Prestigious summer programs are a great way to deep dive into a subject that you wish to study at a college level while giving your profile a boost for college admissions. If you are passionate about mathematics, then you have a lot of options, from summer programs to olympiads!
There are many math programs 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 likely have come across the Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics, or the HCSSiM program.
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 -
Program curriculum and activities
Acceptance rate and cohort specifics
Important dates and deadlines
Guidelines for your HCSSiM application
HCSSiM - An Overview
The Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics is hosted for high school students every year and has seen more than 1500 participants since its inception in 1971.
The program aims to introduce promising high school students from across the globe to college-level mathematics and work on their problem-solving, peer learning, and academic skills.
The program is considered a good primer for any high school student interested in pursuing advanced mathematics and is hosted by Hampshire College, where you will be expected to live, learn, and collaborate with your peers.
The program spans 6 weeks in the summer from June to August, and exposes its students to a variety of topics in mathematics, including elementary number theory combinatorics/graph theory, and modern algebra.
Participants must pay a fee of $5780, plus transportation costs to and from Hampshire College.
The program is quite prestigious in nature, with a handful of students (<50) being accepted for each cohort from hundreds of applications.
Below is a detailed breakdown of the program and its various aspects.
HCSSiM - About the Program
What are the courses offered at HCSSiM?
As a participant, you will be expected to participate in workshops for the first three weeks of the program. These workshops will be led by a faculty member and a couple of math majors/graduate students.
The topics for these workshops vary from year to year and require you to devote about 4 hours every day on weekdays, and 2 hours on the weekend.
After the three weeks of workshops end, students are required to indicate their preference for their academic trajectory for the rest of the program. They are then required to pick a maxi and two mini-courses. A maxi course is equivalent to a college-level elective, so you can expect your learning to be quite intensive.
You can read about courses offered in the past here.
What is the acceptance rate? How hard is it to get into HCSSiM?
HCSSiM accepts applications from across the globe, and about 46 of them are accepted and invited to join the summer program. This puts their acceptance rate at about 5-7%. Note that this rate can vary a bit depending on the change in the number of applications each year, but the program is quite competitive to get into.
How much does the program cost?
The total program cost is $5780, which covers tuition, room, 3 meals a day for six weeks, and a recreation fee. Note that transportation to and from the program must be borne by the participant, but there is financial aid that is available after consideration of your application.
Where is HCSSiM held?
The program is held at Hampshire College, Massachusetts.
Who is eligible to apply?
The program does not have a limit on age for its applicants, but past participants have usually completed their 9th grade, and have some experience in advanced math.
What are the dates and application deadlines of the HCSSiM?
The program runs for a total of 6 weeks, usually from the last week of June, to the first week of August.
There are no deadlines for student applications, and applications are judged on a rolling basis and closed when they receive an adequate number of applications, so it is recommended that you apply as soon as possible!
What do I need to apply to the HCSSiM?
You will need to
Fill out a form with your basic details and a letter of motivation
Attempt the Mathematics Interesting Test attached with your application
You can find a sample Interesting Test attached here.
What does a typical day at HCSSiM look like?
A typical day at the HCSSiM program includes study, collaboration with your peers, as well as extracurricular activities. You can check out a typical timetable for the program here.
Now that we’ve covered all there is to know about the program, we’ll take you through a list of pros and cons that you may want to consider before applying to the HCSSiM.
HCSSiM - Pros and Cons
1. You will engage in rigorous academics
The jump from school-level mathematics to college math (plus electives!) is quite steep, and a summer program that focuses on bridging this gap is one you may want to consider.
The structure of the program allows you to learn a wide range of subjects, and explore electives, all before joining college as a freshman. A few topics covered in the program include combinatorics, number theory, complex numbers, probability, four-dimensional geometry, fractals and chaos, graph theory, topology, and cellular automata.
As mentioned before, the curriculum is quite vast and allows for a safe, enriching, and comprehensive academic experience. Note that your classes will go on for 3 hours or more each day, including lectures, workshops, problem-solving sessions, and more.
2. You will have opportunities for peer learning
HCSSiM provides a rich environment for peer learning and collaboration. As a participant, you interact with fellow students who wish to pursue mathematics as a degree or research area, which makes for an enriching experience.
The program also includes group problem-solving sessions, mathematical discussions, and collaborative projects, where you can learn from multiple perspectives, approaches, and insights.
One of the most well-known aspects of the program is its diverse and inclusive cohort. In the last cohort, participants came from 12 US, Canada, China, Cyprus, and India.
A learning atmosphere with students from all over the world is an opportunity you can make the most out of, and mention on your college application (as part of your essay or personal statement.)
3. You will have opportunities for further research and recognition
Many HCSSiM students have continued to pursue research in mathematics and submitted their proposals and projects for grants and scholarships, as well as prestigious awards.
A few examples include - 2 HCSSiM alumni winning the Morgan Prize for Undergraduate Research, and one receiving a nomination.
