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PROMYS: Our Review

Summer programs are a great way to take a deep dive into a subject that you wish to study at a college level. Math summer programs, in particular, should be on your to-do list for the summer if you’re looking for exposure, skill building, and networking opportunities in the field.

There are many math programs and competitions offered by universities, non-profits, and private bodies that are open to high school students, and it can be quite tricky to shortlist one or two for the summer.

Prospective math students should consider the following factors when choosing a math camp - curriculum, cost, location, acceptance rate, networking opportunities, as well as faculty, to name a few.

If you’ve been looking for summer programs in math as a high school student, you must have come across PROMYS, or Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists, hosted by Boston University.

In this blog, we’ll give our review of the program and its offerings, pros and cons, and compile essential information about the program, including -

  • Eligibility

  • Total cost

  • Program curriculum

  • Location

  • Opportunities for growth and networking

  • Acceptance rate and cohort specifics

  • Important dates and deadlines

What is PROMYS?

PROMYS is a summer-only math program that is offered to high school and undergraduate (returning) students. The program is hosted by Boston University, and aims to foster a deep understanding and passion for mathematics amongst students.

PROMYS is praised for its program flexibility and diverse cohort, as well the comprehensive academic experience it offers. As a PROMYS participant, you will be expected to attend classes on Number Theory, or advanced lectures on high-level topics taught by faculty from across the world.

A PROMYS participant is offered lots of opportunities to work on research, problem sets, and grapple with advanced and basic mathematical concepts.

Before we take a deep dive into the program, here are a few details you should know -

1. Eligibility

Students all across the world who are 14 years or older, and are currently enrolled in high school (or have taken a gap year between high school and college) are eligible to apply.

2. Cost

The total cost of the residential program is $6,000 for a total of 6 weeks. Note that PROMYS offers financial aid to deserving students.

3. Location

All PROMYS participants will attend classes and live at Boston University, since it is a residential program.

4. Application Deadline

March 5, 2023 at 11:59 EST. You should ideally receive your admission decision by early May in the same year.

5. Program Dates

The 2024 program will run from July 2 – August 12, based on last year's timetable.

6. Cohort size and acceptance rate

Each year, about 60 first-year students and 20 returning students are selected. While there are no official acceptance stats mentioned on the website, we can safely assume the acceptance rate of PROMYS to be around 13%, which makes the program pretty selective in nature.

Now, here are the main academic components of PROMYS, that you are expected to participate and learn in!

1. Number Theory

If you join the program for the very first time, as a high school student, you will be required to take classes on Number Theory daily, and solve problem sets given to you by your instructor.

Number Theory is a fundamental part of your math curriculum as an undergraduate student, and taking up the course while still in high school can help ease the journey from school to college.

Many high school students find themselves overwhelmed due to the rigorous nature of college academics, so summer programs that introduce you to college-level/advanced courses are a solid option.

The Number Theory course at PROMYS and the problem sets given are meant to encourage you to design your own numerical experiments. Additionally, you are required to analyze and discover mathematical patterns, formulate and test conjectures, and justify your ideas with the help of mathematical proofs.

2. Advanced Seminars

PROMYS, compared to other summer math programs for high school students, offers a rigorous addition to your prescribed curriculum - advanced seminars.

If you are a returning student, or a highly motivated first-year student, it is advisable to take up sessions in various advanced topics such as Modular Forms, Algebra, and Primes and Zeta Functions (according to the 2023 course offering).

Faculty and students meet twice or thrice a week, and discuss topics, administer lectures, and solve problem sets.

This year, the three Advanced Seminar courses will be taught by Marjory Baruch from Syracuse University, and David Rohrlich and Li-Mei Lim from Boston University.

You can check out a complete catalog of the Advanced seminar courses offered in the 2023 session here.

3. Guest Lectures

As a high school student at academic programs such as these, you have the opportunity to interact and learn with scholars and researchers in your field from across the world. Guest lectures are an important and attractive component of PROMYS, where lecturers cover topics such as

  • elated scientific fields

  • the ethics and philosophy of science

  • the relationship between pure and applied science, and

  • career options in STEM, particularly mathematics

Past cohorts at PROMYS have attended guest lectures for topics such as Spherical Packings/Codes in Various Dimensions, The Riemann-Roch Theorem for Graphs, and Problems on Rainbow 3-term Arithmetic Progressions (by lecturers from Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, and Georgia Tech).

Guest lectures are a good way to build a comprehensive understanding of the subject you wish to pursue as a degree, and work on your networking skills!

4. Research Projects

Admissions officers are constantly on the lookout for students who have demonstrated interest, passion, and the motivation to learn for the subject they wish to study at college. A good way of working towards such a profile is to work on a research project while in high school.

Note that pursuing research does not mean picking up only complex and advanced topics that require a ton of funding, time, and resources. The quality and depth of your research and its applications matters more than just the topic itself.

