The University of Pennsylvania offers a variety of summer programs that aim to spur interest in STEM amongst high school students. If you are specifically looking for a STEM-oriented pre-college program, then you’ll find various options.
In this blog, we will cover UPenn’s Summer Mathematics Academy. Here, we will dive into the program, important dates, topics, and research covered, as well as eligibility and the application process.
What is UPenn’s Mathematics Academy?
The University of Pennsylvania’s Mathematics Academy is a unique program for students interested in learning about mathematical concepts that are not typically taught in high school classrooms. The Mathematics Academy is a fully residential program with no commuter or online options. This rigorous three-week program is a proof-oriented program that will fuse lectures, problem sessions, demonstrations, and exploratory research.
What are the eligibility criteria for the UPenn Summer Mathematics Academy?
This summer academy is open to current 9th to 11th grade students who have taken at least one year of Algebra II/Trigonometry. To apply to the program, you need:
Completed online application.
Application essays: Combine all essays into one document, ensuring clear numbering. Each individual essay should not exceed 400 words.
Describe academic and personal goals and how studying at Penn during the summer can further these goals. Discuss the specific program to which you are applying and other aspects of summer study at Penn.
Select a few non-academic or extracurricular experiences and explain how these activities enhance your academic and personal growth.
For non-native English speakers: Describe your English educational background and experience.
High school transcripts (official or unofficial): Upload a copy of high school transcripts in the online application. Pass/Fail grades are acceptable, but additional documentation may be requested for the Admissions Committee review.
One letter of recommendation: This letter can be submitted electronically through the application system (preferred) or sent via email to admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For non-native English speakers: Test scores verifying English proficiency—TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, PSAT, ACT, or Duolingo English Test (DET)—are accepted.
Standardized test scores are not mandatory for the application.
Non-refundable application fee of $75, payable online using a credit card
Important Dates & Deadlines
December 1: Summer program applications open
January 31: Priority Deadline
July 9: Move-In Day
July 29: Move-out Day
Applying by the priority deadline gives you the greatest chance of being admitted into your program of choice. Acceptance to your desired program is not guaranteed, as many programs fill before the end of the priority application window. Early application is strongly advised as priority applications are processed in the order they are received. International students are strongly encouraged to apply by the priority deadline to give the most time for visa purposes.
Applications submitted or completed after January 31 are reviewed on a rolling basis.
Tuition and Fees
Tuition is $9,700.
If you attend a School District of Philadelphia public or charter high school you may be eligible to attend a Penn Summer Academy free of charge with a Penn Summer Scholarship.
Tuition covers: Use of Penn academic facilities, on-campus housing, three meals a day Monday–Friday, two meals on Sunday (no meals Saturday due to excursions/activities), extracurricular activities and trips, and student supervision.
Tuition DOES NOT cover: Non-refundable $75 application fee, travel to/from campus, airport transfers, gym access (may be available for an additional fee); linens; class materials; meals eaten off campus; medical expenses; laundry; souvenirs; and personal spending money.
A non-refundable deposit of $1,500 is required to officially reserve a student's spot in the program. Program fees minus the nonrefundable deposit of $1,500 are refundable until May 15.
What topics will be covered in the Math Academy?
The Summer Mathematics Academy will expose students to the diverse field of mathematics over the three-week program. The academy will begin by introducing the theory of mathematical logic and proofs and then will cover a selection of topics in higher-level mathematics, with different Penn faculty coming in for several days to teach about each new topic. Last year, the topics covered in the academy were difference equations and recurrence relations, graph theory, linear algebra, and the preliminaries of Galois theory.
Some of the topics include: combinatorics, generating functions and partitions, graph theory, probability, combinational game theory, Galois theory, linear algebra, prime and factorization algorithms, congruencies and quadratic reciprocity, geometry of numbers, Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries, geometric transformations, algebraic geometry, point-set topology, and knot theory.
What does a typical day look like?
The Summer Mathematics Academy will meet Monday - Friday, from 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. There will be a morning lecture period from 9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m., followed by a break for lunch, then an afternoon lecture period from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. The day will close with recitation from 3:30 - 5 p.m., where students can review concepts with the teaching assistant and work on the problems assigned for that day. Lecture periods will be led by Penn faculty and will have significant active learning components, where students work to solve problems together in groups, with assistance from the faculty speaker, academy director, and teaching assistant. Other activities after 5 p.m. and on the weekends are organized by Penn SAS High School Programs and Summer Discovery.
Is the University of Pennsylvania’s Summer Mathematics Academy prestigious?