Secondly, 2 HCSSiM students have won the MacArthur Genius grants.
Under the mentorship of your professors, teaching assistants, or guest faculty, you can also choose to work on research projects and send in your entries for prestigious competitions and fellowships such as Intel and Siemens, the König Prize, the Fellowship offered by the American Institute of Mathematics, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Sliffe Award.
HCSSiM participants have carried out groundbreaking research projects, more details of which you can read about here.
4. You will experience campus life
Living and studying on campus during the summer can help ease the journey of joining a residential program at university as a freshman. The program is hosted at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, and past participants have given glowing reviews to the campus life and activities they engaged in, apart from their academic journey at HCSSiM.
As part of your summer program, you will be expected to live on campus, interact with your peers and professors, and go on hikes, trips to town, game nights, social nights, and informal study sessions.
You can choose to include this residential experience and the insights and perspectives you gained as part of your letter of motivation, as well as your interview with admissions officers.
You can read more about a typical day at the HCSSiM program, and check out glimpses of some on-campus activities that you’ll engage in here.
5. You will learn from experienced faculty
HCSSiM invites professors and researchers from across the world, from various universities for the summer program, an opportunity you can make the most of.
Here’s how the teaching staff at the program is structured - your courses will be typically led by Senior Staff (usually Ph.D. mathematicians) and they will be assisted by Junior Staff (graduate [and sometimes undergraduate] students in mathematics or allied fields).
Many HCSSiM alumni have gone on to contribute to the program by joining as senior and junior staff, an opportunity open to you in the future too (if you successfully complete the program).
A few professors and researchers that have taught HCSSiM participants before are Japheth Wood (Ph.D. UC Berkeley), Paul Phillips (Ph.D. Rice), and Rob Hochberg (Ph.D. Rutgers). You can read more about them here.
6. You will give your profile a boost for college admissions
As a prospective math student at university, you will need to demonstrate a strong passion for the subject, some academic experience outside of high school, participation in competitions such as Olympiads, or independent study and research.
Participating in a summer program that allows for academic flexibility, but also offers a structured trajectory for your courses can be a way to tick most of the above aspects of your application.
You can mention the courses you’ve studied at HCSSiM, your takeaways, insights gathered from your interactions with your peers and professors, as well as the problem sets and research ideas you’ve worked on during the summer.
Citing relevant experience in the field of study you wish to pursue at your dream school is a good way to add a boost to your application.
1. You will spend a significant chunk of your summer on this
The program lasts about 6 weeks in the summer, and if you wish to explore math for a longer duration, or conduct deeper research, you may want to consider the timeline of the program.
Most summer programs last about 8-10 weeks and offer a solid birds-eye view of the subject you’ve chosen to study.
HCSSiM does cover quite a number of college-level math courses, including electives, but you may find the timeline a little short if your main focus is to conduct deep research from start to finish.
2. You will likely pay a substantial fee to attend the program
As we’ll cover later in the blog, there is a program fee of $5780 that a participant must pay to participate and live at Hampshire College. Apart from living and tuition costs, you should also consider the transportation costs to and from Hampshire College at the beginning and end of the program, especially if you live outside of Massachusetts, or the United States.
It is a good idea to discuss costs and fees with your parents or guardians before applying to math programs such as HCSSiM and consider applying for their financial aid program.
3. You may or may not get in (competitive admissions) so keep a plan B ready
The admissions process to become part of the HCSSiM program is quite competitive, with hundreds of students applying from all across the world, with an acceptance rate of 4-5%.
If your focus is solely on conducting research, you may want to consider purely research-based math programs. If your focus is gaining work experience in the field of mathematics, you should consider internships or professional roles.
HCSSiM - Our Review
Overall, we think that the HCSSiM is a solid opportunity for high school students looking for a residential + immersive program in math. A feature that we particularly like is the academic rigor, as well as the type of courses offered.
A good bridge from high school math to university-level math is necessary, and programs like the HCSSiM can be a good choice for you.
The program has received generally positive feedback and reviews on platforms such as Reddit, Quora, the American Mathematical Society, and College Confidential. The structure, courses, and extracurricular opportunities provided have found themselves as major talking points for alumni.
As for networking opportunities and overall growth, the program provides a pretty good start for you to interact closely with established researchers and scholars in the field, and gain insights about potential career aspects and research opportunities that you can use later in your career.
It is important to note that the program runs for only 6 weeks, and is quite cost-heavy in terms of tuition costs. If you’re looking for a research-focused program, it may be a good idea to apply to specific mentorship programs for research or conduct independent research with a local math organization.
HCSSiM does offer financial assistance in the form of fee waivers, so you may want to consider that as well, before applying.
Overall, the program is a solid choice, and is quite competitive to get into, making it a prestigious addition to your resume and college application, and offers a host of opportunities for budding mathematicians.
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: Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics logo