame’s Summer Scholars program is an excellent chance to take an intensive course and see what college life is like. Featuring college-level courses, mentorship, and an immersive campus experience, Summer Scholars at the University of Notre Dame allows students to thrive in a collaborative academic environment.

What is Notre Dame’s Summer Scholars?

Notre Dame Summer Scholars (NDSS) is a two-week residential program for rising high school juniors and seniors. While there are no admission stats available, there is an emphasis on strong academic credentials so one can reasonably expect the admission process to be competitive. Students choose from over 25 courses across various disciplines and have the opportunity to experience life as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame. Courses range from Accounting to Astronomy to Cancer Biology to Social Justice, thus anyone with an interest in any topic is likely to find a course that falls within their wants. Students often spend time in classes, then in libraries, dorms, and study spots doing homework and assignments together, then going out to experience the life and culture that is unique to the Notre Dame experience.

The program is known for small class sizes, personal attention from Notre Dame faculty, and a well-rounded campus experience including access to research facilities, residence halls, dining halls, and recreational activities. Students often come from the top of their classes, as the program requires a strong academic background and a recommendation letter, but everyone is encouraged to apply. For a day in the life of a Summer Scholar, check out this article written by the program showcasing all that the program has to offer.

Is Notre Dame’s Summer Scholars Prestigious?

NDSS is one of the more prestigious pre-college programs and the focus on the applicant’s academic background is a strong indicator of that. The curriculum challenges students with fast-paced, college-level work while the experience of living on campus and building a community reflects the kind of environment students can expect at a high-caliber college. However, it is important to recognize that in NDSS, and other paid summer college programs for high school students, admissions are often less rigorous than the school itself and are limited to people who can pay for the program, rather than based fully on merit. Thus, the program can still serve as a valuable experience for any student, but with a high financial barrier, a self-driven extracurricular project at home, at a much lower cost, can be just as, or even more, valuable.

Testimonials about the program indicate that students thoroughly enjoy the academic rigor and collaborative environment that the program encourages. For students looking to push themselves in an intellectually stimulating environment and gain insight into university life, NDSS is a golden opportunity.

Who is Eligible to Apply for Notre Dame’s Summer Scholars?

NDSS invites applications from high-achieving high school rising juniors and seniors in the U.S. and abroad. It is important to note that while applicants from around the world can apply if you are not from an English-speaking high school, you must already have a TOEFL score or submit your score on the DuoLingo Online English Test. Applicants should demonstrate a passion for learning, intellectual curiosity, and the maturity to thrive in a residential college program, which can be demonstrated by the online application and recommendation letter. Students who have challenged themselves with rigorous high school curricula, such as Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, and have shown leadership qualities in extracurricular activities are ideal candidates for the program.

While NDSS aims for a diverse range of backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests, all applicants are evaluated based on their own merit and potential for growth. Acceptance into the program is need-blind, with financial aid opportunities available across multiple scholarships and grants. Students with academic vision and drive who wish to experience the vibrancy of campus life at Notre Dame will find this a rewarding opportunity!

Timeline and Structure of Notre Dame’s Summer Scholars

Applications for NDSS open each October and close the following February. This year, applications for both summer sessions opened on October 17th and closed on February 20th. Accepted students are notified by early April. The three-week program runs in two different sessions, one in mid-June (this year – June 10 - 24, 2023) and one in early July (July 1 - 15, 2023), with two full weeks of courses and opportunities to explore the campus and beyond. Completion of the program grants you one college credit for use in future academic endeavors.

The program itself costs upwards of $4,000, with an enrollment fee of $300, and an application fee of $60. The entire cost covers room and board, tuition, class field trips, and other social opportunities. This can be a hefty financial burden, but financial aid opportunities are available and are due alongside the application itself. The cost must be paid before June 2nd to be able to attend the program.

From the day in life, a typical school day runs from 7:30 am - 11 pm. Each morning begins with a dorm meeting and breakfast, followed by an afternoon of lunch, classes, service opportunities, guest lectures, and group discussions. Late afternoons and evenings are free for students to utilize of their own volition – from conducting research, studying with peers, going for spiritual development, or just having fun with their peers. Students also have the weekends free to rest or take optional excursions into South Bend and Chicago.