All PROMYS students are provided with an opportunity to explore research in mathematics at PROMYS-designed exploration labs. If you are a returning PROMYS student, you can conduct research under the mentorship of professional mathematicians.

Mentors pose questions that teams of four are supposed to solve and explore at the exploration labs, and present at the end of the program. Many PROMYA alumni have worked on research projects that have been awarded features and publications in Joint Mathematics Meetings.

This opportunity to work on research projects, and learn concepts side-by-side is a salient feature of the program - one that you should definitely consider while applying.

To give you an idea of the type of topics, research ideas, and projects students have worked on in past cohorts, here are some recent ones -

Integer Complexity Generalized to Cyclotomic Fields

Mentored by Joshua Zelinsky (Iowa State University)

The Circulation Game

Mentored by Matt Baker (Georgia Tech)

Irreducible Polynomials over a Finite Field

Mentored by Jared Weinstein (Boston University)

Konigsberg Pseudoprimes and Fermat’s Little Theorem for Matrices

David Lowry-Duda (Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics – ICERM)

You can check out more such projects here.

Pros and Cons of attending PROMYS


1. You will face a rigorous curriculum:

PROMYS offers a challenging and advanced mathematical curriculum that goes beyond your standard high school curriculum. If you’re considering pursuing research or an advanced degree in math after high school, this program should serve as a good primer. Additionally, participating in a program that involves coursework, research work, collaborative problem solving helps you work on your time-management, problem solving, and learning skills.

2. You will get a taste of college life:

PROMYS requires its participants to live and study at Boston University. Living on a university campus during the program creates an immersive and vibrant learning environment. Participants have the opportunity to interact with like-minded peers, fostering intellectual discussions, collaborations, and the formation of lifelong friendships.

3. You will be exposed to new ways of thinking through peer learning:

PROMYS brings together talented and motivated students from around the world. The program encourages peer-to-peer learning, where participants can engage in mathematical discussions, share insights, and learn from each other's diverse perspectives.

4. You will be taught by expert faculty:

PROMYS boasts a faculty composed of experienced mathematicians who are passionate about teaching and mentoring young mathematicians. Their expertise and guidance provide valuable support and inspiration throughout the program.

5. You will have rigorous research opportunities:

PROMYS offers participants the chance to engage in authentic mathematical research. Through open-ended exploration and collaboration in R.A.T. groups, students develop research skills, learn to formulate and solve complex problems, and gain firsthand experience in the process of mathematical discovery.

6. Overall Program Structure:

PROMYS is well-structured, with a balance between rigorous coursework, collaborative research, guest lectures, and informal problem-solving sessions. This comprehensive structure ensures a holistic and enriching experience for participants.


1. You will have to spend a significant amount of money :

Attending PROMYS can be expensive, including program fees, travel expenses, and accommodations (about $6000 for 6 weeks). While scholarships and financial aid options are available, the financial aspect may pose a challenge for some students and their families.

2. You will be committing a significant amount of time:

PROMYS requires a significant time commitment during the summer. The demanding coursework, research projects, and extracurricular activities may limit participants' availability for other summer commitments or pursuits.

3. You will face a competitive admissions process:

Admission to PROMYS is highly competitive, and not all applicants are accepted. The selection process considers factors such as academic performance, recommendations, and personal statements, making it challenging to secure a spot in the program. While this is strictly not a con, and may even be a pro if you are accepted, it means you should have alternate plans ready.

4. Strong emphasis on number theory:

If you’re looking for a math program that focuses on a variety of topics in the span of a few weeks, you may want to consider programs such as MathCamp. PROMYS requires all its participants to attend Number Theory classes each morning, and Advanced Seminars based on your comfort level and expertise with Algebra; Modular Forms; and Primes and Zeta Functions. Number Theory forms quite a large chunk of the program’s syllabus, so make sure you keep that in mind before applying.

5. Prestige compared to other math programs

While PROMYS is a highly respected program in the mathematics community, it may not have the same level of name recognition or prestige as some other renowned math programs that are fully funded and have a lower acceptance rate. This may be a consideration for individuals seeking to enhance their academic credentials.

PROMYS - Our Review

As a math program, PROMYS is a popular offering open to high school students. You can definitely consider applying to the program if you’re interested in engaging more deeply with topics such as number theory, and wish to gain some academic insight and experience in the world of advanced mathematics before joining university.

The program features faculty from prestigious institutions, and you can stand to learn a great deal from them across their fields of expertise. However, the program requires you to pay a hefty amount to participate, and strongly focuses on Number Theory. Additionally, if your goal is to only conduct research in mathematics instead of experiencing classroom learning in advanced mathematics, PROMYS may not be the best option.

It is important for individuals considering PROMYS to weigh these pros and cons in relation to their personal goals, financial circumstances, time availability, and aspirations within the field of mathematics. Understanding these factors can help make an informed decision about whether PROMYS is the right fit for their academic and personal development.

If you are interested in doing university-level research in math, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I 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.

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: PROMYS group photo

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