The UPenn Summer Mathematics Academy, while certainly respected and celebrated in many educational communities, is not typically considered one of the most prestigious mathematics programs in the US. Unlike programs like MOSP (Math Olympiad Summer Program) or the PROMYS (Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists), which are renowned for their extreme selectivity, UPenn’s Summer Mathematics Academy has a price tag to it that makes it less selective.
Regardless of its selectivity, UPenn’s Summer Mathematics Academy offers high school students a great opportunity to deepen their understanding of mathematics and explore advanced topics not typically covered in standard high school curricula.
Pros and Cons of the University of Pennsylvania’s Summer Mathematics Academy
You will receive a High-Quality Mathematical Education: One of the main advantages of attending Penn's Summer Mathematics Academy is the assurance of receiving a top-tier introduction to various mathematical concepts that you would not typically see in high school classrooms like combinational game theory and linear algebra. Penn is renowned for its academic excellence and world-class faculty, ensuring that participants gain exposure to rigorous and enriching mathematical concepts and teaching methods.
This academy resides within a prestigious Institution: Attending a program at UPenn can significantly enhance a student's academic profile. By participating in the Summer Math Academy, students demonstrate their ability to handle advanced mathematical concepts while simultaneously displaying their commitment to exploration and passion for the subject.
You will definitely be Intellectually Stimulated: Penn's Summer Math Academy Program offers intellectually stimulating coursework and an array of options to help studies dive deeper into their respective fields. Students have the opportunity to delve into advanced mathematical topics from combinatorics to Galois theory, fostering a deep appreciation for the subject and encouraging critical thinking skills. Penn's renowned faculty in the mathematics department are also leaders in their fields, providing students with access to cutting-edge research and world-class mentorship.
This program opens up amazing networking opportunities: The program brings together like-minded peers who share a passion for mathematics. As a program participant, you will not only have access to UPenn’s facilities but also the professors and researchers who may be studying topics that you would like to pursue in the future. The connections formed during the program can lead to lasting friendships and valuable academic and professional networks.
You will enhance your College Admission Portfolio: Participation in Penn's Summer Math Academy program can be a valuable addition to a college application. It showcases an applicant's dedication to mathematics and readiness for challenging academic environments, potentially increasing their chances of admission to competitive institutions.
The high cost may be a barrier to your participation: One of the primary drawbacks of attending Penn's Summer Math Academy program is the associated fee. The tuition for this program is $9700, not accounting for fees like travel, laundry, and class materials. The program's tuition can be a significant financial burden for some students and families.
More pressure may exist compared to your typical high school class: Penn is known for its demanding academic environment and their summer programs are no exception. While this can be intellectually stimulating, it can also be stressful, leading to potential burnout for students unaccustomed to such intensity.
There may be limited diversity amongst students that participate: Like many elite institutions, Penn's Summer Math Academy program may have limited diversity in terms of both the student body and the subject matter covered. Factors like tuition could restrict exposure to different perspectives and experiences.
There may be geographic limitations: Attending Penn's Summer Math Academy program will require students to travel to Philadelphia and live away from home for the duration of the program. This may not be convenient or practical for everyone and can be an added challenge. The fees associated with airfare and travel may also be a burden.
UPenn’s Summer Mathematics Academy is a well-respected program that gives students an extremely valuable opportunity to deepen their mathematical interests and take those interests to the next level via projects and problems. With experienced instructors and a strong emphasis on exploration, this program offers a wide variety of content that spans all mathematical domains. Through interactive lectures, problem-solving sessions, and workshops, participants deepen their understanding of mathematical concepts not covered in the classroom.
While UPenn’s Summer Mathematics Academy does come with a high price tag, it’s a great program and a worthwhile experience for those who are passionate about math. If you’re looking for a more prestigious program to bolster your college applications, you should look into MOSP and PROMYS instead. Nonetheless, this program still offers significant benefits in terms of education, prestige, and networking opportunities.
As someone who's gone through the college application process and is a current student at Harvard University, I would not recommend this for those who are looking to bolster their college applications but are not passionate about mathematical exploration.
One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you would like to further explore the field of mathematics and push yourself beyond your limits (pun intended), you should 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.
Jessica attends Harvard University where she studies Neuroscience and Computer Science as a Coca-Cola, Elks, and Albert Shankar Scholar. She is passionate about educational equity and hopes to one day combine this with her academic interests via social entrepreneurship. Outside of academics, she enjoys taking walks, listening to music, and running her jewelry business!