The class schedule is fast-paced but quite rewarding if you give your best. You should expect daily reading, assignments, and assessments on par with a typical undergraduate course. Here is a sample of the type of schedule you can expect (as taken from the website):

Schedule for the Notre Dame Summer Scholars (NDSS) program

Note that you have access to academic support in the form of tutoring centers, research librarians, and peer mentoring, especially from their resident counselor, who is a current undergraduate. By living, studying, and partaking in extracurriculars alongside other high-achievers, students form a tight-knit intellectual community over the two weeks.

6 Reasons Why You Should Apply to Notre Dame’s Summer Scholars (NDSS)

1. You can experience life as a college student while being in high school

The opportunity to experience life as an undergrad - living in a dorm, eating at dining halls, using athletic and library facilities, running to lectures taught by professors, etc. – can be a valuable experience for some. Before your peers, you will get the chance to live by yourself and experience what life is like as a college student, which can easily serve as an opportunity for growth and learning. Outside of just being a college student for a few weeks, you get to experience life at a beautiful institution that is Notre Dame, with world-class facilities, with like-minded peers, and have fun by yourself for just a little while.

Note: Another great program at Notre Dame is its Leadership Seminar.

2. You get to take unique courses taught by Notre Dame faculty

From standard courses like Law, Accounting, or acting courses with Film Production, Performance, and Musical Theatre, or unique courses such as Social Media and Social Justice and Global Health, you are able to choose between such unique and fun courses that are tailored to your interests. These courses are curated to be comprehensive, even in the short amount of time you are able to spend in them. You also have the opportunity to get close to current graduate students and professors, as the program has a great ratio of students to professors, allowing you to easily interact closely with renowned faculty.

3. You have the chance to develop lifelong friendships

Although the program is just two weeks long, you can still form bonds with like-minded peers from diverse backgrounds, from all over the world, and from all different academic interests. The program has a strong emphasis on community building, spirituality, service, and collaboration, thus it is inevitable that you will have the chance to form close friendships with the peers you spend time in the dorm with, study with, or just learn how to navigate college life with.

4. You will build confidence in your academic and life abilities

Taking the leap to leave home for a few weeks and see what college life is like will grant you the opportunity to learn how to live life as an individual, which is such a valuable skill in life, especially as you do enter college in a few years. Having this trial run allows you to know what you are good at, and what you may need to learn, allowing you to build confidence and independence for your future endeavors. Additionally, these courses are at the college level and rigorous due to their short time frame, thus, succeeding in the course or just figuring out how to pay attention and navigate a lecture, to study skills, to collaborative ability can all build a sense of academic confidence for you.

5. You will gain credentials for your college applications

Successfully completing NDSS demonstrates your ability to handle intense college coursework, the fast-paced college lifestyle, and your passion for your topic, as you spent a summer learning it. All of this shows your admissions officers that you are ready for college and can be an indicator of a successful student at their institution. These summer programs often can allow you to have unique stories and experiences that can be valuable for showing off your personality or academic passions in your future application essays. Additionally, if you happen to build a connection with a professor, as mentioned earlier, that can serve as such a valuable connection and resource as you apply to college.

6. You can easily apply for generous financial aid

NDSS aims to be accessible to students of all financial backgrounds, thus there are great opportunities to apply for financial aid and grants. If you qualify/need the aid, it is important to note the financial aid process and separate it from the application process, so the program is indeed need-blind! Partial to full tuition scholarships are offered, and are completely based on financial need, not merit. The program is also sponsored by the state of Indiana, the city of Philadelphia, and KPMG, thus students from Indiana, Philadelphia, and studying Accounting will have the additional opportunity to apply for extra grants and scholarships.

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. 

Do research this summer

Conducting advanced research is another great way to build new skills, take charge and expose yourself to new perspectives. It can also boost your profile for scholarships and competitions! If you want an opportunity to build your own independent project and research paper, then consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. Last year over 2100 students applied for about 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: University of Notre Dame logo


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