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USC's High School Summer Program - Should You Apply?

If you're a high schooler interested in gaining practical experience in your chosen field before pursuing a degree, pre-college programs can help bridge the gap between high school and college. These programs offer you a glimpse of college life and university-level academics making the transition between the two phases smoother and helping you to enhance your knowledge and boost your profile for college applications. Through such programs, you also receive invaluable opportunities for personal growth as well as networking with peers and professionals. 

The University of Southern California’s Summer Program is one such opportunity, but is it worth your time? In this blog, we will review USC’s High School Summer Program in detail and weigh the pros and cons to help you decide whether to apply!

How are USC’s summer programs structured?

The University of Southern California’s Summer Program is designed to give you an immersive experience of life at the university. You get to learn what it’s like to study on campus while learning a college-level curriculum. Through the summer program, you choose one specific course and explore it in depth. The course options include a mix of humanities and STEM subjects, including business, writing, architecture, engineering, journalism, neuroscience, and law. The summer program for high school students is offered in person at the USC campus in Los Angeles, CA.

The coursework is usually well-rounded and brings together theory and practical work like studying real legal cases or creating your own business. In general, you can expect:

  • 5-6 hours of coursework each day

  • Instruction from USC’s expert professors and interaction with other faculty members and current undergraduate students

  • Group work, lab experiences, field trips, guest lectures, and a final project or presentation (this can differ with each course)

  • Recreational activities during the evening and on weekends, such as game nights, talent shows, and trips to places like Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm Amusement Park

What’s more, at the end of the program you will receive three elective credits that are transferable to other universities. The university also offers an online track, however, in this article, we will focus on the in-person track.

What are the courses offered?

USC’s summer program offers a diverse range of courses designed to engage and challenge high school students. Here’s a detailed look at the courses available for Summer 2024:

Who is eligible?

You are eligible to apply to USC’s Summer Programs if:

  • You have completed the 9th grade before the start of the program 

  • You are pursuing a rigorous high school curriculum (the program looks for students who are enrolled in honors classes and AP courses, engaged in extracurricular activities, and are up for a challenge)

  • You have the prerequisites for the individual course you are interested in 

  • International students can apply as long as they can demonstrate their English proficiency through one of the accepted examinations

The application process includes an online application, a 300-500 word essay, a letter of recommendation, your high school transcripts, and a $65 application fee. You can even use this opportunity to request letters of recommendation for your college application.

Important dates and deadlines

Following were the dates and deadlines for 2024:

(You can expect the dates for the 2025 summer program to be similar).

International application deadline: March 29, 2024

Domestic application deadline: May 3, 2024

Program dates: June 16, 2024 – July 13, 2024

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis so it’s best to apply as early as possible!

How much do they cost?

The cost of USC’s summer programs depends on a couple of factors. The details are as follows:  

Domestic student (residential): $10,480

Domestic student (commuter): $7,482

International student: $11,085

Note: USC does not offer any financial aid or scholarship opportunities for their summer programs.

Is it prestigious?

As of 2024, the University of Southern California is ranked 28th out of 439 National Universities in the United States, boasting an acceptance rate of 11-13% for its undergraduate courses. This by itself gives the summer programs a relatively higher value in the academic sphere. Even otherwise, the summer programs are known to be selective and look for students who have taken high-level classes and engaged in challenging extracurricular activities. In addition to the fact that the program offers three elective credits, this makes the USC program a highly prestigious program to attend.   


Pros and Cons


  1. Academic Excellence: At a university like USC, you will receive a rigorous, well-rounded curriculum that is taught by expert professionals. This is undergraduate-level coursework that will not be found in high school.

  2. Prestige: The favorable reputation of the University of Southern California coupled with the selectivity of its summer programs makes this a highly prestigious program to have on your academic profile. It would prove your caliber and could improve your chances during the college application process.  

  3. Specialized Programs: The summer program offers an in-depth look at specific subjects, which means you would gain a significant amount of learning and level up in that field. It’s a good way to give you a leg up while entering college. Also, a few of the offered courses do stand apart from the others. For one, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts is one of the most prestigious film schools in the world. Additionally, the university’s schools of business and engineering are well-reputed in their respective domains. If you’re interested in pursuing a future in one of these fields then this summer program will be a definite advantage.

  4. Networking: Making connections with other faculty members and students at USC is not just good for your social life but for your academic one as well. These connections could go on to give you long-term benefits like having mentors within reach or getting access to opportunities.

  5. Exposure to College Life: By physically studying on the USC campus, you will get an early look at the life of an undergraduate student. This is even more so for the residential track, where you would be staying in the university’s dorms.



  1. Cost: This summer program is fairly expensive and could limit access for some students. With no extra financial aid or scholarships to help, this program would require a hefty investment.

  2. Selectivity: Due to the selective nature of the program, there is a chance of not getting in even after spending time and resources on the application process. Those with limited time on their hands may want to spend it on programs with a higher chance of getting in.

  3. Accessibility: Not everyone has the access and means to participate in in-person programs being offered by USC. In addition to the high costs, the geographical restriction might prove to be a deterrent for some students.

  4. Specificity: USC’s summer program focuses on one single course in a specific field. This makes the program suitable for students with a clear goal in mind, but if you want to explore your options it might be wise to look for programs that expose you to multiple fields.  


Our Review – Should you apply?

The USC summer program offers an excellent academic experience and would give your resume the benefit of a prestigious pre-college program. However, the high cost and the specialized nature of the curriculum can be deterrents.

If you have already decided to pursue a specific field in your career, then this summer program will give you an in-depth look at the subject. Through theoretical and hands-on work, it will enhance your knowledge and give you a head start for university. If your field of interest happens to fall under the schools of film, business, or engineering, then studying at USC — known to excel in these fields — is bound to give you an even better experience.

On the other hand, if you are still debating career pathways, the USC summer program might be too restrictive as it does not have room for exploring other fields. Other pre-college programs that expose you to a variety of topics could be a more worthwhile investment. Ultimately, you should decide by weighing your individual goals, interests, and resources.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, 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.

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.

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: USC logo


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